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These Worms Want Your Coffee

By Melissa McEwen in Food on Sep 11, 2014 3:10PM

“Over 40 tons of coffee grounds are thrown out every week from downtown Chicago alone” says Ed Hubbard, professional worm farmer at Nature’s Little Recyclers. All that waste is too bad, because his worms would love to feast on the spent coffee grounds, as well as the coffee filters, coffee chaff and paper coffee cups. In return they make a rich fertile compost that Hubbard calls “caviar compost” for gardens and farms.

Hubbard's flock includes over a million worms (that’s over 1,000 pounds!) and he works with several local coffee companies such as Dark Matter and Intelligentsia to turn coffee waste into compost for growers like Pleasant House’s network of urban farms. “Coffee companies talk about green everything—everyone tries to make their coffee, organic, free trade… but how green can it be if roasters send stuff to landfills?” says Hubbard.

Nature’s Little Recyclers originally started at The Plant, Chicago’s vertical farm incubator, but as the worm families grew, they had to move to the larger pastures of the Back Of The Yards neighborhood. And by pastures we mean an indoor facility that allows the worms to do their compost-creating work year-round, something outdoor worms can’t do very easily in Chicago’s frigid winters.

Hubbard has created a Kickstarter to raise money for equipment, such as a cardboard shredder, which will help the worms more efficiently devour mountains of cardboard, a treat they like about as much as coffee grounds. If you want to visit and make some wormy friends, you can go to their open house this weekend Sept. 12 from 12 to 6 p.m. and Sept. 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nature’s Little Recyclers also sells compost and worms, as well as worm farming supplies, for home composters and gardeners.

Nature's Little Recyclers is located at 1111 W. 48th St.