The Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina has deployed 1.9 million worms to turn a boatload of organic waste into fertilizer. Every day the airport housekeeping department headed by Bob Lucas processes 2.5 tons of waste, including plastic, clothing, aluminum and food tossed out by rushed passengers, NPR reports. The recyclables are pulled out from the pile and sold and the organic waste is transferred to a giant composting bin where the army of red wigglers go to work.

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The worms are stored in a 50 foot long composting bin, where they happily chomp down on food waste that has spent a few days in a tank to accelerate the decomposition process. The resulting fertilizer is used to nourish the facility’s flower beds and shrubs.

The airport’s new recycling program cost $1.2 million to implement four months ago, but already 70% of its waste has been diverted from the landfill. And in five years, they expect to start making a profit from their trash sales. Katherine Preston, environmental affairs director for Airports Council International-North America, told NPR that this is the first such composting and recycling program that she knows of.


Images of red wigglers in compost, sorting recyclables, Shutterstock