In what is the first project of its kind in the country, a Yorkshire council is proposing to hire thousands of worms to eat their way through tonnes of industrial waste. In just under two weeks' time the first worms will be unleashed at the country's first council-run industrial wormery near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, where the new workers will be fed tonnes of cardboard packaging collected from factories, supermarkets and local businesses.
Local authorities in England and Wales dispose of 20 million tonnes of domestic waste a year, spending at least pounds 140m.
The 12-month pilot study will be small at first, based at the Huddersfield Community and Heritage Farm where the packaging, shredded and used for animal bedding will be mixed with manure to form the worm equivalent of a gourmet meal from a Michelin-starred restaurant. The worms are expected to get through up to 120 tonnes in their first year.
Not only will the waste no longer use up dwindling landfill space, which from next year will cost councils pounds 10 a tonne in taxes, but it will be transformed into one of the best nitrogen-free fertilisers available.
The council plans to use the fertiliser on municipal gardens, hanging baskets and flower beds and even has plans to market the by-product.
"Everyone seems to win," said the farm's horticultural supervisor, Mick Hinchliffe. "We love it, the worms love it, and we get rid of rubbish."