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Tea Maker Casts Off Crates! E-mail
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Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 11 September 2005

by S. Zorba Frankel, from our issue #31

Worm Digest recently heard that TAZO, the premium tea seller, was looking for a responsible way to reuse or recycle the shipping crates that brought dried tea leaves from India and Sri Lanka to their Portland company. At the same time, we were looking for wooden containers that could easily be modified into handsome worm bins for sale at our local workshops and teaching events.

These two organizations found each other in December last year, thanks to an email broadcast by the Association of Oregon Recyclers. By mid-January, we had two crates in our office to evaluate. After shaking stray black tea out of the crates (our office smells pretty good, now, too), we began looking them over, considering what changes we would need to make for them to work well as worm bins.
We’ve heard from a number of readers over the years, including both hobbyists and worm educators, who try to reuse containers whenever possible. You, too, may seek to turn someone else’s waste containers into worm bins one day. What follows is a brief description of our considerations in using such a box.

The raw material
The crates are tightly, though very simply constructed, and measure 16"x22"x24". We found thin aluminum sheet metal nailed down along all joints, attaching the very thin plywood to 1"x1" wooden braces that run along all interior edges. There were several sharp points and edges on the metal, and we had to be careful not to cut ourselves. Foil lined paper on the interior of the bin helped to keep the dry tea dry during shipment. Upon arrival in Portland, each bin is cut open by cutting a rectangular hole on one of the smaller sides.

Our first consideration: safety
Though the edges of the sheet metal were bent over and smoothed, there were sharp points in a few spots on each bin. Wondering if the metal was important to the crate’s sturdiness, we tried removing it. The box simply fell apart. So, we decided to hammer down the metal and put electrical tape over any places where fingers could get cut. Also, we decided to consult with an attorney to see what statement(s) we might want to make to purchasers, to protect the organization from liability.

Next consideration: weight and size
Empty, a bin weighs less than 20 pounds. Used as a worm bin, however, a bin of this size might weigh 100 or more pounds. Definitely not what we’d call “portable” We would certainly have to look elsewhere for some much smaller boxes to offer, in addition to these.

Next: lids & handles
The bins are cut on the smallest side, making them 24" tall. At that height, it would be pretty hard to reach down to the bottom of the bin. After some consideration, we decided to ask TAZO to cut open one of the two largest sides, making it much shallower.

Though the bin would eventually be too heavy to move, there are times when a handle would be convenient. A simple handle, in keeping with the design might just be a nylon strap on one side. Or a tacked-on chunk of wood that formed a handhold.

The lid would be attached, right where it had been cut out, by some nylon rope, and we might attach an old drawer handle, picked out at our local BRING Recycling’s collection of used household materials.

Finally: the bases
Even parked in one place, a bin weighing up to 100 pounds needs a sturdy base. We decided to use scrap wood 1"x1"s or 2"x2"s running the length of the base, to keep the bin off the floor, and to improve aeration. We plan on drilling a bunch of small holes along the sides, as well as a few on the bottom. Wood this thin will allow more water to transpire, so we’ll likely have to water occasionally to keep the bedding from drying out.

With a few changes made, these will be fine worm bins for either indoor or outdoor use. We’d guess that they’ll hold up for three to four years of use.

TAZO’s production manager sees no problem in cutting open one of the larger sides for us. Thus, by mid to late February, we plan to have these handsome cast-off containers available for purchase as a kit that will include shredded paper bedding, a gallon of vermicompost (for use as an inoculant) and a copy of The Art of Small-scale Vermicomposting.

To purchase a worm bin kit, drop by our office (at 454 Willamette St, Eugene) or visit our exhibit booth at local events. Please note that we have no plans to ship these large bins. If you live farther away, and absolutely must have one like this, watch for a source of used crates and build your own.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 18 September 2005 )
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