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The Digestive Table
Regine Debatty, 29 Nov 06
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To keep your table clean of any leftover, one can either adopt the radical Katazukue way or turn to worms, sowbugs and bacteria for a more sustainable solution.

A wriggling and living ecosystem is invited to Amy Young's Digestive Table. After users have discarded food leftovers and shredded paper into the portal at the top, the bacteria and sowbugs begin breaking down the waste and the worms join in to further digest it into a compost that sprinkles out of the bottom of the bag that hangs beneath the table. This compost is used as a fertilizer for plants, such as those at the base of the table.

Seeing worms is difficult since the creatures are harmed by white light. They do not mind infra-red, but humans cannot see in that frequency. Therefore, Young has made a cross-section of the activity inside the compost visible using an IR security camera connected to an LCD screen built into the table. On the screen (image below), viewers can see the live movements of the worms and sowbugs inside.

The hand-made composting bag is based on a "flow-through" vermicomposting system, designed to make harvesting the worm castings much easier. Informative how-to handout, written by Amy Stewart can be downloaded here.

The wood is Forest Stewardship Council Certified oak plywood. They have a policy to "agressively phase out the purchase of wood products from endangered forests". In an effort to be ecological and to reference the cycle of food reprocessing, the wood was stained with a homemade concoction of boiled red cabbage, mixed with a little worm compost tea and alum.

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I think this comes to close to the line between sanitary and environment friendly. I would be seriously concerned about what is not seen with the necked eye and contamination.

Posted by: faure on 2 Dec 06

At Queen's University in Kingston Ontario, the Engineering Society has designed a tea room with a wormy wiggle--they have come up with compostable paper cups for take away patrons, with the garbage taken care of using the worm process spoken of here. As well, they give very high discounts to people hauling their own mug, and offer drip-proof mugs at reasonable prices. The worms were on display in tea mugs (!!!) --as pointed out here, difficult to see--at the grand opening, where the more than 20 kinds of tea, and fair trade coffee were given away.

These novel approaches to one of the biggest global problem facing us--namely how to deal with garbage--are to be applauded, especially since the worms could also become high-protein gourmet food for the enterprising chef. Another area of disposal that has been in the news lately is dealing with toxic computer cast-offs, tons of which were found to have poisoned people in one of the poorest regions on the coast of Africa. Look at for a great article on biodegradable computers--I'm looking forward to watering my computer a few years down the road and watching it flower!

Posted by: Susan Hannah on 2 Dec 06

Having lived with this table it does not stink at all. In fact it is quite peaceful to sit and watch the worms eating and the work is sanitary with no insects escaping. This is sort of a home processing factory of recyclables using techniques similar to Tom Szaky of TerraCycle products that dissolves worm poop in water to create plant food.

Posted by: Ken Rinaldo on 13 Dec 06



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