Plastic Bin Airflow Experiment

Experimenting with vermicomposting systems is something that all vermicomposters should try when they are comfortable with how to meet worms’ needs. Sometimes something completely unrelated to vermicomposting will provide an idea to try out.

I had a tear in my screen sliding door and I ended up purchasing Screen Repair Tape. Basically it is a screen with adhesive on one side so you can tape over the tear or slit in the screen. The screen tape I purchased was 2″ in width and about 9′ in length. It costs about $10 on Amazon so it cost a bit more than the 7 gallon tote.

Naturally, instead of thinking about my broken screen, it occurred to me that I could potentially use this on a plastic tote system to increase airflow. One aspect of plastic tote systems is that they retain moisture too well. This can be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on one’s goals. For most of my systems, I like to keep them fairly active instead of a set it and forget it type system. This screen tape gave me the idea that I could drill larger holes in the bin but could also provide protection against unwanted critters.

In this test bin, I used a 1-1/2″ drill bit to make 10 holes in a 7 gallon tote. The benefit of this size bit is that it requires far fewer holes compared to a 1/4″ or 3/8″ bit. Also the holes come out smoother and not as rough compared to the smaller bits.

The scale is a bit off, but the images below show the difference in size. I didn’t calculate this but the larger holes appear to allow for at least the same amount or more airflow.

Left: 3/8″ bit drill holes – notice the jagged edges along the holes
Right: 1-1/2″ bit drill holes – the holes are much smoother

The issue with the larger holes is that potential pest insects have better access to the system. My two concerns with the larger opening is fruit flies and ants. This is where the screen tape comes in. I simply covered the holes from the inside of the bin with the screen tape. One additional benefit of using the larger bit is that the holes are much smoother. You won’t have to remove the excess jagged pieces that don’t come off clean as with a smaller bit.

Clearly the work of a true craftsman….

The one issue with this adhesive screen tape is that the adhesive creates an airflow barrier. One trick I learned is that white vinegar can be used to dissolve adhesives. I have used vinegar to remove sticker residue in the past with good results. I soaked a small rag with white vinegar and wiped it against the openings. The sticky residue came off relatively easy. I didn’t get it all but enough to have air easily pass through the screen.

The sections by the edge of the opening still have some adhesive residue.

I set up the remainder of the system as usual. I’m expecting the system to have better airflow than my other bin systems but I’ll see how it goes. However, there are a few things to note.

  • Is the screen be durable to last several batch cycles?
  • Will the adhesive of the screen deteriorate in a worm bin?
  • Can the bin handle more food scraps with its better aeration?
  • Will the screen actually prevent outside pest insects from getting in?
    • Of course this implies that pest insects are around the other bins. I have not noticed any pests in the other systems.
  • Will the bin require adding moisture more frequently?

My plan isn’t for a scientific test but to observe any differences. I am not willing to have any system fail just for sake of a test, so I intend on keeping with good worm system management. The intention here is to show an alternative way of setting up a tote system and examine how it performs relative to other systems.

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