Worm farms and identity theft
June 2010
Paper letters in a worm farm

Previously I’ve blogged about the environmental benefits of using worms to compost household food scraps. Since I’m interested in solving for pattern, I wanted to highlight another benefit of home composting: document destruction.

Many of us are still blasé with the way we destroy mail and sensitive documents. Until recently I would simply throw unwanted mail into the recycling bin, with little concern about the potential for interception by identity thieves. I’m sure there is a lot that identity thieves could do with access to our old bank statements, bills and other pieces of correspondence. Even seemingly innocuous things such as a full name or a postal address can be pieced together into a larger jigsaw of information about a person.

Stuart's worm farm with envelopes and letters for document destruction

It turns out there’s an easy biological solution to the problem: worm composting. As well liking the nitrogen of fresh fruit and vegetable scraps, worms also need the carbon of drier, aged matter such as paper. Give the worms a balanced diet by adding your sensitive paper documents to the worm farm.

And to get the whole thing going nicely, why not pour some liquid worm castings over the paper. That ought to deter all but the most determined identity thieves! The documents will be comprehensively composted within days.

(Look at the older paper underneath the fresh letters in the above picture for an example of a document that was added less than a week ago. If you tried to peel apart the damp pages of that old lease agreement, they would tear apart in your fingers).

Stuart's worm farm with envelopes and letters for document destruction with worm tea

There are many options for secure document destruction, including personal paper shredders that can be purchased even from my local supermarket. Rather than resort to unnecessary techno-fixes, I’d rather turn the job over to my underground allies!