What is it?
When I posted about having a Bokashi Bin on my Insta stories it seemed people weren’t too sure what it was, so I thought I’d put together a blog post to explain it.
Bokashi composting is an anaerobic process of dealing with almost all kitchen food waste that results in a nutrient rich material. It is a fermentation process rather than a composting one as the final material will still resemble that which was put in (it might help to think of it as pickling the food). It produces a liquid by-product, that can be used diluted on plants or even neat to help clean your drains, and the final matter left in the bin can then be dug into your garden soil or compost bin to fully decompose at a quicker rate than normal composting.
So that is the basic concept behind Bokashi, read on to find out more about how it works and our experience of it so far.
How does it work?
Bokashi works by combining food scraps with a special bokashi bran that includes some good bacteria (EMs – Effective Microorganisms) that thrive without oxygen. Food waste is added to a Bokashi bin which has a straining tray on the inside near the bottom and a tap on the outside near the base (this allows for the draining of the liquid created through this process) and a securely fitted lid. When food waste is added you press the material down (you can use a tool to do this) to reduce air pockets and then sprinkle with some Bokashi bran. Seal the lid and leave until you next need to add scraps again, the bin should only be opened when adding waste to reduce the amount of oxygen the waste is exposed to.
Every 3-5 days you will need to drain liquid from the tap (when you first start the liquid may take longer to form). You may notice an odour similar to that of pickle or cider vinegar, but it shouldn’t smell of rotting. Some people may find the smell slightly unpleasant, but it should only be smelt when the lid is taken off to add more waste.
The time it takes to fill the bin will depend on your household’s food waste. Once the bin is full, it needs to be left sealed for another 2 weeks, ensuring you drain the liquid regularly. After this time, the waste material can be dug into garden soil away from plants as it will initially be too acidic and may damage your plants. Alternatively, it can be added to an existing compost bin where it will fully decompose. It may seem a bit pointless using the Bokashi method if you are just going to add the matter to the compost bin anyway. It is important however to think of this as pre-compost as it has only partially been transformed. When added to the compost pile or added to soil (away from plants) it will break down quicker than if the original waste were added straight to the compost.
Our experience so far
Our family is brand new to using the Bokashi method therefore we are still learning what we need to do. However, so far, the experience has been simple and straightforward even the girls have been able to get involved. We are in the process of filling the bin for the first time. We generally don’t have that much food waste and already have a small bin for peelings and scraps to go in the compost bin. As we have two children though we often have some food waste left on plates after meals which couldn’t go in the compost bin, so we decided to look for alternatives. That is when I discovered Bokashi. I spent quite a bit of time looking into it and decided it would be a good option for our household to deal with the food waste that can’t go in the compost and normally goes into the bin (usually resulting in the bin smelling unpleasant and ending up in landfill). I put it on our Christmas Wish List, and we were pleased to be gifted a set of Bokashi bins by my parents.
I set up the bin on Boxing Day and we began using it straight away. Unfortunately, I hadn’t checked the size of the buckets and they are a little too big to go under our sink (you can get smaller varieties) so for now they are stacked on the floor at the end of the kitchen unit. It isn’t particularly in the way and so far, seems to be working well here as it gives easy access for disposing of waste. We are using the top bucket and the bottom for now is empty. Once filled, we will switch them over while waiting the two weeks before emptying. Hopefully, this will also remind me to check whether any liquid needs draining off!
We add the food waste, press it down and sprinkle with bran which we keep just to the side of the buckets. As I mentioned we don’t have a huge amount of food waste and after almost two weeks I would say we have about half filled the bucket and this is with us home during the holidays so I imagine it will take another couple of weeks to fill it. We haven’t noticed any odours yet (in fact the bran smells stronger when opening the bag). We drained off the first bit of liquid two days ago, this was very exciting as it felt like confirmation that the process is working. The liquid didn’t smell, and I put it down the drain to give it a bit of a clean.
We are continuing to use our small compost bin for some items, but this might be more out of habit. I would like to try adding more of that waste to see what the Bokashi bin is capable of. We are looking forward to seeing how this works for our family.
What can be added?
Due to the acidity levels involved in Bokashi you can add many food waste items that you wouldn’t normally add to a compost pile. This means pretty much all food waste can be added including raw and cooked meat and fish, bread, cheese, yoghurt, prepared food, citrus peels, coffee grounds and dried teabags and small bones. It is important to make sure any waste going in isn’t too big so large items should be chopped into smaller pieces to aid the process. Another important thing to make sure of is that any waste going in doesn’t have any green or black mould as this could disrupt the fermentation process.
Avoid adding big bones or fluids. Large bones cannot be processed in the short time frame so avoid or break them down into much smaller parts. If too much liquid is introduced to the Bokashi bin the effective microorganisms will not be able to work properly and will disrupt the fermentation process. This is why you should dry out things like teabags before adding them.
What are the benefits?
So, I think there are some clear benefits that make this a worthwhile method of dealing with food waste in our household:
Quick and easy process
Shouldn’t smell bad or attract insects or animals
Can add most food waste items
Nutrient rich material
Bokashi liquid can be diluted to use as a fertiliser
Bokashi liquid can be used neat to clean drains or as a weed killer
You can get bins of different sizes to suit your needs/space
Are there any draw backs?
There are some draw backs that you may need to consider for your household before choosing to use the Bokashi method:
Initial equipment and ongoing bran cost
Space needed to store the buckets inside
You need to dispose of the waste matter in some way which may be tricky if you don’t have easy access to a garden
You need to remember to draw off the liquid every other day or so
The Bokashi liquid needs to be used within a day or two
For more information there are lots of web pages out there offering tips and advice on how to make Bokashi work for you. Here are a couple: