06 October 2006

Whats It Mean To Be Green (from York Press)

Article from York, UK about how someone used bokashi for composting.

Whats It Mean To Be Green (from York Press):

"It made a significant impact on how much rubbish we threw away. But I was still concerned about all the cooked food, dairy products and leftover meat and fish that went in with the regular rubbish. These can't be composted because of the smells and the vermin they would attract.

That's now changed, thanks to the Kitchen Composters or Bokashis I have been trialling for York Rotters. They are squat lidded bins (you need two) which, together with a special compost activator, effectively neutralise odours and make it possible to safely compost all food scraps and leftovers, prepared foods, stale bread and even meat bones.

I have to admit, I was sceptical at first. Bunging in a chicken carcass, some festering Feta, toast crusts, soggy cereal, uneaten spaghetti and mashed potato, as well as the usual vegetable peelings and apple cores that I'd collected in my kitchen caddy, I didn't see how this lot could not whiff after a fortnight.

To this I added two scoops of Bokashi bran as instructed, sprinkling it over the entire surface so that all the food was covered. The bran is the magic ingredient. Bokashi is a Japanese term meaning 'fermented organic matter', but the bran looks just like regular bran except that it contains friendly bacteria called EM or effective micro-organisms that aid fermentation.

It's important to squash the material down as far as it will go, because the system is anaerobic - the opposite of normal composting - and you need to get as much air out as possible. Once you've done that, the lid goes on and you can leave it in the kitchen or wherever is convenient. A full bin needs to stand for a further two weeks to allow fermentation, during which time you can start filling your second bucket.

You also need to drain off excess liquid produced by using the tap at the bottom. This can be collected in an old jug or plastic milk carton. I made the mistake of leaving it a bit too long - about 10 days - before collecting it, with the result that I drained off half a litre of straw-coloured liquid that smelled like - well, not to put too fine a point on it, baby sick. If you do it more regularly it doesn't pong, it just smells a bit cheesy.

This liquid is highly nutritious and can be used in a variety of ways, either diluted as plant food or down drains and toilets to prevent algae build up and control odours. I was dubious that pouring it down the loo would actually improve things, but the kitchen sink is definitely less whiffy and my house plants are lovin' it.

After the kitchen waste had fermented for a fortnight, I opened the Bokashi bucket with trepidation. There was white mould on top, which is normal, but no maggots or nasty surprises. Moreover, it really didn't smell. Amazing.

You can dispose of the contents in your regular garden composter, or even bury it in the garden if you like digging. I put it into our Dalek compost bin (a 330-litre Compost Converter), forking it in and covering each couple of forkfuls with drier material. It came out in a sort of wodge, which needed breaking up and spreading around a bit. There is no point in being squeamish about this; com-posting has its yucky side, you just have to get used to it.

The benefits have been two-fold. My Compost Converter is now working extra-efficiently due to the [friendly microbe] bacteria, which carry on the fermenting process in your bin. Not only has it dramatically speeded up the composting rate but there are no flies, either. This is a major triumph: last October it was a stinky, fly-blown mess!

Best of all, by composting all of our kitchen waste, as well as our regular recycling, we've reduced our rubbish to one (often only half-full) bin bag a week.

A year on from the beginning of my composting experiment, my bin is producing sweet-smelling, crumbly compost, just like it should. I'm inordinately, ridiculously proud, but I think the Bokashis should take the credit.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,