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Recycling Bokashi compost is a clean, practically odor free method.

Published on March 3rd, 2009 | by Tina Casey

22

Bokashi: This is Not Your Father's Compost



Bokashi compost is a clean, practically odor free method.Bokashi is a ramped-up, high-speed composting method first developed in Japan.  What gives it the muscle that ordinary compost lacks?  Think of the difference between wine and grape juice, and that’s the key to a fine bokashi.

Fermentation and Bokashi

Conventional composting relies on oxygen-fed organisms to break down organic material.  Bokashi uses different kinds of microbes that thrive without oxygen.  They decompose organic matter through an anaerobic process.  It’s basic fermentation, the same process that gives us wine and pickles.

Advantages of Bokashi Compost

Bokashi works fast – in a matter of days, not months.  And, when properly managed, bokashi is practically odorless.  That makes it ideal for apartments and other small dwellings.  Compared to sink disposals, bokashi or “bucket composting” also promises to save water and reduce the load on sewage treatment plants.

Bokashi is also highly scalable.  Larger buckets can be fitted with wheels to ease transportation logistics.  For restaurants or schools, prisons and other institutions, bokashi has potential as a speedier, more space-efficient way to recycle large volumes of kitchen waste into valuable compost.

How to Do Bokashi Compost

Making bokashi compost is simple.  You need a couple of big containers with tight-fitting lids (to keep the oxygen out), some kitchen scraps, and bokashi mix.  The mix contains wheat bran, molasses, and EM’s – the efficient microorganisms that drive the process.  DIY bokashi help is available online but if you want to get started quickly, you can find ready-to-go bokashi kits at many gardening and eco-shopping sites like gaiam, or at specialty suppliers like Bokashicycle.

image: johndan at flickr.

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About the Author

Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



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  • http://www.todae.com.au/Products/bokashi/ Roel Bokashi

    Nice article Tina! I am really satisfied with my Bokashi. I think it is a really good way to compost, especially for people like me, who are living in an apartment!

    Thanks for a nice read.

    Roel

  • http://www.todae.com.au/Products/bokashi/ Roel Bokashi

    Nice article Tina! I am really satisfied with my Bokashi. I think it is a really good way to compost, especially for people like me, who are living in an apartment!

    Thanks for a nice read.

    Roel

  • http://www.todae.com.au/Products/bokashi/ Bokashi Kris

    Bokashi is perfect for people who live in apartments – there is little smell and you can cut down your kitchen waste significantly. It may take a little while to get in the groove, but I feel better knowing that I am reducing the amount of waste going to landfill.

  • http://www.todae.com.au/Products/bokashi/ Bokashi Kris

    Bokashi is perfect for people who live in apartments – there is little smell and you can cut down your kitchen waste significantly. It may take a little while to get in the groove, but I feel better knowing that I am reducing the amount of waste going to landfill.

  • http://bokashiworld.wordpress.com Jenny Harlen

    Yep, Bokashi works fine even in frozen winters (I live in Sweden, brrrrrr….). Obviously you can’t dig holes and even our hot composters freeze up. What I do is tip a bucket now and then into the compost bin anyhow (covered with some leaves or newspaper) to help keep it alive. Most of my Bokashi goes straight from the bin into my little “soil factory” — sounds fancy but it’s just a big plastic storage box with lid. Layer the Bokashi with garden soil (fill a bucket in the autumn and keep it handy), leaves, old pot plants, etc. The warmer the better, ideally a cellar or garage. You’ll have a great supply of “supersoil” when spring finally comes around!

    I’ve written more in detail about this on my blog (Bokashiworld), if you’ve got any good tips to share pls let me know!

    /Jenny

  • http://bokashiworld.wordpress.com Jenny Harlen

    Yep, Bokashi works fine even in frozen winters (I live in Sweden, brrrrrr….). Obviously you can’t dig holes and even our hot composters freeze up. What I do is tip a bucket now and then into the compost bin anyhow (covered with some leaves or newspaper) to help keep it alive. Most of my Bokashi goes straight from the bin into my little “soil factory” — sounds fancy but it’s just a big plastic storage box with lid. Layer the Bokashi with garden soil (fill a bucket in the autumn and keep it handy), leaves, old pot plants, etc. The warmer the better, ideally a cellar or garage. You’ll have a great supply of “supersoil” when spring finally comes around!

    I’ve written more in detail about this on my blog (Bokashiworld), if you’ve got any good tips to share pls let me know!

    /Jenny

  • http://www.composttumblerssite.com Renee Benzaim

    Interesting article. I think Bokashi is wonderful for people who don’t have a lot of room, even though they still must put the Bokashi materials in a normal compost making situation or bury it outdoors in their garden. For the person who mentioned dog poop, worms eat dog poop so a wormery just for this would be a good solution. The castings that result can be used in an ornamental garden.

  • http://www.composttumblerssite.com Renee Benzaim

    Interesting article. I think Bokashi is wonderful for people who don’t have a lot of room, even though they still must put the Bokashi materials in a normal compost making situation or bury it outdoors in their garden. For the person who mentioned dog poop, worms eat dog poop so a wormery just for this would be a good solution. The castings that result can be used in an ornamental garden.

  • http://www.bokashicycle.com Dr. Larry Green

    Hi to Becky and Uncle B,

    Becky, I don’t know what you were doing but the experience you describe is inconsistent with proper bokashi fermentation. If it is done properly with a high quality fermenter (it has to be truly anaerobic..no oxygen), it is very easy, fast, and hard to do incorrectly. You need to have the bokashi culture mix. You need to follow directions and keep it closed long enough for fermenting (pickling of your food waste) to complete. There is only a sweet acid pickled smell that is not like garbage smells when you add more waste to the fermenter.

    It does not give you soil ready to go on the ground but instead gives you fermented waste that must then be put into the ground. It is wonderfully and rapidly transformed by soil microbes to the valued highly nutrious soil restoring diversity of microbes and organic matter to that soil. It is really an efficient way of handling your food waste and will accept any kind of waste material including meat,bones, fish, dairy products, egg shells, vegetables, etc.

    You might want to look at http://www.bokashicycle.com where there is a lof of educational material and also a FAQ section that answers a lot of common questions. Also regarding animal droppings………not a good idea. Even though it would metabolize and end up in the soil as a nutrient it is a risk if the animal is carrying any kind of potential viruses that did not break down…….could then end up in your vegetable garden and back to you.

    In the winter when it is frozen outside you just store the fermented (pickled) waste material in a container outside until spring thaw. Then you put it into the ground mixing with the soil and it will rapidly be taken up leaving very fresh and rich soil for your garden. It is not smelly and is very easy. Hope you get a good system working as it is the most ecologically sound method of disposing of waste material. It is also surprising how easy it is once you get going. Use the bokashi tea on your house plants and in your garden…then throw away those fertilizers and pessticides. Your plants will really florish.

    Good Luck…..

    Larry Green

  • http://www.bokashicycle.com Dr. Larry Green

    Hi to Becky and Uncle B,

    Becky, I don’t know what you were doing but the experience you describe is inconsistent with proper bokashi fermentation. If it is done properly with a high quality fermenter (it has to be truly anaerobic..no oxygen), it is very easy, fast, and hard to do incorrectly. You need to have the bokashi culture mix. You need to follow directions and keep it closed long enough for fermenting (pickling of your food waste) to complete. There is only a sweet acid pickled smell that is not like garbage smells when you add more waste to the fermenter.

    It does not give you soil ready to go on the ground but instead gives you fermented waste that must then be put into the ground. It is wonderfully and rapidly transformed by soil microbes to the valued highly nutrious soil restoring diversity of microbes and organic matter to that soil. It is really an efficient way of handling your food waste and will accept any kind of waste material including meat,bones, fish, dairy products, egg shells, vegetables, etc.

    You might want to look at http://www.bokashicycle.com where there is a lof of educational material and also a FAQ section that answers a lot of common questions. Also regarding animal droppings………not a good idea. Even though it would metabolize and end up in the soil as a nutrient it is a risk if the animal is carrying any kind of potential viruses that did not break down…….could then end up in your vegetable garden and back to you.

    In the winter when it is frozen outside you just store the fermented (pickled) waste material in a container outside until spring thaw. Then you put it into the ground mixing with the soil and it will rapidly be taken up leaving very fresh and rich soil for your garden. It is not smelly and is very easy. Hope you get a good system working as it is the most ecologically sound method of disposing of waste material. It is also surprising how easy it is once you get going. Use the bokashi tea on your house plants and in your garden…then throw away those fertilizers and pessticides. Your plants will really florish.

    Good Luck…..

    Larry Green

    • Anonymous

      As a licensed veterinary nurse for 20 years I can tell you that there are no “viruses” that are transmissible from dog or cat to humans through the system described. However, there are parasites that are common to dogs and cats that can survive this process, such as, roundworms and toxoplasmosis. However, if you consult your veterinarian it is possible to virtually eliminate all parasites from your pet if you follow your veterinarian’s instructions. Personally, I de-worm my dog once each month when I give them their heartworm preventative each month. [Those with serious immune system suppression probably should not do bokashi for any purpose either way, though.]

  • Eluviation

    Think body disposal

  • Eluviation

    Think body disposal

  • http://glueandglitter.com/main Becky

    My hubby and I tried the bokashi thing and got something that was not bokashi but said is was effective microorganisms. This was a huge mistake! My only advice for anyone wanting to do bokashi composting is to make sure you get the real deal. I have never smelled anything like that failed bokashi bin in my life and hope never to again!

  • http://glueandglitter.com/main Becky

    My hubby and I tried the bokashi thing and got something that was not bokashi but said is was effective microorganisms. This was a huge mistake! My only advice for anyone wanting to do bokashi composting is to make sure you get the real deal. I have never smelled anything like that failed bokashi bin in my life and hope never to again!

  • Uncle B

    Winter-time composting outdoors is not possible. Can Bokashi be done safely (dangerous organisms) and odor free indoors, leaving only clean soil to store, frozen in the shed, until Spring and gardening arrives? I have tried “Verminators” but they are gooey, mucky wet stinky and hard to handle, expensive for starter worms and a lot of work! Will Bokashi fill the Bill?

  • Uncle B

    Winter-time composting outdoors is not possible. Can Bokashi be done safely (dangerous organisms) and odor free indoors, leaving only clean soil to store, frozen in the shed, until Spring and gardening arrives? I have tried “Verminators” but they are gooey, mucky wet stinky and hard to handle, expensive for starter worms and a lot of work! Will Bokashi fill the Bill?

  • nb

    What I really want this to do is compost my dog’s poop so I don’t have to bring it in the house or drop a plastic bag in the garbage…I want to half bury this outside.

  • nb

    What I really want this to do is compost my dog’s poop so I don’t have to bring it in the house or drop a plastic bag in the garbage…I want to half bury this outside.

  • libra58

    This was an interesting little article. Wonder how

    bokashi EM would compare with EES proprietary aerobic/

    anaerobic formula in price and efficiency ? Anyone

    interested can get EES product from http://www.effens.com

    and try out.

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