Recycling

Published on November 4th, 2009 | by Tina Casey

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Compost with a Kick: Bokashicycle Brews First Large-Scale Food Waste Fermentation Operation

November 4th, 2009 by  

Bokashicycle announces the first successful use of commercial scale bokashi composting at Oregon farm.

Bokashi is a centuries-old Japanese method of recycling household food waste into all-natural compost.  By employing a special culture of yeast and other microorganisms, bokashi is a compact, odorless process that takes only days instead of weeks or months. Now the Bokashicycle company is breaking the process out of the kitchen and into a commercial-scale food waste recycling operation, in partnership with New Earth Farm in Hillsboro, Oregon.

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New Earth Farm takes in food scraps from Bon Appetit cafeterias on the nearby Intel Hawthorn Farm campus, which provides a significant waste disposal savings compared to disposing the scraps in landfills.  Waste reduction is one goal, and in an even more sustainable twist the composted soil is used to grow crops for Abundant Harvest, a local consumer-supported agriculture (CSA) store.

The Trick is in the Yeast for Superfast Compost

Conventional composting uses oxygen-fed organisms to break down organic matter.  In contrast, bokashi uses a special mix of organisms that thrive without oxyge to ferment the food scraps.  The process is similar to that of wine or pickle making.  It takes place in a sealed container and it’s practically odorless, making it suitable for small dwellings.  Companies like Bokashicycle sell prepared mixes that also contain starter nutrients such as wheat bran and molasses, but do-it-yourself instructions are also available online.

Bokashi on a Grand Scale

New Earth Farm spreads Bokashicycle’s mix on the food scraps it collects, and lets it ferment in a barrel for a week to ten days (to help the process run smoothly, large bones and other big food scraps are first shredded).  The contents are then poured onto the ground and covered with soil for another two weeks, during which time organisms that are naturally present go to work.  Then the enriched soil is ready to go, either for use on the farm or to be sold elsewhere.  If this large-scale bokashi project proves successful over time, it could soon have plenty of company.  Prisons and other institutions are rapidly adopting food waste recycling, and the entire city of San Francisco has just committed to a mandatory mega-scale food scrap recycling program.

Image: U.S. EPA via flicker.com.


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About the Author

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. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • DavidCOG

    Ron,

    Any CO2 released from this process is part of the natural cycle – plants absorb CO2 when growing and release it when decomposing. That’s not a problem.

    The problem is the billions of tons of the stored, fossilised stuff that we’re releasing.

  • DavidCOG

    Ron,

    Any CO2 released from this process is part of the natural cycle – plants absorb CO2 when growing and release it when decomposing. That’s not a problem.

    The problem is the billions of tons of the stored, fossilised stuff that we’re releasing.

  • DavidCOG

    Ron,

    Any CO2 released from this process is part of the natural cycle – plants absorb CO2 when growing and release it when decomposing. That’s not a problem.

    The problem is the billions of tons of the stored, fossilised stuff that we’re releasing.

  • Steven

    Interesting process. It sounds similar to what other people are doing with tapping methanegenerated by old landfills.

    I do have one question; What happens to the CO2 being generated? 40% seems like a large amount of byproduct, and if this is leaked off into the almsphere, it seems we are defeating our intent of reducing the amount of CO2 emissions.

  • Steven

    Interesting process. It sounds similar to what other people are doing with tapping methanegenerated by old landfills.

    I do have one question; What happens to the CO2 being generated? 40% seems like a large amount of byproduct, and if this is leaked off into the almsphere, it seems we are defeating our intent of reducing the amount of CO2 emissions.

  • Steven Marks

    Tina, It looks like ancient biochemistry is in vogue. The excerpt below is from my blog, econgreen.blogspot.com and touches on a similar method.

    Organic electricity

    Let’s start with two Canadian companies that have teamed up to turn organic trimmings into electricity. Loblaw Companies Ltd. is Canada’s largest food distributor with 47 corporate grocery stores in southwestern Ontario. All of the organic trimmings — meat, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and grease traps — will be shipped to a nearby biogas facility run by StormFisher Biogas. StormFisher estimates that the organic material will produce enough biogas to operate turbines generating electricity to power 225 homes annually. The electricity produced at the facility will be sold to Ontario Power Authority.

    The biogas results from a process called anaerobic digestion, much like what goes on in our own stomachs. In short, organic feedstock interacts with various bacteria and methanogens to produce the gas which is approximately 60% methane and 40% CO2. Liquids and solids also are produced during the process and can be sold as organic fertilizer. The plant, to be located in London, Ont., is expected to begin operation in late 2010.

  • Steven Marks

    Tina, It looks like ancient biochemistry is in vogue. The excerpt below is from my blog, econgreen.blogspot.com and touches on a similar method.

    Organic electricity

    Let’s start with two Canadian companies that have teamed up to turn organic trimmings into electricity. Loblaw Companies Ltd. is Canada’s largest food distributor with 47 corporate grocery stores in southwestern Ontario. All of the organic trimmings — meat, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and grease traps — will be shipped to a nearby biogas facility run by StormFisher Biogas. StormFisher estimates that the organic material will produce enough biogas to operate turbines generating electricity to power 225 homes annually. The electricity produced at the facility will be sold to Ontario Power Authority.

    The biogas results from a process called anaerobic digestion, much like what goes on in our own stomachs. In short, organic feedstock interacts with various bacteria and methanogens to produce the gas which is approximately 60% methane and 40% CO2. Liquids and solids also are produced during the process and can be sold as organic fertilizer. The plant, to be located in London, Ont., is expected to begin operation in late 2010.

  • Steven Marks

    Tina, It looks like ancient biochemistry is in vogue. The excerpt below is from my blog, econgreen.blogspot.com and touches on a similar method.

    Organic electricity

    Let’s start with two Canadian companies that have teamed up to turn organic trimmings into electricity. Loblaw Companies Ltd. is Canada’s largest food distributor with 47 corporate grocery stores in southwestern Ontario. All of the organic trimmings — meat, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and grease traps — will be shipped to a nearby biogas facility run by StormFisher Biogas. StormFisher estimates that the organic material will produce enough biogas to operate turbines generating electricity to power 225 homes annually. The electricity produced at the facility will be sold to Ontario Power Authority.

    The biogas results from a process called anaerobic digestion, much like what goes on in our own stomachs. In short, organic feedstock interacts with various bacteria and methanogens to produce the gas which is approximately 60% methane and 40% CO2. Liquids and solids also are produced during the process and can be sold as organic fertilizer. The plant, to be located in London, Ont., is expected to begin operation in late 2010.

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