food waste, waste

The Bokashi Experiment

With so much fresh produce available here in Thailand – an array of tropical fruit, local ‘green leaves, herbs and other vegetables, I eat fairly well. I rarely throw out edible food, but there are always unconsumed seeds, skins and peelings that end up in my bin. Knowing what I do about food waste (a third of all food produced globally is wasted) and the problems it creates (the wastage of copious water, energy and land that is used to produce food and the methane gas that is produced when food waste goes to landfill), I was getting frustrated.

With no outdoor space for a compost bin or garden nor available food waste recycling, I pondered what I could do to reduce my food waste? I happened upon the Bokashi bin concept and decided to find out more.

Unlike composting, Bokashi uses fermentation to break down food and other organic matter. Put simply, composting uses oxygen, whereas Bokashi doesn’t. Bokashi instead uses microorganisms which ferment the waste. You can buy Bokashi bins with everything you need in many countries, but I didn’t fancy my chances locating one in Thailand. So I set about making a DIY Bokashi. Seemingly simple, I browsed the local hardware store to find a large bucket with a lid on it, then a smaller bucket with holes inside which fitted inside the larger one. Once my plastic purchases were home, I swiftly began diverting my food scraps from rubbish to Bokashi bin. It rapidly filled up, so now I just had to wait for it to ferment. 

Alas, after not having read the instructions properly, I realised I needed to provide some microorganisms to assist with fermenting. I discarded my half rotten vegetables (not-fermented food waste) onto my pot plants, not appreciating that the mixture was too acidic, and very nearly killed a few plants. Whoops. Cultivating microorganisms was a time consuming and periodically smelly process, which took six weeks – consisting of preparing a fermented broth and then soaking newspapers in it. 

Several weeks later, I started filling my bin again. This time I could smell the fermenting in full action. I regularly drained off the fermented juice, and poured a diluted mixture on my pot plants. My small pot plant garden has been thriving with this terrific fertilizer! After filling the bin, I waited a couple of weeks and then used some of the mixture on my plants. Bokashi websites suggest that you bury the mixture in the garden, but what if you don’t have one? There is always a bit too much Bokashi mixture to put on my eight pot garden. What do other apartment dwellers do?

The fermented juice is great for plants!

I also wasn’t sure if the fermentation process was going as well as it could. This was perhaps due to the ineffective seal of the rubbish bin, letting in some air, or not enough soaked newspapers to aid fermentation. Third time around, I’ve improved the bin’s seal and added more newspapers. Hopefully that will help things. I also find that my bin fills up rather quickly, so while I’m waiting for it to ferment, I have to revert to putting food waste in the rubbish bin. I also wonder whether the high concentration of tropical fruits changes the process or perhaps the skins take longer to break down?

Has anyone else tried the DIY Bokashi process with any success? Or had similar issues? 

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