Compost awareness week – top tips for using bokashi bins!

Filed in Blog by on May 7, 2009 12 Comments
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bokashiI’ve been asked the following question about bokashi bins from one of our readers “I just acquired a bokashi bin off freecycle, so would love some info on the pros and cons of it, as at the moment I’m not sold on the idea of having to buy bokashi bran to make compost.  But then it does enable me to compost things that would otherwise go in landfill.

I guess one each of the pros and cons has already been answered by her concerns, but here are some of mine. I’ve collaborated with John Costigane and Mrs Average as my answers come from guess work. I don’t actually own a bokashi, but have researched them in the past.

Both John and Mrs A are seasoned and reputable bokashi users, so it’s great to have their input too!

So without further ado, here are our pros and cons along with some top tips on getting the most from your bokashi. I want to hear your ideas too – let’s make this a great resource for people who are considering the bokashi route!

Pros

  • Ideal for people with cooked food waste (especially great for Mums with picky eaters in the family!) which you can keep out of the landfill and turn into a valuable resource.
  • Can compost dairy, meat, fish and small bones in a way which will not attract vermin.
  • Fermentation takes place in two short weeks which can then be added to a compost heap, wormery, donated to a gardening friend or dug into the ground.
  • Produces a valuable liquid which can be diluted 100 times with water and used on plants. Use neat in the drains to keep fresh (safe for septic tanks).
  • Ideal for use in small homes without a gardens it sits on the work surface
  • Useful for ingredients like citrus and onions, which some worms don’t like!

Cons

  • Ongoing cost from buying EMs.
  • Need somewhere to deposit the ‘finished’ contents as they still need to fully decompose.
  • Can be an expensive outlay – you really need two bins to get a good system going.
  • Some people find the smell of the liquid and finished product offensive
  • People with teeny tiny kitchens might struggle with giving up their workspace for a bokashi bin

Tips for getting the most from your bokashi bin

  • To successfully ‘pickle’ the contents, the lid must be airtight.
  • Compress the waste after putting on bran, with something like a potato masher to help remove air.
  • Drain off the liquid every few days and use within 24 hours.
  • Keep the unused bran in dry condition.
  • Cutting waste into small pieces and freezing the waste allows more infrequent filling, especially if waste amounts are minimal.
  • Bokashi contents can be quite sludgy, so sprinkle finely into the compost bin and add a layer of scrunched up paper or cardboard on top.

Any other seasoned bokashi users out there? Come and share your tips and experiences with us!

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (12)

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  1. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    Excellent coverage of the Bokashi use and thanks for the mention.

    One point about 2 bins, when 1 bin is full you leave to pickle for 2 weeks, starting the second bin while you wait. An alternative to that is to collect the 2 weeks waste in the freezer and refill the emptied, and cleaned, single bin.

    Single use save cash and space in what is a more expensive system.

    Another factor is the bran used, containing molasses. If someone could provide a more cost effective bran that would be a great help.

    There is a bit of mystery around the name “Bokashi”. The product does not originate in Japan, though you might infer it did. I checked with the Embassy. The term translates as – 2 colours – (white or green fungus, the white being the good type).

  2. I was able to get 50.00 of wheat bran from a feed store here in Jacksonville, FL. Don’t buy at the health food store, it is really expensive. You can find 3 and 5 gallon buckets by going to restaurants or sub shops. I use a large round drink cooler with a spigot in the bottom to age my bokashi. Buying the buckets is a huge waste of money, it is easy to set up the system DIY.

  3. Great advice this week Mrs G. Fantastic support of Compost Awareness Week. One thing I forgot to mention was that when I started using my Bokashi, my composting activity naturally increased so in the end we had to buy a new compost bin. Our use of the bin is now on the decline having got much better at managing food waste and having chickens, so I hope very soon I will be able to give it up completely. However, it is a great crutch when first starting out with Zero Waste ambitions. Great top top from Millie about making your own and I’ve heard others saying that they’ve use normal bins. Didn’t dare try that at the time. Was too much of a scaredy-cat novice :-D x

  4. Carole says:

    Hi,

    Not having any freezer space to store potential bokashi food, I add mine daily, or every other day. I’ve got an old icecream container with a lid which sits on by the sink and neatly hides anything destined for the bokashi bin.
    Wish I’d thought to just make my own bin, but wasn’t sure of the whys and wherefores. I’ve only had my bins for a few weeks and it’s still only half way full but I’m happy as I’m not throwing away leftovers/peelings anymore.

    Carole

  5. John Costigane says:

    @Carole: Hi Carole, Great to see you have caught the Bokashi bug as well. I also went through a 2-3 day loading but found the feedback from the practice helped reduce the waste food quantity. Of course, the family sized situation has more waste but even here you can perfect the food usage.

    A 500g Stork tub easily contains 3 weeks of my food waste. A further reduction is more difficult.

    How is the foil effort doing? The background to the issue is that the aluminium producer, Novelis, knowingly wastes aluminium in combination plastic. I emailed them about this unsustainable use and enquired about recycling the waste to them. No reply yet.

  6. Layla says:

    Interesting tips!! :)

    Is a homemade bokashi basically just adding wheat bran on top of food waste, in layers?

    How do you put the spigot into the bucket? Or how do you drain otherwise?

    oh, a drink cooler would probably have one already?

  7. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: Thanks John for all your input; some interesting and helpful information to add to the mix! I have seen a video about making your own Bokashi bran, it looked straightforward enough if you can gather the ingredients together.

    @Millie Barnes: Great tips, Millie – thank you! I agree a DIY option can be created for less financial outlay. Great to see you can buy cheaper bran too.

    @Almost Mrs Average: Brilliant, Mrs A. Funnily enough I was figuring out some general 3R’s advise for beginners, intermediate and advanced and I figured that a bokashi system might eventually become unnecessary once you are managing your food waste well. Seems you would back that up with your experiences too. Thanks for all your help with the article.

    @Carole: Glad everything is working out well, Carole. It seems like the bokashis really suit your lifestyle.

    @Layla: Hi Layla, it’s not just wheat bran, it has molasses in it, water and the important part (to my limited understanding) of Efficient Micro-organisms. You have to mix it all and let it ferment.
    There is a youtube vid here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96fSXccQx9Q

    If you want to be totally home made, you can make your own EMs too – http://bokashicomposting.com/?page_id=51

  8. Claire Brown says:

    i’m a bokashi convert with a 5 yr old picky eater, living in a rural area, before bokashi, we found that foxes attacked our bin bags left out overnight, now there is no problem, I thought with a wormery and a compost bin I wouldn’t have much extra, but I manage to fill a bin in 4 weeks – did you know that some councils subsidise buying bokashi bins, – I know mine does and you can get 2 bins and a bag of bran for £45 – go to http://www.recyclenow/compost and put in your postcode to find out if your council is generous.

  9. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Claire,

    Great to read about your bokashi adventures; and isn’t it great that it’s stopped the foxes ripping open your rubbish? Thank you for sharing with us and thanks for the tip about subsidised bokashi bins.

  10. John Costigane says:

    @Mrs Green: Homemade Bokashi bran would be a winner, Mrs Green. Molasses are part of it with some fungus mixed in. Possibly someone with the knack could make regular supplies of a suitable local alternative mix. Maybe a brewer would be the closest we could find.

  11. Paul Cook says:

    Hi! I’m very naive regarding bokashi. I have a question that I haven’t been able to find answers for from Google. If anyone on here can answer them I’d be very grateful.
    I’ve got 2 full bokashi bins in my kitchen. They’ve been full now for over 6 months but I didn’t have the garden to put the contents into. I now have the space. Will the content of the bins still be ok?

  12. John Costigane says:

    @Paul Cook: Paul, it is essential to remove excess liquid from the bokashi bin’s tap on a regular basis. This allows the conversion process to continue. I have not emptied my own bokashi for more than 9 months but will do so with complete confidence as nothing amiss has ever happened. If added to a compost bin, between layers of added material, the bokashi contents simply disappear into the final compost/soil. I would suggest you do this in Spring/Summer to avoid the complication of winter freezing which delays the necessary composting process until the following Spring thaw.

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