According to a report published earlier this month by WRAP – the Waste Resources Action Programme, UK citizens throw away 6.7 million tonnes of food every year. This is roughly a third of the food we buy. Whilst some of this has to be thrown away, the vast majority of kitchen waste and leftovers can be composted or recycled, rather than just being chucked into the kitchen bin, where it will end up as landfill.

As far as composting is concerned, wormeries are great for processing kitchen waste and are particularly suitable for people who do not have space for a full scale compost heap. However, I found I was producing more kitchen scraps than the wormery could process, which meant that the worms were often overwhelmed.

Bokashi is a great system for processing organic kitchen waste before it is added to a wormery or compost heap. It uses effective micro-organisms (EMs for short) to speed up the composting process whilst eliminating odours and suppressing pathogens.

In commercial bokashi systems, a mixture of bran and molasses are used as a carrier for the micro-organisms. You add kitchen waste to a special bin (ideally with an air-tight lid, as this is an anaerobic process) and sprinkle bran over the top as you go, so that each layer of waste is covered.

When the bin is full, you put it aside for a fortnight, to allow the EMs to do their work. When the fortnight is up, the waste will not suddenly look like compost. In fact it won’t look much different to how it looked before you put it aside. The real difference can be seen when you add the bokashi’d waste to a compost heap or wormery. It turns into lovely, dark, nutritious compost very quickly.

Because of the two week delay between filling your bin and adding it to a composting system, it is advisable to start off with two bins, so that you can start filling the second as the first is put aside.

It is possible to purchase plastic bokashi bins which themselves have been impregnated with EMs. This is said to speed up the process even more. In addition, the ‘official’ bins have a tap for harvesting the nutritious plant food which the bokashi process produces. However if you are just starting out with bokashi, buying two bins and a big bag of bran can be expensive. I bought a couple of small bins from IKEA (of all places) which cost a couple of quid each. They do not have tight fitting lids, nor are they impregnated with EMs, but they work, so I am not convinced it is essential to buy special bokashi bins.

I have found bokashi to be an excellent method of processing my kitchen waste. I have a small bin next to the main one in the kitchen, into which go all the leftovers, peelings etc… In terms of odour, the bins smell a bit pickly if you open the lid, but I don’t find it unpleasant.

Once added to the wormery, the bokashi’d kitchen waste breaks down in a week or so, even despite the fact that I’m convinced all my worms are dead. I’ve already got some fantastic compost from it. My main kitchen bin is considerably emptier as a result.

EMs can deal with cooked and uncooked meat, fish, and even less solid waste such as a few unwanted baked beans. I am now adding much more to the wormery than I was when I just had a box to put peelings into in the kitchen. Absolutely everything goes in there, including onion skins and citrus peel, and it has all broken down nicely. I highly recommend it.

If you buy some cheap bins from somewhere, you only have to pay for the bran. You can get a 1Kg bag for a fiver, which is enough for a few months waste. This is not going to save you money, but at least it is reducing the amount of food going to landfill, and means you don’t have all kinds of smelly food sitting in your bin until bin day.

Author: Rachel Wheeley

Comedian, podcaster, full time Mum, based in London, UK

11 thoughts on “Bokashi”

  1. I’m toying with getting one of these, along with a wormery. It’s good to know that it can be done cheaper. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. That’s an interesting post. I’ve been wondering about bokashi and its a lot more attractive when you don’t have to buy special bins.

    I alway add onion skins and orange peel to my standard compost bin though and while I’m not in any particular hurry (I have 3 large ones to fill), I find they all compost eventually.

  3. I had been wondering about adding my fermented bokashi to the wormery but was worried about it being too acidic. It seems to break down fine in the ordinary compost bins, but I have been neglecting my poor old worms and they are starving now. If I can add the bokashi to the wormery first then it seems I will have good compost even earlier. Great!

  4. I think this is better than having a second wormery because it speeds the process up so much. You’ll get compost more quickly if the waste has been bokashi’d first.

  5. Hi Rach – Love this post and I agree, my Bokashi’d food waste seems to get processed much more quickly. The worms love it.
    I tend to put most of the Bokashi waste in the compost bin, adding only a small amount to the wormery. If there are lots of onions or citrus peel in there, I also add some anti-acid lime pellets just as added reassurance.

  6. Rach you are definitly the most fore-front body of knowledge about wormery-type composting.

    I do wonder sometimes how much is original writing vs cut-and-paste from some wormery website?!!! hope you’d give credit if you were to plagurise?!

    Re your other update post – nice potatoes – is your bag not a little unstable with that massive tree growing out of it?


  7. How very dare you young Nigel, it is RESEARCH not plagiarism! Cut and paste indeed – Ha!

    Re: the potatoes, yes they will undoubtedly all tumble to the ground fairly soon I fear. I have entirely forgotten the earthing up stage of the potato growing process, you have reminded me, must get on with that.

  8. Loved this! I never even heard of bokashi, but now I want to start doing this at once, if not sooner. Most of the folks commenting here seem to have wormeries, which I don’t, so I’ll be adding the results to the compost heap. I’m constantly frustrated by not having enough compost in early spring; maybe this will speed the process. Or maybe I should start a wormery, which would produce all winter. What do you do if you go away for a week–ask a neighbor to stop in to feed the worms? Or is there some way to slow them down, put them to sleep, not euphemistically, but literally?

    As for Nigel–well! As a writer first accused of plagiarism in 7th grade (a speech judge suggested–in front of the whole audience–that my parents had helped me. Little did he know that my mother was there. Boy, did she kick his sorry ass.) I share Rach’s pain (such as it is. Looks like she can hold her own.) Furthermore, if you take a sentence or clause or phrase from her post and stick it into Google, you’ll find that her post keeps coming up–and nothing else is close. If you’d done your homework (ahem!) before posting such disparaging insinuations in public places (double ahem!) you’d know this. (Hmph. So there.)


  9. Thanks for your defence of my post Kate! Nige is only joking, and if not I will personally kick him in the shins next time I see him.

    I am not actually all that successful with worms unfortunately, as I seem to kill them all off now and again, so I can’t really tell you definitively whether leaving them alone for a week is a fatal blow or not. I quite often leave them a week without much attention. But then that may be why they all perish.

    Anyway, the great thing about bokashi is that it will break down all on its own in a compost heap, so you don’t even need a wormery to use it. I would try to bury the bokashi in the compost heap though, because it will process all types of food, you may end up with more on there than you would have put on the compost heap otherwise, which may mean you attract all kinds of interested wildlife to your heap! Good luck with it!

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