What to do with kitchen waste

Conscientious recyclers will have been carefully washing out tins, cans, margarine tubs and sauce bottles for years, putting them out for recycling every week, happy in the knowledge that another couple of bags of waste will not be going to landfill.

But what about organic kitchen waste?  Throwing peelings, plate scrapings etc… away in the kitchen bin seems wasteful, plus these things can become smelly after a few days.  There must be a better way of dealing with them. 

Lots of people have enough space for a compost heap, and keep a crock of some description in the kitchen in which to keep all the kitchen waste until it can be transferred to the heap.  But what are you supposed to do if you don’t have a garden, or enough space for a compost heap?  And what are you supposed to do with meat and other types of waste which aren’t suitable for compost?

One space saving alternative is to set up a wormery.  There are a number of space efficient designs available, and the tray systems are easy to set up and maintain.  The ‘worm tea’ generated by wormeries is a fantastic source of organic nutrition for plants, and of course the lovely, dark, crumbly compost they create is great for planting seeds in for the new season. 

However wormeries can be overwhelmed by the amount of kitchen waste generated by even a small household, and also cannot take meat or fish waste.  I have always been of the opinion that if I feed the worms meat, they will develop a taste for it and come after me during the night.  Consequently I’ve always been reluctant to add meat to their trays. 

One method I have recently discovered which can be used in conjuntion with a wormery is bokashi.  This is a Japanese method of composting which involves using anaerobic processes and bran impregnated with special micro-organisms to pickle the waste.  This means that it breaks down extremely quickly once it is put into the ground or other composting systems.   The other advantage is that you can put absolutely anything in it (with the exception of chillies and teabags, apparently, although I put teabags in anyway) including meat and fish.

I currently use a bokashi bucket in my kitchen, which then gets put into a womery in my garden.  This works quite well as the waste breaks down quickly once added to the wormery.  However I think the bokashi system still produces more than I can put into the wormery.  Bokashi’d food can be dug directly into the soil, where it is supposed to break down really quickly.  However I have found that it can get dug up again by foxes, cats etc… so this is not ideal.  Also the start up kits are not cheap.  Some councils offer discounted kits, but buying bran every 2 months also costs.

Aside from being known around the house as the ‘bin police’ with all my little systems, this seems to work fairly well.  However I wonder if there’s a better way?  What do you do with peelings, plate scrapings etc…?

Author: Rachel Wheeley

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

6 thoughts on “What to do with kitchen waste”

  1. I was quite excited when Haringey Council let us know we’d be changing from their Sorted Recycling scheme to their Mixed Recycling scheme (or was it the other way around? I could never tell.)

    The one big change was the delivery of a food waste bin to our house. It’s not quite as useful, or as friendly to worms as a wormery, but every week they take away our food waste and teabags and things in a little biodegradable bag, and put it in the big council compost heap – probably for the benefit of the nice rose bushes in Muswell Hill.

    The only disappointing thing about it is that the upstairs neighbours never put anything in their bin. Maybe they never waste anything, and eat every last potato skin and end bits of bread.

  2. Hi! We’re in the process of introducing bokashi to Sweden because its such great stuff. I’m a kiwi and bokashi has been used in New Zealand now for many years.
    Anyhow — teabags, chillis, everything organic is ok. Just use common sense and test your way forward as you’re doing!
    Digging down bokashi works fine if you make sure its covered by 20-30 cm of soil. Have you tried using it in planter boxes? Great if you mix 1 part bokashi to 4 parts normal potting mix. Do it a month ahead of planting, or, if you’re planting seedlings, put the bokashi in the bottom of the planter so the roots can grow down into the bokashi after a few weeks. (Its too acidic for plant roots until it has turned into soil).
    I also do a ‘veranda compost’ here in the winter (we have a LOT of snow), take a biggish plastic storage box (say 70 litres) with a tight-fitting lid and mix a bin of bokashi with a bag of potting mix. Stir up a bit and leave it to do its thing, water if needed. Supersoil for pots and around plants in beds! Give it to your neighbours!

  3. In London I used a compost tumbler and Hackney Council’s food waste collection. Here in Wales, I use Bokashi and my compost bins (got two and planning on getting a third). The Bokashi goes into the compost after a couple of weeks and seems to make the whole composting process go much faster. I didn’t opt for worms having killed the lot of them in London one summer, and feeling that I couldn’t take the responsibility! Also we produce way more food waste (two small girls who turn food into leftovers and then leave that too…) than the worms could cope with.

    Bokashi is great because it takes pretty much everything – cooked food, meat and fish. So no more stinking kitchen bin and a lot less for the dustbin men to collect.

  4. we bokashi all our waste (well whatever is left after the dog has had her fill)

    after it has fermented we then feed our worms on it at our worm farm.

    The worms love it, they swarm all over it in large clumps

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