Ecoworrier 2 – Bokashi

If I make an effort to save a cubic foot of Chinese dirt being flung into obscurity so that a black plastic bag of mine can putrefy in its place for a few millennia, I end up ankle deep in nausea-inducing bransagne. And I’ve paid 8 quid for the privilege.

A while ago I wrote a post about Bokashi, a system of pre-composting in which you add specially treated bran to your kitchen waste so that it will all break down more quickly.

After a dedicated 6 months worth of experimentation, I have two main findings.

The first is that it works, which is great news.  You can more or less Bokashi anything that has lived – meat, fish, tea bags, vegetable scraps, the lot.  It all breaks down quickly in the bin, then degenerates into the black gold that is home-made compost when you tip it onto the heap.  So far, so good.

Incidentally, you do have to follow the instructions.  Don’t skimp on the proper bins, because it’s supposed to be an anaerobic process so you need a tight fitting lid.  Believe the bit about how it won’t work with citrus peel or onion skins.  I was bunging them in anyway for a while, but they resolutely refused to play, so ultimately they bypassed the Bokashi and went straight on the compost heap.

The second finding is that it is rather a gungy process.  The bin smells of sweet vinegar which permeates the kitchen and a lot of liquid is produced.  You can tap this off and use it for house plants, which sounds fabulous when you first read it, one of those lovely permaculturist ‘everybody wins’ situations.  However it’s highly unlikely you have enough plants in your house to benefit from all this liquid, bearing in mind you have to dilute it with 99 parts water.  The inevitable result is that you don’t tap the liquid off nearly often enough.  The inevitable result of this, is that you end up with your carefully layered Bokashi marinading in its own juices, and consequently you don’t empty it very often.  Frankly, you’d rather spend half an hour practising self-dentistry with a pair of rusty pliers  (or watch Britain’s got talent) than heave a gigantic bran lasagne out of a bucket, dripping vinegary slime onto your slippers whilst the neighbours gawk at you from first floor windows with utter incredulity.  Again.

Perhaps I wasn’t using enough bran, but the fact that you have to buy it in the first place seems to me rather unfair.  If I chuck my rubbish straight into landfill it costs me nothing.  If I make an effort to save a cubic foot of Chinese dirt being flung into obscurity so that a black plastic bag of mine can putrefy in its place for a few millennia, I end up ankle deep in nausea-inducing bransagne.  And I’ve paid 8 quid for the privilege.

In conclusion, I’ve gone back to good old composting.  I suspect that if you have to buy some kind of gadget/stuff at great expense in pursuit of greeness, it probably ain’t worth it.

Author: Rachel Wheeley

Comedian, podcaster, based in London, UK

7 thoughts on “Ecoworrier 2 – Bokashi”

  1. Nice to see you back with us Rach and with an honest report on trying something a lot of us have wondered about doing ourselves :)

  2. you made me laugh!

    for the first half of your post i thought it was sounding like a good idea to try, then i got to the gungy part and changed my mind! not that i object to gunge (well i do but it’s not a very green thing to admit to) more the paying money for compost when i can get it for free – although we can’t currently compost meat & fish so it might be helpful for that?

    good to see you updating, we’ve missed you

  3. Love the new picture (both of the little bird and of you – that’s a lovely one)

    Shame about the bakashi, but you made the effort and oven baked egg shells for six months so I think you have given it a fair trial period.

    PS: Barnsagne is genious and made me smile. xx

  4. Sorry to hear bokashi didn’t work out for you, but thanks for 1) the honest report, and 2) the laughs! Wonderfully written.

    I am a bokashi fan (for pretty much everything except canned cat food and cactus), but I will say it’s not always been so trouble-free as the retailers would have it. Of course, it might help if I stopped trying the things they say not to do… =G=

    Frequent tapping is absolutely required–as you discovered. If you decide to try it again, using either a retail or home-made bin and inoculant, make sure there’s a spigot that will hang over the lid of your kitchen sink, and just let it wash down the drain. The microbes are supposed to help with pipes and septic systems, so you don’t even have to feel like you’re wasting it.

    container gardener, container composter

  5. My housemeate Jeremy insists on using the Bokashi bins but I’ve discovered that the resulting compost isn’t really any good for growing things in as it’s too fibrous. Also egg shells definitely don’t break down, despite his insistance to the contrary. Oh, and the juice reeks. I;d much rather do normal compost.

  6. The thing is that I don’t think you can use the stuff you get out of a bokashi bin directly for growing stuff. You have to then put it in some kind of normal compost/wormery, and then it breaks down into regular compost very quickly. The smell thing is kind of a deal breaker for me though.

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