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What is Bokashi Composting?

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  • Written By: Henry Gaudet
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 21 September 2016
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Bokashi composting turns kitchen waste into compost without taking up a large portion of a back yard. Food scraps are placed in a specially designed airtight bucket along with a starter culture. The sealed bucket keeps odors from escaping, meaning that composting can be done indoors without unpleasant smells.

The word "bokashi" comes from Japan and means “fermented organic matter,” and it refers to the starter culture of bacteria responsible for speeding decomposition. These bacteria, commonly referred to as effective microorganisms (EM), is grown on organic material such as wheat bran or sawdust, often mixed with molasses and water. After the EM are introduced, the culture can continue to grow indefinitely.

Standard composting relies on aerobic processes that use oxygen to break down organic materials and that must be exposed to the air. The EM bokashi mix causes anaerobic decomposition, meaning that no air is required. Even with the bucket sealed, scraps continue to break down through fermentation.

Sealed compost can be kept indoors without concern for odor. Exposed standard composting is likely to attract insects and other pests, but bokashi composting eliminates this risk. With the bucket conveniently close at hand, waste does not need to be taken outdoors, reducing the temptation to put scraps in the regular trash. Less food in the trash means less odor in the kitchen or in the trash can outside.

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Composting in a bokashi bucket is a simple process. Scraps are placed in the bucket along with a sprinkling of the EM mix. All food scraps are suitable for composting by this method. As the bucket fills, the scraps can be compressed to squeeze out any trapped air, but no other attention is required. After the lid is replaced, the bucket can be put away until it is needed again.

As food decomposes, it produces a brown liquid that collects in the bottom of the bucket, commonly referred to as bokashi juice. Purpose-built buckets are equipped with spouts to drain off this liquid. Diluted, the juice can be used as a plant food, or it can be used at full strength to keep drains clean, removing algae and eliminating odors.

After the bucket is filled, the scraps should be allowed to ferment for about two weeks. Even with the additional time, this waste does not decompose in the same way that standard compost does, and it will appear to be pickled. Decomposition continues after the compost is buried, producing a nutrient-rich soil.

After the bucket is emptied, only a quick rinse is required before bokashi composting can start again. Many recyclers opt to rotate two buckets, so that they can continue to compost during the two weeks of fermentation. For those who compost to reduce waste but do not need it for gardening, a large bottomless covered container can be placed outside. Full buckets can be emptied into the container, and as the material continues to decompose, it will seep into the ground.

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