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Is Bokashi Better Than Composting?

Are you trying to switch to a more sustainable lifestyle and striving to reduce your daily waste? Today, every little step towards living a waste-free life counts! We know that composting can be a great solution to avoid overloading landfills and limit greenhouse emissions. Yet, there is nothing worse than foul-smelling bins and pests roaming around our homes. Luckily, the Bokashi fermentation method offers us a great solution to the problem today!

So, is Bokashi better than composting? Bokashi composting is a process that helps you turn your food and organic waste into soil conditioner. This conversion happens without aeration and through fermentation. Unlike normal composting, Bokashi is fast, smell-free, and does not attract pests. 

The resulting compost decomposes slowly in the ground, retaining all the nitrogen and nutrients. Aside from being an optimum choice to dispose of your organic waste easily, it also has a low impact on the environment and does not produce CO2 emissions.

Are you thinking about starting to use Bokashi fermentation? While this is an easy and straightforward process, there are a few things that you should keep in mind. Read on to get exclusive insight into how Bokashi really works. Don’t miss out on the tips, tricks, and alternatives we have included in this article and you will be a master of composting in no time!

Why Is Bokashi Better Than Composting?

In an era threatened by the imminent climate emergency, it is impossible to ignore the importance of disposing of our waste in a way that won’t negatively affect the environment. According to EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), organic and food waste makes up for 28% of our total waste. So, is composting the solution we have been looking for?

How does traditional composting work?

Traditional composting can be done in your backyard by adding the following organic matters in equal parts (or layers) to your compost bin:

  • Green Waste or nitrogen-rich materials (leaves, garden waste, flowers, vegetables, fruit peels, etc.)
  • Brown Waste or carbon-rich materials (paper towels, napkins, coffee filters, dry leaves, brown paper bags, etc)
  • Water: moistening papers and other dry materials before composting helps the process.

Four to six months after starting your compost bin you should be able to harvest your compost. This comes in the form of a dark, hearty substance that can be used to improve the quality and health of the soil.

Bokashi vs Composting

While traditional composting has now been used for decades with great results, there is always room for improvement! In fact, to compost without any health and safety hazard, you would need to place your composter in a separate area of your garden or backyard. Even in this case, pests, odors, and long waiting times are common issues. 

That is why Bokashi can be a great alternative. While traditional composting involves aerobic processes and can take several months to produce usable fertilizer, Bokashi works on fermentation. Fermentation does not need extra processing or penetration of air. Additionally, the bin will take 2 to 3 weeks to be filled up and the process produces effective fertilizer out of compost in only 7 to 14 days of being buried into the soil. 

Since you won’t need to leave your Bokashi bin open, it can safely be used inside your home and the risk of pests and rancid odors is extremely limited. Lastly, this method helps the organic materials retain their nitrogen content and massively lower the CO2 emissions usually produced by normal composting.

The Origins of Bokashi

Composting is a practice first introduced around 160 BCE by Cato the Elder through its “De Agri Cultura” writings. In 1920, composting went through an innovation phase and became the modern tool for organic farming as we know it today. 

Unlike traditional composting, the concept of Bokashi is relatively new. Dr. Teuro Higa, a Japanese professor at the University of Ryukyus in Okinawa, developed this concept only in 1982. Firstly known as EM (Effective Microorganisms), Bokashi is, in fact, a Japanese word that refers to “fermented organic matter”. This method involved a particular bucket, the “Bokashi Bucket”, and a mix of bran and molasses to break down the carbohydrates and sugars in the food scraps.

The main difference between Bokashi and traditional composting is that the first uses an anaerobic system that does not need air (oxygen) or moisture to work efficiently. 

While it seems like a not-so-revolutionary concept at first, this method allows us to compost not only vegetables and fruits, but also process products deriving from meat, dairy, wheat, and even compostable plastic!

How Does Bokashi Work?

Now that you think that you might have found your next eco-challenge of the year, let’s have a look in detail at what to expect from your Bokashi bin. 

Step 1 – Get started

To get started with your Bokashi composting process, a little preparation is necessary. Here is the equipment you need and a couple of tips on how to store it.

A Bokashi Bucket

Also called a “Bokashi Kitchen Composter” or “Digester”, these buckets are airtight containers fitted with a tight-fitting lid. The commercial Bokashi Bucket comes in 5kg or 10kg sizes. You will notice that they come with a spigot near the bottom, which allows you to drain the rich Bokashi tea (check out its many properties in the section “The end result of using Bokashi” of this article). 

These features make sure that your Bokashi bucket can create an anaerobic environment without the need for adding water or moisture to it. Ideally, you will have two buckets. This is important, as you can collect food waste in one and leave the other once sealed throughout the fermentation process.

Bokashi Bran

Bokashi Bran is a powdery substance packed with the microbes responsible for the fermentation process. This dry mixture will help you speed up the fermentation process and can be bought in bags of 3kg, which will last you anything between 9 and 12 months depending on the amount of waste your household produces. At the end of each day, add a tablespoon of the bran to your Bokashi bucket and let the magic happen!

Storing your Bokashi Bucket

The perfect place to store your Bokashi Bucket is at room temperature and away from direct sunlight. These factors ensure that the fermentation process continues undisturbed. However, you can pick the place that works best for you when storing your bin. Some users prefer to keep it in the kitchen, next to where the food waste is produced. Alternatively, it can be kept outside or even under the kitchen sink!

Step 2 –  Fermentation

Now that you have everything you need to start your Bokashi composting process, let’s have a look at how to set up your bin and what the fermentation process looks like.

Set up your bucket and add organic waste

Start off by collecting your food waste in a bowl, bucket, or bin. This can also be done directly into the Bokashi Bucket if you have bought more than one. If you haven’t, wait for your standard organic waste bin to be full then pour it into your Bokashi Bucket. If you are not sure what can be composted by your Bokashi Bucket, read the tips we have included in the “What can I compost with Bokashi?” section of this article. 

The only detail you should be mindful of is to make sure that the spigot is on the “closed” position. This will help you avoid any leakage during the fermentation process. Now everything left to do is to add the bran and close the lid!

How does fermentation work?

Once your bin is full, sealed, and stored away from sunlight, the bran and molasses in the Bokashi Bran mix will start the fermentation process. This begins with the conversion of the carbohydrates present in the food scraps into lactic acids. Within a few weeks, this anaerobic process will lead to preserving the organic waste that you can then bury into the ground.

Step 3 – Maintenance and Issues

Once the fermentation process is completed and you have successfully emptied your compost into your garden or soil, it is time to get your Bokashi Bucket ready for another round. One of the most important things about this step is to make sure that your bucket is thoroughly washed before using it again. 

During the fermentation process, it is normal to notice a layer of white, fluffy mold on top of your food scraps. Don’t worry! This only means that the fermentation process is getting along well. Alternatively, if you can’t see any mold, that is another sign that you have a healthy bin. 

However, the most common issues that arise from Bokashi composting are foul smells and Green or Blue Mold. Both are indicators that the fermentation process has stopped. These issues often arise if the lid had not been properly closed or airtight. In these cases, it is recommended to get rid of your waste, as it is rotting, and start fresh.

To restart the fermentation process, make sure that:

  • The lid is properly closed and airtight.
  • The spigot is turned on “closed”.
  • There are no cracks or breakages in your bin.
  • You have added enough bran for the fermentation to happen.
  • The bran you are using is still fresh.
  • You drain the Bokashi tea (or juice) at least once or twice a week.
  • The Bokashi bin is kept in a dry, cool, and shaded area.

Everything You Need to Know About Bokashi

The end result of using Bokashi

Essentially, there are two end products deriving from the Bokashi fermentation process: the Bokashi tea and the pre-compost. This is another important factor that makes this composting method much more useful than standard composting. Let’s have a look at what you can make with each.

The Bokashi Tea

The Bokashi tea, or juice, is the first product generated by the fermentation process. This derives from the food scraps in the bin and can be drained through the spigot near the bottom of the bin. The Bokashi tea is extremely rich in microbes and can be used to water your flower or vegetable garden. Since this is a concentrated juice, make sure to dilute it before using it to boost the nutrients levels of your plants and lawn!

Bokashi tea has many uses thanks to the beneficial bacteria and nutrients it contains. Some of our favorites are:

  • To fertilize your plants and garden
  • To speed up the composting process of your already-buried food waste.
  • To unblock drains

The Bokashi Pre-Compost

After around 20 days, the fermentation process in your Bokashi bin will be over. After draining the juice, you will be left with what is the end result of your Bokashi composting! If you are wondering what to do with it, don’t worry! There are different solutions that can help you get rid of the pre-compost in a sustainable way. 

  • Feed it to your vermicomposting worm farm (small quantities at first to let the worms get used to it).
  • Bury it in your garden (at least 20cm deep)
  • Add it to your standard composting pile

One of the main benefits of this pre-compost is that once in the ground, it will decompose in around two weeks. This is much faster than normal composting that can take up to 6 months.

Can I use Bokashi in the city?

Yes! Bokashi can be used anywhere, independently on where you live. This is one of the greatest benefits of this type of composting. 

As you probably realized, it can be incredibly hard to succeed in indoor standard composting. This will most likely result in foul smells, pests, and flies. However, Bokashi bins are airtight so they can be kept and stored indoors for weeks without having to worry about them. 

But what can you do with the resulting compost?

During the fermentation process, you will be able to use the Bokashi Tea to fertilize your house plant. At the end of the fermentation period, the pre-compost produced by your Bokashi bin can be poured into an empty pot or plant container and cover it with fresh soil. In two weeks you will have some of the most nutrient soil out there, ready to welcome a new flower or plant!

Alternatively, head to a community garden and ask if they can make use of your Bokashi pre-compost.

What can I compost with Bokashi?

The simple answer to this question is… you can compost all of your food waste with your Bokashi Bucket. You won’t need to layer or equally add your waste to have good proportions of green and brown materials. The Bokashi bins even break down compostable plastic and garden waste. However, there are a few factors to consider to produce the best, most nutritious compost for your plants.

Copyright protected content owner: ReadyToDIY.com and was initially posted on 2020-03-27.

  • Do not add rotten or moldy foods – these will add blue and green mold to your bin, which can spread quickly and spoil the fermentation process.
  • Do not add extra liquids – the bacteria included in the Bokashi bran mix thrives in drier environments. To make sure to keep your bin healthy keep liquids, including oils and grease, out of the bucket!
  • Garden waste will take time and space – while Bokashi bins have been seen effective to get rid of your garden waste, leaves and wood will take up space in your bin. Also, these items usually take much longer to be broken down by the bacteria in the Bokashi Mix and won’t add many nutrients to your soil later on. 
  • Large bones might take a little longer! – Unlike standard composting, meat, dairy, and baked goods can also be successfully composted with a Bokashi Bin. However, larger items might take longer to compost.
  • Compostable plastic can be added to the Bokashi Bin – it won’t add much to the soil nutrients of the pre-compost, but at least won’t end up in the landfill. However, try to keep the quantity of compostable plastic in your bin to a minimum.

Benefits of Bokashi

There are many advantages to using Bokashi instead of traditional composting. Some of them, such as the fact that you can compost virtually any organic waste, are evident, while others are less obvious. Let’s have a look at what to expect from your Bokashi composting!

It is good for the health of your soil

If you have been looking for a way to improve the health of your soil, Bokashi is by far the best composting method. In fact, the quick fermentation process allows the organic material to retain all the nutrients they were supplied with originally. These nutrients, along with the microbes that were added to your Bokashi bin, create one of the best fertilizers for your soil.

Additionally, the tea or juice produced by the Bokashi bins can be used immediately to water your houseplants, flowers, and lawn with a nutrient-rich, all-natural conditioner.

Does not attract pests and it is smell free

Unlike standard composting, Bokashi is an anaerobic process and happens within a sealed container. If you have placed the lid properly on the Bokashi bucket, this will not attract any sort of pests, including mice, flies, and vermins

At the same time, the fermentation process does not produce any rancid smells that can make composting in your house challenging. Yet, when you open the lid you might notice a sour smell, similar to the one produced by pickles or vinegar.

It is fast and easy to use

No need to layer up all of your green and brown materials anymore. Everything you need to do to have the best pre-compost at the end of the fermenting process is to place in the Bokashi bin all of your organic waste and matter. 

Through the fermentation process, Bokashi creates pre-compost within a couple of weeks of being sealed. This “pre-compost” is then broken down within two weeks of being buried in your soil. This means that, unlike traditional composting that can take up to 6 months to produce nutritious fertilizer, you can start feeding your plants in just over a month!

All food waste can be composted with Bokashi

As we have seen, this is a great advantage of using Bokashi. Aside from being extremely beneficial for your house plants and flora, this composting way can also help you cut down on the time you use to recycle your waste. 

Be mindful that bones, leaves, and other garden waste can take longer to decompose compared to other food waste. Yet, there are no limitations of what you can place in your Bokashi bin, just make sure it is organic and compostable!

It is sustainable

Bokashi is one of the most sustainable and eco-friendly ways of composting your household waste as it does not produce CO2 emissions. Check out the “Sustainability: Bokashi vs Composting” section of this article below to find out more!

Copyright article owner is ReadyToDiy.com for this article. This post was first published on 2020-03-27.

Works for indoor and outdoor composting

Can’t choose between living in the city or composting? You don’t have to! Bokashi can be done easily and successfully indoors with only a little equipment. Thanks to the compact airtight bins, this type of composting won’t take up much space or release odors for weeks at a time.

Pros and Cons of Bokashi and Composting 

Bokashi

Pros:It is easy and fastCan be done indoorsCan ferment all organic wasteProduced pre-compost and juiceDoes not produce CO2 emissionsAll the nutrients are retained by organic waste.Does not smell or attract pests
Cons:You will need a specific bin for itYou will need to buy a constant supply of bran mix (which can be expensive!)It can only hold a limited amount of waste at a time.

Composting

Pros:There is no limit on how much composting you can doYou won’t need any equipment to get startedThere is no price involved
Cons:It can produce foul smellsYou will need ample outdoor spaceIt can attract pests and fliesIt produces CO2 emissionsIt can take up to 6 months to obtain usable fertilizer.

Sustainability: Bokashi vs Composting

If you have been starting to compost to limit the negative effect that organic waste has on the planet, you should keep in mind that standard composting produces CO2 emissions. While this type of composting is still better for the planet compared to sending food waste to landfill, the microbes that work on decomposing the food of your composting pile will need energy to carry out their tasks and, in doing so, they will produce CO2. The amount of emissions produced will depend on the amount of organic waste you are composting.

Oppositely, Bokashi supplies us with a greener and easier alternative than standard composting to do something amazing for the planet. In fact, the fermentation process that happens within the Bokashi bins prevents the production of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses. At the same time, this process ensures that the nitrogen and nutrients of the organic material are retained.

Lastly, thanks to the fact that a Bokashi bin can complete a fermentation process in around 20 days, you will have fresh fertilizer for your plants in just over a month. Perfect to start planting more plants and create a greener environment!

Alternatives

If you feel like that neither standard composting nor Bokashi are for you, there are some valid alternatives that you could take into consideration. Here we are going to have a look at the characteristics that make them viable choices.

Closed Bins

Using a traditional way of composting, Closed Bins are helpful if you have limited outdoor space available to you. These bins allow you to bury your waste directly into the ground while keeping it covered. Therefore, you will be able to keep odors and potential pests away while having a complete composting system just outside your house. This way of composting is inexpensive and can process large volumes of food waste at a time.

Tumblers

These are an alternative version to Closed Bins. While working in a similar way, Tumblers are a better choice for anybody that needs to harvest the compost often. If you are looking at using the compost as a fertilizer for a field or lawn, the Tumblers make it much easier to access it and remove it thanks to their opening.

Vermicomposting – Worm Farms

If you like keeping pets, then you should try building a Worm Farm! Yes, you will need a whole multi-level structure with drainage and airflow. Yet, this is one of the best indoor composting methods. Just feed your food scraps to your worms and just wait for them to turn it into nutritious fertilizer!

In-Ground Composting

This method is one of the slowest ones and one of the most labor-intensive. Yet, if you have a large outdoor space available to you, In-Ground composting can have a few benefits. Burying the organic waste directly into the ground is completely free and you can manage large quantities at a time.

Final Thoughts

Finding a way to compost effectively within your household is one of the best steps you can take towards a waste-free lifestyle. While this can seem difficult if you don’t have a large lawn or field where to start composting the waste, today there are efficient alternatives that can be helpful.

ReadyToDIY is the owner of this article. This post was published on 2020-03-27.

One of the most sustainable and manageable options if Bokashi. This method is a quick, hassle-free way of getting rid of the organic matter that your household naturally produces. While doing something good for the planet, you can harvest the nutritious Bokashi tea or compost to fertilize your plants and flowers.