Apartment composting: 7 reasons you should go bokashi

If you (or a reluctant flatmate) aren’t 100% convinced bokashi is right for you, I’m here to change your mind!

Season 3 Netflix GIF by Queer Eye

Let me just quickly introduce this magic bin. It’s a Japanese compost system that uses live microbes called “bokashi” to break down your food waste quicker. The bokashi comes in the form of a grain mix or liquid spray which you spread in the bin every time you add waste. Once the bin is full, it stays in there and ferments for 10 days, to then to be buried or added to another composting system.

1. Why bother?

Well apart from saving the world from a methane armageddon, there is one great perk: bokashi juice. Bokashi juice is the fermented juice that you extract through the tap on the bottom of the bin and it’s a great fertiliser. This free fertilizer is highly potent and you only need to dilute 1 teaspoon of bokashi juice to 1 litre of water.

If you have a garden, another perk is that the soil around where you bury the fermented food gets fertilised as well.

2. Why bokashi over other apartment composting methods?

Compared to worm composting, bokashi is great because it takes less space, it’s easier in the sense that there’s no need to understand and learn to balance the soil moisture and pH levels, and you don’t need to find a wormsitter when you go on longer holidays!

Compared to composting in your neighbourhood through the Sharewaste app, it’s great because it’s in your own home (no transport fuss), and you get the perks of free plant fertiliser for yourself.

And compared to both systems, you can throw in any food in there. Citrus, onion, garlic, cooked food, meat, dairy, you name it!

3. Is it seriously feasible inside an apartment?

Yes and no. Bokashi bins are small, odour-free 99% of the time (read more below) and come in nice designs. However, when the bokashi bin is full, and it has fermented for 10 days, the waste needs to be buried or added to another compost system. That’s the tricky part for us apartment dwellers.

But wait! Before you rule bokashi out, think outside the box! I don’t have a garden, but I still have options: I can add the fermented food waste into the council green waste bins that accept food waste (Darebin City). I’m going to experiment burying it in an unused garden bed in our shared courtyard. I can bring it to my previous Sharewaste host. Or bring it to my boyfriend’s parent’s compost heap. That’s 4 solutions perfectly doable solutions!

4. But surely it smells?!

Look, I’d be lying if I said no, but the good news is that the smell is present only for a glimpse of a moment: when you transfer the food from your kitchen counter container to your bokashi bin. See, since the bin is air-tight, unless you visit me while I’m transferring my food waste, there is no way you can tell I’m composting inside my apartment.

The other good news is that your regular bin doesn’t smell bad anymore as it is the rotting food that usually makes bins smelly. So, technically, you’re only transferring the bad smell from your regular bin to your bokashi bin.

The Block GIF

5. Let’s talk numbers – how much?

The initial cost for the bin is from $40 upwards for a new one, but you can find second-hand ones from $20 and upwards on Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree.

Then there’s the cost of the bokashi enzymes in the form of grains or spray. The prices will vary on what you can get a hold on. I, for example, bought a 2L bokashi spray refill bottle for 9$ which should last me 6-8 months.

The Compost Revolution is a nation wide organistion that works with 31 Australian councils to provide composting gear at discounted prices. I live in Darebin City and got my bokashi bin at a 70% discount for example.

6. Not bad, but how much elbow grease will this cost me?

3 minutes every 1-3 days transferring your food waste from the kitchen counter container to the bokashi bin. 5 minutes every 2-4 weeks (whenever the bin is full) to burry your bokashi waste in the ground OR a short drive to a neighbour to donate your bokashi waste to someone with an outdoor composting system using the Sharewaste app. And every few weeks or months, you need to buy bokashi grains or bokashi spray.

7. Not too keen on continuously buying bokashi grains or liquid though…

I was a bit on the fence about that too. Hmm, another thing to buy that comes in plastic that’s probably hard to find? This doesn’t really fit in my minimalist zero waste lifestyle.

But it’s all good! Turns out it’s cheap, you can buy both the spray and the grains in big amounts so it lasts up to 6 months, and some stores even sells it in bulk (see box below) or in compostable hessian bags. And they’re everywhere. You can buy them at Bunnings, other hardware stores, some zero waste shops/health shops, or even order it online!

Queer Eye GIF

I’ve found bokashi grains in bulk at the EnviroShop in Northcote and at CERES in Brunswick.

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