Bokashi and other food waste recycling methods
Recycle your food waste for valuable compost and mulch for your garden, while living more sustainably. Other food waste recycling methods, apart from compost and worm farming include:
- the fermentation system known as 'bokashi'
- worm towers
- trench composting, and
- no-dig gardening.
This system uses a specially designed bucket and a formulated mixture. It is particularly suitable for small families or people living in units but is also useful for any situation because you can process all food scraps including meat and bread using this system. 'Bokashi' is a Japanese word meaning 'to ferment'. Waste added to the bokashi bin will not putrefy when you add bokashi mixture and keep out the air. You then bury it in the garden or place it in a compost bin. As the material is already fermented it will break down extremely quickly.
You can purchase bokashi buckets at hardware or garden shops. Alternatively, you can make at home with two equal-sized buckets placed one inside the other. Drill holes in the bottom of the top bucket to allow the liquid to drain through. Add a tap to the bottom bucket to remove the liquid as required. Place a tight-fitting lid on the top bucket.
How to use the bokashi system
- Add food scraps to the bokashi bucket.
- Cover the scraps with a handful of bokashi bran (a wheat product infused with effective microorganisms) or spray. This allows it to ferment without rotting. The spray or bran is available at hardware and garden stores.
- Use a potato masher to push down the contents to minimise air exposure.
- Close lid tightly.
- Once or twice a week drain liquid from the bottom of the bucket. You can use this liquid as a fertiliser. Mix with water in a ratio of approximately one teaspoon of bokashi to two or three litres of water. Alternatively, use undiluted to clean household drains.
- Keep adding food scraps and bokashi mix until the bucket is full. For an average family, this will take approximately three to four weeks.
- Leave the bucket for 10 to 14 days for materials to ferment. Continue to drain off liquid regularly. After this time you will notice that food appears pickled and smells vinegary. It may also occasionally have a white fungi growth.
- You can bury contents in a hole in the garden or add to a compost bin or take to your closest community compost hub. As material is fermented, it will break down within two to three weeks.
Bokashi bin ingredients
What can go in a bokashi bin:
- fresh fruit and vegetables
- cooked foods
- meat and fish
- coffee grinds and tea leaves
- wilted flowers
Avoid these ingredients:
- liquids (e.g. milk, juice)
- large bones.
Worm towers or tubes are a great way to add nutrients to raised garden beds or plant pots. They consist of a piece of PVC pipe or a bucket without a base, but with a tight fitting lid. Bury the tubes in the garden and place fruit and vegetable scraps inside. Compost worms turn the food into worm castings and worm juice and increase the fertility of the soil. Place a number of worm towers in different sites around the garden as required.
- Take a length of PVC pipe and drill some holes around the base of it.
- Bury the pipe about 10cm into the garden.
- Add some composting worms (available for purchase online).
- Add fruit and vegetable scraps as required.
- Place a tight fitting lid on the top of the worm tube.
Bury your scraps in the garden to decompose into the soil. They feed the plants and provide food for worms.
- Dig a trench or hole approximately 25cms deep into the garden.
- Add fruit and vegetable scraps, cover over with soil and allow the waste to break down. Add a strip of wire netting over scraps before covering with soil to discourage creatures such as dogs or rodents from digging them up.
Carbon and nitrogen-rich materials are layered directly onto the soil to create a raised garden for planting. You can include limited amounts of food scraps in the nitrogen-rich material. The most common materials for no-dig gardens are lucerne straw, manure, compost, paper and grass clippings. Build in layers up to a minimum depth of 30cm. You can then put your plants and seeds into pockets of compost or potting mix within the material. The materials will gradually break down and provide a rich growing medium for the plants to spread their roots into. Continually top up the garden with more carbon and nitrogen materials as it sinks down over time.
Pets such as chickens, guinea pigs and dogs can play a key role in reducing your household's food waste output.
Chickens are one of the most popular and efficient of all bio-recycling household pets. Each month, a chicken will consume approximately its own body weight in feed and kitchen scraps. Chicken manure is one of the richest of all animal manures, containing high levels of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.
It's important to consider the dietary needs of your bio-recycling pet/s. This will ensure they receive adequate nutrition and their digestive systems remain healthy. It's best to seek advice from your vet before changing the diet of your pet.
Find out about keeping chickens and poultry in Brisbane.
Compost rebate program
Council is making purchasing your food waste recycling system easier with our compost rebate program. The program provides eligible Brisbane residents a rebate of up to $70 off the purchase of eligible composting equipment.