Welcoming Bokashi to the UK Composting Scene :
Creating pro-biotic compost from domestic food waste.
"One of the most effective natural ways of diverting food waste from landfill"
The Observer on Sunday on ‘Living Soil’ Bokashi
The word ‘pro-biotic’ has become well known in reference to beneficial yogurts and health supplements that work with microorganisms that exert antioxidant and detoxifying effects. However, its application within composting and soil health is much less well known!
The pro-biotic approach to waste composting is used in 116 countries across the world including the U.S.A, Japan and Germany, yet is virtually unheard of in the UK. An educational initiative called ‘Living Soil’ has been created to raise awareness of this globally accepted approach toward minimizing landfill waste and feeding the soil.
In Japan, where the approach originated and has become mainstream, over 3 million households redirect their food-waste from the landfill by using domestic Kitchen Waste Digesters in concert with an interesting substance called ‘bokashi’, a malted bran that contains pro-biotics that steer the composting process toward one of fermentation rather than putrefaction. When the food waste is treated with bokashi, it can be dug into flower-beds and vegetable patches, fed into composters, or dug around the roots of trees and bushes. For those with small gardens, or even just yards or window-boxes, it is possible to dig the compost into large plant pots and planters.
Bokashi is inoculated with a mixed microbial culture of selected species of microorganisms such as lactic acid bacteria, yeasts, photosynthetic bacteria and actinomycetes. This special combination is known as ‘Efficient Microbes’ or ‘EM’. All species are non-gm, and derived from naturally occurring soil microbes.
Pro-biotic fermentation is the way around the yuck-factor associated with typical compost heaps. If food is simply thrown on acompost heap, the result is often an unpleasant stench accompanied by flies, maggots and rats. This is because the organic matter in these conditions is putrefying under pathogenic bacteria. However, the application of EM-bokashi to food-waste guides the degrading process toward a hygienic pro-biotic fermentation – which mineralizes the organic matter into a form which is sweet smelling, safe to handle, and benefits and revitalizes soil, passively imparting health to plants. The result is deeply vibrant, healthy plants, flowers and vegetables.
Sometimes future developments come in from unexpected directions. Bokashi truly represents a means to bring composting forward into the 21st century, so high volumes of food waste generated by dense urban populations can be effectively handled. Several UK trials into this method have been carried out and results are highly encouraging. With Living Soil’s consultation, East London Community Recycling Project, spearheaded by Cam Matheson developed a Bokashi composting scheme that meets both EA and DEFRA requirements and is reaching 5,000 households. Councils will save a great amount of money through creating EM-Bokashi composting systems to deal with the catering waste from public utilities.
About the author :
Daniel Woodward is trained in Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies at C.A.T (The Centre for Alternative Technology), and has written for ‘Building For A Future’ and ‘Permaculture Magazine’ as an independent journalist and researcher.