Bokashi composting offers many advantages

Composting seems a pretty simple thing.

Take your potato peels and left over vegetable scraps and heap it in a pile, allowing it to decompose to rich earth.

But like most things in life, there are complexities and nuances and different ways of doing things. Some ways are better than others, and there is no shortage of people looking for even better ways of doing it.

Deanna Hurstfield is one of them. A determined composter and recycler, she has tried many different ways of keeping her family's food waste out of the garbage stream, including the quirky but often effective worm composter.

She's found a new method, however, she wants to explore and is looking for several other Kamloops composters who want to explore the concept with her.

"Bokashi" composting originated in Japan. Hurstfield came across the method while surfing the net and believes the idea holds much merit.

Traditional composting typically sees people store their organic waste in buckets inside the house, she said, which often produces unpleasant odours.

Worm composting takes it a step further, by putting worms to work in the decomposition process. Worm composters are more "indoor friendly."

Both systems suffer some problems, Hurstfield said, especially when it comes to what you can put in them. Dairy or meat products, as well, as fats and oils, are a big no-no in compost buckets.

Bokashi composting produces no foul odours, making it perfect for indoor use, she said. As well, you can put in many of those food bits that are unthinkable in traditional composting. Like fats and meat scraps.

The secret? Bokashi composters use an introduced bacterial agent to speed up the decomposition process, she said. The microbes are mixed with bran, molasses and warm water and sprinkled on top of organic waste in layers in a bucket.

When the bucket is full, it is sealed to create an anaerobic environment. Three to four weeks later, the contents are ready to be added to the garden, she said.

Bokashi seems to offer many advantages, Hurstfield said. The catch? It's not cheap.

There are bokashi kits available through Internet dealers, she said. The costs of those systems appear to run at about $20 to $30 a month for all the supplies, substrates and microbe mixes.

Her research indicates it would be possible to do it all for a lot less money if people are willing to do the preparation work themselves.

Her estimate for a DIY bokashi composter puts the costs at about $30 for 18 months of operation. The key to achieving those costs, however, will be to have a core group of people willing to join their buying power together.

The microbe mixture is the most expensive to buy, but a small quantity goes a long way. A one-litre bottle would supply several families for a long time, she said.

"If we can find a microbiologist who can help us figure out what is in there, we can cut the costs even more," she said.

Hurstfield said she is looking to create a "bokashi network" in Kamloops, a group of people working together to cost effectively explore what appears to be a worthwhile household composting option.

If you would like to be a part of Kamloops first bokashi team, call Hurstfield at 250-376-4723.

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