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Make Your Own Fertilizer: Bokashi Food Waste Recycling

Make Your Own Fertilizer: Bokashi Food Waste Recycling

Up to 60% of material going to landfills is food waste and green wastes. This material can, and should, be recycled.

What better way to have a global impact by acting local? Bokashi Food Waste Recycling allows you to turn food wastes into fertilizer and is also an excellent alternative to traditional aerobic composting. It is a simple process that is done in airtight containers and allows one to recycle all their food wastes, including meat and dairy.

The practice of fermenting food wastes is believed to have its earliest roots in ancient Asia, where fermentation was and is still very much a part of everyday life. “Bokashi” is a Japanese word meaning “fermented organic matter”. Most Bokashi on the market today is made by fermenting dead plant materials (carbon) such as bran, hulls, dead leaves, etc, with Effective Microorganisms®, or EM•1®. EM•1® consists of lactic acid and phototrophic bacteria as well as yeast. EM•1® is mixed with molasses, water and bran and then anaerobically fermented for a couple of weeks. It is often dried for long term storage. The EM•1® ensures a consistent, pathogen-free, finished product.

Effective Microorganisms® was discovered by Prof Dr. Teruo Higa in Japan in the 1960s. Dr. Higa has a doctorate in agricultural research and fruit tree cultivation from Ryukyus University in Okinawa, Japan. Somewhere after the introduction of the EM-1® concentrate in 1982, Dr. Higa combined the traditional Bokashi method, which used to use mountain soil, and instead introduced the stable inoculant, EM-1, to the Bokashi recipe. Dr. Higa’s students combined Bokashi with a special airtight bucket to be easily used in homes and schools. Since that humble beginning, Bokashi has spread to over 140 countries around the world.


Unlike compost, which needs to be monitored, turned, aged and sifted, all one needs to do is make sure to add a layer of Bokashi to each fresh layer of food waste and close a bucket. This is more like pickling. Today’s Bokashi Food Waste Recycling eliminates the work and pests and smells associated with aerobic decomposition-based composting. Here’s how you do it. Get a kit for TeraGanix that has two airtight 5-gallon buckets (one to fill and one to ferment) and 5lbs of Bokashi. Collect food waste. Add at least 1/8th inch layer of Bokashi to the bottom of one bucket. Add a couple of inches of food waste. Coat the food waste with another layer of Bokashi. Continue until the bucket is full, closing the lid between each addition of food waste. It will take a family of 4 roughly 1 week to fill one 5-gallon bucket. You’ll use about 1lb of Bokashi per bucket. When the bucket is full, put it off to the side to allow it to ferment for at least one more week. Start a second bucket. After the fermentation is done, dig a 15” deep trench anywhere in your yard. Pour out the contents of the bucket, mixing in soil with the shovel. Cover with the soil from the hole, making sure to cover with about 12 inches of soil. Hose out the bucket and start again. This process is done in rotation throughout the year. The material you bury will feed microbes, worms, and insects in the soil. They digest the materials into humus in as little as two weeks.

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Because the Bokashi Food Waste Recycling method is done in closed buckets, the sealed container encourages a pickling process, preventing the materials from rotting, and keeps out pests such as insects and other critters. It works great anywhere from apartments to homes and offices. It is also great for schools or people in inner cities with community gardens. Since this method avoids the problem of attracting rats, people in major cities such as New York City and London can be seen carrying a bucket of food waste to their community garden. The most common application is using a Bokashi bin or bucket in a household kitchen. Other uses of fermented food wastes include adding to an existing compost pile to speed up the process and to feed to worms in a vermiculture system.

There you have it. This is an easy way to convert all food scraps into fertilizer for all your plants, no matter where you are.