Start composting and cut your food waste

The Bokashi system is made up of two buckets which fit tightly inside each other.
Eva Bradley

The Bokashi system is made up of two buckets which fit tightly inside each other.

In case you hadn't heard, composting is back in vogue.

Savvy composters can dramatically cut the amount of household waste they throw away and create a healthy, natural fertiliser for their gardens.

In fact, 50 per cent of household rubbish is organic waste such as food scraps and garden waste, so composting is a great way to keep waste out of the landfill.

Along with the typical items that can be composted there are some surprising household things that can be added. These include old herbs and spices, the contents of your vacuum cleaner bag if you have wool carpet (but not the Lego pieces!) and matches, toothpicks and bamboo skewers.

When it comes to clearing post-BBQ or party leftovers, you can use the compost to dispose of Champagne and wine corks as well as stale wine and beer. Even the odd balloon will break down, as long as it's latex and not foil.

Hair – human or pet – is another thing that goes well in compost, so gather up the trimmings from electric razors and home haircuts, along with the hair that collects in hairbrushes. While you're at it, dryer lint and the dust bunnies that collect under the fridge can also be composted.

But composting is so smelly, right? Wrong! If you're looking for an easy, non-stinky way to manage your food scraps, Bokashi may be the answer. Developed in Japan, Bokashi can be translated as "fermented organic matter". Food waste is added to an airtight bucket with an inoculant (which looks like sawdust) containing beneficial micro-organisms. This preserves the food waste like a pickle and prevents odours, while helping it to break down quickly once it is added to compost or soil.

The Bokashi system is made up of two buckets which fit tightly inside each other – perfect for people who want to compost but don't have much space. The top bucket has holes in the bottom of it. Every time you put the food into this bucket add a tablespoon of inoculant and squash it all down. A small amount of liquid will drain into the bottom bucket, which can be used as an excellent fertiliser.

The smell is inoffensive and the buckets are air-tight, so Bokashi buckets can be kept indoors. It keeps food waste out of the landfill and improves helpful microbial activity in the soil. Food scraps that can't be composted using regular methods like fish and meat, cooked foods, bread, pasta and rice, cheese, eggs and odorous food waste can be processed with Bokashi, and once it's dug into the soil or added to your compost it helps your food waste break down rapidly releasing the nutrients within 2-4 weeks.

If you like the idea of using Bokashi to take care of your food scraps but don't have a garden, head to Neighbourly and see if anyone in your community is keen to take your Bokashi pickles for their garden. For more information on composting and Bokashi – including free events – visit your local council website.

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Richard Lee is Auckland Council's  WasteWise advisor.

 - Stuff

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