Bokashi Composting for the Home

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Bokashi is a method of composting developed in Japan that uses microbes to decompose food, effectively fermenting it so that it doesn’t smell as it is breaking down. Besides lack of smell, another advantage with bokashi is that all food, including meat, fish and dairy, can be composed with this system. Bokashi has gotten a lot of attention in large-scale commercial uses, but what about at home?

Although it’s been around for centuries in rural Japan, bokashi is just starting to catch on in the US. The soil in Japan is naturally rich in the microbes needed for the process but people here often use an inoculated bran to assure that they are getting the right proportions of microbes. Country clubs and other large establishments are taking on the practice in order to turn the large amount of kitchen scraps they produce into a useful compost for their grounds.

Home-sized bokashi kits can be purchased online and at some home and garden supply shops. The kits are similar, usually offering a 5-gallon lidded bucket with spigot and a bag or two of Bokashi compost starter. Some kits also offer a plastic masher, a scoop for the Bokashi bran, and an additional small food scrap collector.

The method is fairly straightforward. Simply sprinkle on a handful of bokashi bran each time kitchen scraps are added to the bucket, give a stir, and tightly close the lid. (Some suppliers recommend that the kitchen scraps be chopped in to small pieces first.) After filling the bucket to capacity, let it sit for 7-10 days so the microbes can get to work. During this time, occasionally drain off any liquid using the spigot and use it as a compost tea for plants or in the garden. Once the compost is thoroughly pickled, it is buried in the yard or garden to complete the breakdown process.

While this looks like a good system for home composting, I can anticipate a few problems. The first is that whomever uses this will have to find a plot of land to bury their pickled waste for its final decomposition. So folks who live in large cities and densely populated areas with little to no access to a place to bury their boskashi are out of luck, or at least need to find a community garden.

The other consideration is that you will actually need two bokashi buckets: one that is full and breaking down, and one that is in process and still taking on your daily scraps. This may be a space and cost issue for some.

Not all composting systems are perfect and there are always challenges for the urban dweller when it comes to this process. So while bokashi doesn’t resolve every issue, it still takes care of two very important concerns: the composting of proteins such as dairy, fish and meat and no more stinky compost under the sink!

Have you ever used the bokashi method at home? If so, what was your experience? Is this something you would consider for your home composting?

From Gaiam: All Food Recycling Compost Kit, with 1 gallon Bokashi. $52.00 plus $12 for Bokashi Refill
From Sunwood Life: Bokashi Compost Kit, with 2 gallons Bokashi and additional small compost collector $59.00
From Uncommongoods: Kitchen Composter Kit, with 1 gallon on Bokashi. $48.00 plus $12.00 for Bokashi Refills
From Bokashi Composting: Bokashi Kit, with 2 pounds of Bokashi $51.99

Related: Compost Buckets Under the Countertop