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In the last journal entry on city composting, avid gardener, Olivia Choong, detailed the different types of composting techniques that can be used to reduce food waste, and contribute to fertilising the plants in your home (or even your neighbours’!). One of the easy and foolproof techniques is the “bokashi” method that the Urban Composter system is based on. Here we share how to compost in 4 easy steps.
The Urban Composter uses the principles of Bokashi composting – a composting method based on fermentation. Bokashi ,which translates to ‘fermented organic matter’ in Japanese, has its roots in ancient East Asia where farmers covered their food waste with soil that contained micro-organisms. These microbes fermented the waste in a non-oxygen environment, and when buried in soll, transformed the latter into a nutrient-rich substance. However, the traditional bokashi fermentation method, as Luke Gregory (founder of Urban Composter) discovered is too messy to use in a home setting, and attracts pests.
Using his industrial design training, Luke came up with the final design for the Urban Composter which had several properties for the composting system to work effectively:
a good seal essential to achieve an anaerobic (no oxygen) environment for Bokashi composting and to keep the pests out
an internal angled base and a tap to ensure easy and effective draining of the bokashi leachate.
an effective microorganism (EM) in a citrus spray form to replace the messy bokashi powder used in the traditional method.
There’s no need to rack your brains to figure out the ratio of greens and browns, no need to monitor the temperature of the compost, no need to turn and aerate the composting pile and most of all, there’s no odour and pests to deal with in the first few weeks if done right. In 4 steps, your kitchen scraps can be turned into compost within an average of 6-10 weeks as compared to several months using other composting methods techniques.
Step 1 - Throw waste into composter
Make sure to cut or chop your food waste into small pieces. This fermentation process also allows foods that are traditionally not accepted in other compost bins and worm farms: meat, seafood, dairy, cooked food, citrus peels, onions and garlic.
Step 2 - Apply the citrus spray “accelerator”
On a daily basis, squirt a few sprays of the accelerator which is a natural citrus-based EM solution to inoculate the fermenting process.
Close the lid tightly to not only create an oxygen-free environment for the EM to thrive, but also the odour out and pests away.
Step 3 - Drain away the leachate
For the science geeks out there, the process of anaerobic respiration produces lactic acid and other organic acids and water as by-products. This results in the leachate called Bokashi tea or compost juice, which has to be drained regularly (ideally on a daily basis) so as to keep the moisture content in the system in balance. The Bokashi tea is not only acidic but also holds some of the beneficial microbes from the system and thus can be either used to water plants (after dilution of 1:100) to boost the soil life or poured down the drain as a sewage cleaner.
The food scraps should be left to complete the fermentation in 2 weeks while the liquid is drained away.
Step 4 - Bury in soil
The fermented scraps can be further broken down to make compost in 4 to 8 weeks through various methods:
burying in soil if you have a garden or making your own soil factory if you live in an apartment, both of which do not require any maintenance for the duration.
for apartment-dwellers would be vermicomposting which is more of a challenge as it involves worms.
Regardless of the composting methods that you use, what can be harvested at the end is exceptionally valuable compost which is not only full of nutrients but also teeming with soil life.