There’s quite a debate raging about a potential green cart recycling program in Calgary. The green carts would be distributed to homes around the city and people could throw in all organics (veggie scraps, meat, etc.) that would be picked up on a weekly basis. There are supporters that argue that diverting any portion of waste from the city landfills is beneficial and haters who say it would take more gas for recycling trucks to come pick up a small ice cream pail amount of food scraps from households across the city that the benefit would be minimal.
As someone who lives in high density housing (i.e. condos or townhouses) I unfortunately don’t benefit from curb side pick up of garbage, recycling or organics. I tried doing an outdoor compost in the black bins more than a year ago which ended in a bit of a mess as our compost attracted mice who found my house to be very welcoming. Luckily Green Calgary informed me of a different option… bokashi composting. I am now participating in a 3 month pilot project to see if Bokashi composting is a feasible solution for families that don’t get to participate in the curb-side pick up of organics.
Bokashi composting is basically an anaerobic process that takes place in a bin with the help of some beneficial bacteria. First you add some peat moss to the bin to absorb the Bokashi juices. Then you add compost which can be veggie scraps, eggs, dairy, bread and even meat and bones. I usually collect the compost for a few days in a ice cream pail first so that anything that is moist gets a chance to evaporate a bit. Once you add compost to the bin throws a few handfuls of Bokashi bran on top. The bran contains molasses and the beneficial bacteria that start the decomposition process. I was relieved to discover the bran was nontoxic after my dog ate a bit!
To keep things working well keep the bin sealed as much as possible to allow the anaerobic bacteria to work. As you add layers of compost to the bin it’s best to use a potato masher to squish down the compost. Don’t forget to add the bran! Once the bin is completely full leave it sealed for 2 weeks then dump it out into a black bin composter or other outdoor compost pile in order to finish decomposing. If possible mix the Bokashi compost in with the other compost or bury it to accelerate the process.
So far the process seems relatively straightforward. As we don’t have a place to add the Bokashi compost when it’s done decomposing we are driving the compost over to the Marda Loop community garden and dumping it into their outdoor compost pile (our community Renfrew doesn’t have a community garden yet). There’s hardly any smell to the compost and if there is it mostly smells like the bran. We got some white mold in our second bin but apparently that’s ok and perfectly normal. On average we’re filling a 5 gallon bin in about 3 weeks so having two bins in rotation is certainly handy.
Although Bokashi composting is not the cheapest composting method out there I certainly feel it’s working for our family. I know I feel great about diverting a large amount of food scraps from the landfill! For more resources check out the following links: Compost Guy, Bokashi Composting and MyCrobz.