Monday, August 13, 2012

Different Types of Food Waste Recycling: Aerobic Vs. Anaerobic Composting

There are two different categories that are used to describe the different kinds of composting according to the way the microorganisms work. The main difference lies in the fact that Aerobic microorganisms need air, and anaerobic microorganisms do not. Before deciding which type of composting you are going to use, it is important to learn a little more about what kind of benefits each type will provide, as well as each type’s drawbacks.

Aerobic Composting
Aerobic composting is the type of composting that naturally occurs above the ground. This is because aerobic microorganisms require air to function. Typical aerobic composting areas take place in a simple pile, or in a container that allows air in to circulate around the materials. Aerobic piles also generate more heat than anaerobic composts. Temperatures may even get high enough to kill weeds and pathogens.

There are a few drawbacks to aerobic composting. First, the process can result in gaseous by-products that smell unpleasant to humans and attract pests. If you notice an odor similar to rotten eggs, your compost pile may be too wet and you need add more dry material – or – the pile may need to mixed/turned more thoroughly. This constant need to monitor and adjust the pile makes aerobic composting a bit labor intensive… which is drawback number two. The third drawback is that eventually the spaces holding oxygen between organic matter will be depleted. When this happens, the decomposition process slows down tremendously. A way to avoid this happening is to use a form of aeration during the construction of your compost pile. You can do this by placing an object like a recycled shipping pallet underneath the pile to allow air to travel beneath your compost. Also, adding beneficial microbes in the form of a microbial inoculant will help enhance the bacterial environment and speed along the process.

If your compost pile is shrinking and needs more oxygen, there are a few ways that you can get more air to it. One way is to turn your compost pile over by either dumping it into a new container or moving it over using a shovel or pitch fork. You can also stir your compost pile using a pitchfork to allow air to access other parts of your compost pile. Or, there are some tools on the market that look like giant corkscrews that can aerate the pile.

Anaerobic Composting
The alternate method of food waste recycling is anaerobic composting. This method does not use oxygen, therefore it must take place underground or in a sealed container. In the past, farmers in Japan used this method of composting in the fields. Traditionally, you would dig a hole or pit and place your compost materials in it, then cover it with a thick layer of soil so that no oxygen gets to it.

Today – thanks to specially designed composting buckets – anaerobic composting is much more convenient than ever. It is a faster process than traditional composting and does not emit an unpleasant smell. Anaerobic composting is actually a method of fermentation rather than composting. This is beneficial because the nutrients are not broken down like traditional compost methods, but are instead preserved in a bio-available form that plants can absorb.

Anaerobic composting is a great alternative to traditional composting and is the best method to use when you have waste that attracts bugs, has a bad odor, or is wet… common qualities of food scraps. It is also a great option if composting above ground is not allowed in your area (in some urban areas it is actually against city ordinances to compost), you have limited space, or you don’t enjoy the look (or smell) of a compost pile in your yard. With anaerobic composting you can begin improving the soil much faster than aerobic composting (within 2 weeks), so it is perfect if you are trying to start a fertile garden with quality soil. You can also use the anaerobic compost in planters by layering the compost with potting soil.

Bokashi Composting
If you live in an apartment or a home that does not have space for composting, the Bokashi Food Recycling System is a super convenient way to recycle your food waste no matter what sort of restrictions your residence has. This method is a type of anaerobic composting that uses a smaller container and sometimes two so you can process the first batch while you have another batch forming. This method is ideal for people who still want to compost but feel as if they can’t due to renting restrictions or lack of space.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What is Bokashi Composting?

Bokashi is powder made of certified-organic rice bran. This powder is commonly used to activate anaerobic fermentation; a method of food waste recycling that has many advantages to traditional composting. The Bokashi concept is based on an ancient Japanese farming practice, where farmers used microbe rich soil to break down food and harvest waste, creating a nutrient dense humus for fertilizing future fields.

Decomposition, or rotting, is usually a result of anaerobic microbes, microbes that require little to no oxygen. These putrefying microbes dominate the materials, releasing foul smelling gases in the process. The more commonly known composting methods use microbes that require oxygen...lots of it. If poorly managed, even aerobic composting can produce lots of odors and attract all kinds of pests. And, aerobic composting can also be very time-consuming, laborious and inefficient.

The Bokashi method is anaerobic, but is not putrefactive or rotting. Bokashi anaerobic composting utilizes microorganisms that require little to know oxygen (they are known as facultative) to break down organic materials. For this reason, the process generates few if any bad smelling by-products and, compared to traditional composting, requires very little oversight or time. Bokashi is far more convenient than traditional composting and is so innocuous, that you can perform it indoors. Since the microbes do not require oxygen, the process can be contained within an airtight space and once the process is complete, you simply add the nutrient-rich humus to your garden, worm bed, animal feed or lawn.

Benefits of Bokashi Composting:

  • Effective breaks down food waste including heavier items that traditional composting cannot, including dairy, fish and meat.
  • No noxious byproduct, which means no disgusting smell and no greenhouse gases. The final Bokashi product has a sweet, pickled smell as opposed to a rancid decomposition smell.
  • An enclosed system guards against attracting insect and pests, a major drawback of traditional composting that must be left in “open air” so that the compost pile microbes have access to oxygen.
  • Takes approximately two weeks to complete, much faster than traditional composting! And Bokashi bran powder can be coupled with Super Cera (Super C) Powder to create EM-1 Bokashi for super accelerated composting.
  • Minimal involvement required – no turning or monitoring green to brown ratios. Simply add food scraps and the bran, and walk away. The microorganisms do the rest. After two week, bury the fermented matter wherever you want to enhance plant life and the compost will fully break down in the soil over the next 2 to 4 weeks.
  • Super compact! No more need for backyard space… Bokashi bins can fit in a pantry or under the sink. This makes Bokashi ideal for businesses and urban dwellers (or anyone sick of maintaining their traditional compost heap’s green to brown ratio.)
  • Super-efficient! The materials break down quickly in a small amount of space… and since the process is contained, no nutrients are lost.

What you need to get started with Bokashi:

  • Unwanted food waste
  • Bokashi rice bran or EM Bokashi for accelerated composting
  • A Bokashi Bucket / Composting Bin - should be compact and feature a flexible, easy-open, air-tight lids. The Deluxe Bokashi Bucket Fermenter is also infused with EM-X® Ceramic powders that accelerate the fermentation process.
  • Having two buckets on hand is even more convenient as you can switch them out quickly for greater efficiency.
  • Consider a Bokashi bin featuring a spigot if you want to use compost tea during the two week cycle.
  • A space to bury the resulting fermented contents of the Bokashi bin (garden beds, pots, etc).

That’s it! It’s obvious why Bokashi is considered the easiest food recycling method available. Give it a try, and you’ll never go back to aerobic food waste composting again!