Finally a Solution for Food Waste

Recycle signAt last, there’s something I can do about my food waste. It was always frustrating to me that I couldn’t compost it.

I had seriously considered a Green Cone and a Bokashi bin, both of which are designed to process food waste unlike normal composting, but neither felt like the right solution for my home.

I do have a garden, but it is very small and public on all sides. The only place I could have put a green cone was right by my front door and I didn’t fancy that. The problem with the Bokashi bin was that I have very little space to dig in the compost, which has to be dug in a certain distance away from plants to avoid burning their roots.

Bokashi Bins

If you haven’t heard of Bokashi before, this is a system of composting kitchen waste using a special plastic bin with a tap. Each time you put in your kitchen waste you add a handful of ‘EM Bokashi’, a combination of sawdust and bran infused with Effective Micro-organisms (EM), a natural bacteria that accelerates the breakdown of the waste.

As the food begins to decompose a juice is formed, which can be drawn off using the tap. The liquid can be used as a drain cleanser or as plant feed when diluted 1:100 parts with water. Ideally you would have two Bokashi bins as, when full, the bin needs to sit for 10–14 days for the food waste to decompose effectively. After that time it can be dug into the garden.

You can read more about the Green Cone in one of my earlier posts.

The Council to the Rescue

So with Green Cone and Bokashi bin out of the running there was very little I could do with my kitchen waste . . . until last week!

Last week my council supplied all the houses in the area with a 23-litre food collection bin and a 7-litre kitchen food caddy. And this week they made their first food waste collection! Once all the food waste is collected it is taken to a composting plant where it is turned into compost or agricultural fertiliser.

Food Waste in Land Fill

According to the leaflet that came with the bin, approximately 40% of the borough’s waste is food waste. The problem with sending biodegradable waste to landfill is that it cannot decompose naturally. With a lack of oxygen, this waste causes the release of methane, said to be much more harmful than carbon dioxide and a contributing factor to global warming.

Thanks to the council, finally I can send my food waste to somewhere other than land fill.

Added Benefits – Less Plastic Bags

Now I’m using the food waste bins, I no longer need to use bin liners or put the waste in black bin bags, so this new service reduces the amount of plastic bags being used. Instead, the food bins can be lined with newspaper, which is also compostable. Bonus!

Plus, with no wet or smelly food items going into my usual kitchen bin, there’s no longer any excuse to use plastic bags or liners from the supermarket. I have my fingers crossed that less people will now choose to take plastic bags from the checkout when they shop.

UPDATE (17 Feb)

Another thing I’ve noticed about the food bins is that they make you realise how much food you throw away. I don’t know if I just had a bad week, but last week I threw away far more than I thought I would.

It certainly makes you think more about how much you are cooking. I think maybe smaller portions are in order, plus, keeping a check on what’s in the fridge so my fresh food gets used up before it goes off.

Photo via Flickr by dasistdasende.



Composters v Food Digesters

Before I started getting a veg box, I had a fairly healthy diet, but I am definitely eating more vegetables now. As a direct result I have a lot more compostable waste. And at the moment all the food waste – peelings, stalks, leaves, skins and leftovers – is going in the kitchen bin destined for land-fill.

No Room For a Garden Composter

Other than the odd piece of plastic packaging (grrr), my kitchen bin normally fills with off-cuts from fruit, veg and cheese preparation, tea bags, egg shells and cooked food left at the end of a meal. Unfortunately my garden is the size of a handkerchief and is open to the public on all of its small sides so standard garden composters are out of the question.

Waste Not Suitable For a Garden Composter

Also, most of the waste I have wouldn’t be suitable for a standard composter. As I research my options it becomes clear that in composters the following list of waste will rot and attract vermin and flies: • Cooked food • Meat • Fish • Dairy products • Fat • Banana skins • Egg shells • Bread • Cake • Biscuits • Pastry.

Then I Discover Food Waste Digesters

Food digesters can handle all food wastes, including the above. If you have a garden that’s larger than a handkerchief and enjoys a certain amount of privacy you might want to check out the Green Cone.

The Green Cone is designed to speed up the digestion of waste so that it doesn’t rot. It does this by encouraging greater heat and air circulation. Because it has an underground filter, any liquid that forms seeps directly into the earth, thus preventing the smells and rotting that encourage flies and other beasties. These systems also work with acceleration powders, which help the food to digest when, for example, the weather is colder and they can’t generate enough heat.

You can find out exactly how this food waste digester works on the Green Cone website.

For a related post, read Finally a Solution for Food Waste.