Saturday, 23 February 2008

Putting an end to food waste in landfill

So what should you do with chicken stew that's been hanging about in the fridge for four days?

I did my best. I fed it to the kids, the husband and the cats. I even invited some friends around, but it hasn't gone away, despite my best efforts in adding some chinese spices just to make things more exciting. Don't get me wrong. It's delicious, but bad planning has meant that it wasn't used up as quickly as it should have been, not with Mr A being out in late meetings around the region and my lunchtime meetings around town.

Now it's got to that lingering know what I mean...when the stew gets past its use-by-date and just hangs around in the fridge, in a sealed container, waiting to be thrown in the bin.

There it waits and waits and waits, cluttering up the fridge, until it's the right time to be thrown away. Timing is everything. After all I don't want it smelling out the bin or turning into a health hazard in the fridge!

However, that is about to change because....thanks to some great advice from composting guru Simon Sherlock, yesterday I received my new bin from Wiggly Wigglers. It's not just any old bin...oh no...indeed it is a very special bin, which should help me solve our food waste problem.

Regular readers will know that I don't create food waste lightly and I've been making great inroads into reducing what we buy and how it is cooked to ensure that portions are correct and that food doesn't go to waste...but guess what...I am only human and can't be perfect all the time.

Determined to get rid of food waste in time for the Zero Waste challenge, I have already made great use of the wormery, which arrived a few weeks ago and which accepts food scraps and kitchen waste. However, food waste that contains meat or fish cannot be place directly into the wormery so this is where my new bin comes in.

Its official name is the Bokashi Empowered system. Now that sounds all posh and technical for what appears to be a fairly normal looking bin (Bokashi is in fact a Japanese word for Fermented Organic Matter). Now, I'm not technical, but my understanding is that the bin itself is made of a special plastic that has been injected with EMs (Effective MicroOrganisms). It can be placed in the kitchen and used as a normal kitchen waste bin for most food waste such as vegetable peelings and leftover scraps.

Of course, the aim is to reduce leftovers but there are times when you can take the horses to water but there is no way you can make them drink! This means I now have somewhere to put those annoying leftovers that the boys don't manage. Whether it's tuna, potato skins, pasta, rice, chicken, lamb, beef, fish pie, shepherds pie, breakfast cereal, or many other things that don't take their fancy.

The technique is to place all the food in the bin and sprinkle a layer of Bokashi active bran over the waste and then keep adding in layers until the bin is full. It is then left sealed for around two weeks. In this time the waste ferments. Liquid can be drained off for use as plant fertiliser and then the fermented food waste can be added to the wormery.

Those who are quick off the mark will no doubt be thinking about what happens to the rest of the food waste that is generated while the bin is left to ferment for two whole weeks. That's easy. The kit comes with a second bin, which can be placed on top of the other one or even at its side. My challenge with such a small kitchen is to find some space for the system. However, one bin is only the size of an average kitchen pedal bin, so it shouldn't be a problem. If I can't find a space, there is always the option of leaving it outside the kitchen door.

With this system in place. I am hoping that the next official "weigh-in" will see the bin bag drastically reduced in size. That's a whole week to go, so keep your fingers crossed. What's more important is that I am confident this will bring an end to the smelly black bin syndrome that penetrates the air in the warmer summer months.

If you want to know more about the Bokashi System, there is more information about how it works at the Wiggly Wigglers site and at Wikipedia.


Simon Sherlock said...

Don't forget that finished Bokashi can also be added to standard compost bins/piles as well as dug directly into borders or a vegetable patch where it will break down extremely quickly.

I alternate between wormery and compost bins because it kick starts both (but then my compost bins act more like large wormeries anyway!).

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

For me the really best way to avoid food waste is not to create any and I believe it is really possible. The key is in shopping for the right quantities and growing your own vegetables that you can pick as necessary. Children can be difficult but with new dishes, just serve small quantities, they can always ask for more if they like it.

EXCELLENT BLOG, keep up the good work

Mark said...

I can honestly say that I find the Bokashi system excellent.I have had mine for just under a year and find it so useful as I keep it in the kitchen and it has become habit to put the waste in there.I then add it to the wormery , compost bin or the veg patch, so completing the circle.I put up a post about adding it to the veggie patch a few days ago.
One of the tricks I have learnt with it, is when you put the lid back on open the tap and push down, this pushes the air out, close the tap again. This helps to stop it going off as when it does boy does it stink.

Cheers Mark

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi Simon - thanks for that top tip. I think I am going to have to follow your lead and also alternate between the wormery and compost bin. I am very grateful for the pointer int his direction as I think it's a great tool for helping to drive down food waste.

Hi Jason - I've said it before. no spamming please.

Hi Swiss Recycler...and welcome. I think you're right and portion control is the key. I'd love you to tell us more about how you do things in Switzerland. Thanks for your you can tell...I'm loving it and can't wait to see my next binload!

Hi Mark - thanks so much for your advice. I followed the tip about letting the air out as I really really really don't want to cope with the food going off. To thanks for that, I really appreciate it.

If there's anyone else out there who has a Bokashi system, please feel free to add in your comments here. The more the merrier ;-D

Tracey Smith said...

My wormery arrives tomorrow and I'm almost beside myself with excitement! I'm going to run it alongside the composter and am going to use the 'juice' for my soon-to-be-sprouting seedlings!

Good luck to all new Rubbish Dieters!


waste woman said...

If I know the week ahead entails late nights home and no desire for the same meal day in and day out for the rest of the week, I make sure I freeze the leftovers in convenient portions so I can use it in the coming months.

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi Tracey - I think I'm even excited about the prospect of you getting the wormery. Please let us know how you get on. You've reminded me, I must start thinking about giving my kitchen windowsill over to seed trays again. xx

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi Waste Woman and hello - that is sensible advice and it reminds me that I must get around to airing my freezer paranoia sometime. It's a classic tale of frozen food waste, which must be put to an end.

Anonymous said...

We find our wormery deals with most of our kitchen waste in the summer months, now that it's up & running properly. This took us about 6 months. In the winter things are more sluggish though & we have to be more careful. We're thinking of getting a GreenCone though, which should supplement our existing composting/waste disposal efforts.

Love this blog by the way :)

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi Ticklytoes - thanks for popping by. It sounds as though you are going great guns with your composting. I feel proud to have joined the army of people who are making great inroads in managing food waste. I've just managed to get one of the Green Cones for our school and will be installing it this weekend, I'll let you know how it goes! Please keep popping by as any advice and encouragement will be most welcome

Ivywindow said...

Is it possible to put in bones as well, like chicken bones, or leftover bones from lamb cutlets, or whatever?

I just ordered mine - am very excited.


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