Credit: KATE HENNESSY
Credit: KATE HENNESSY
Credit: Kate Hennessy
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It was a place of terror and putrefaction: the backyard compost during my university days. But for the obligatory dumping of kitchen waste, my flat mates and I ignored its needs completely. You can probably imagine the fetid pile that ensued.
Now, a decade later, I wait in my tidy, inner-city apartment for my brand new bokashi composting bucket to arrive. I try to think of ‘the other compost’ as an unrelated concept, a nightmare from long ago. Things are going to work out this time.
I was tired of making excuses for not composting because I live in a unit. Sure, lacking a garden makes it challenging, but it’s not impossible.
And there are many like me. The 2001 census counted 5,327,309 separate house dwellings in Australia, which was 68 per cent of the total number of households. The rest were townhouses, apartments or dwellings classified as ‘other’. Our cities are particularly densely urbanised, and becoming more so. In the City of Sydney, 85.9 per cent of people live in high- or medium-density dwellings and just 4.5 per cent live in ‘separate house’ accommodation, presumably with easy access to a backyard.
If you assume most apartment-dwellers don’t compost, that’s a lot of Australians sending organic waste to landfill. The purpose of composting is not solely to nourish your garden. When organic matter is combined with inorganic general waste in an oxygen-deprived setting, such as landfill, it decomposes and releases methane – a powerful greenhouse gas. This methane constitutes more than three per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions annually.
A staggering 60 per cent of the household rubbish languishing in landfill could have been composted.
If less rubbish were tossed out, it would mean fewer plastic bin liners and, ultimately, fewer garbage trucks. Adding compost to soil in urban areas also helps revitalise worn-out or contaminated city soil, which in turn leads to the growth of carbon-absorbing trees and plants, not to mention healthy food we don’t need to drive to the supermarket to collect!
It takes a little more effort to sort your waste until you get into a routine, but overall you save so much more.
I’d heard that the Bokashi Bucket, a reportedly odourless indoor composting system, is one of the best options for an apartment dweller like me.
To get started you buy a plastic bin-like container with a tap at the bottom and a lid (the bucket) plus a bag of sawdust and bran infused with microorganisms (bokashi). You add your kitchen scraps, sprinkle them periodically with bokashi mixture and the micro-organisms set to work breaking down the organic matter. A liquid collects at the bottom of the bucket, which you can drain through the tap and use as a plant fertiliser. Although the solid waste will reduce in volume as it breaks down, your bucket will eventually fill up. You can bury the remaining solid waste in a backyard, where it will decompose into soil.