Al's pleasantly scented compost solution
“It’s changing the world – one bucket of compost at a time.”
That’s why Al Pasternak likes selling Biosa Bokashi Bucket systems to folks like me – a person who really loves the idea of things that are “hassle-free,” as Al describes his product. This alternative composting system is powered by beneficial micro-organisms that ferment kitchen waste (including meat and dairy products) into a soil conditioner that is buried directly into the garden.
Al, who promoted his product outside the East Vancouver Farmers Market last season, says he has always been interested in sustainable living and a low impact life style. He’s been educating people about using Bokashi – which means “fermented organic matter” in Japanese – and offering it as a "simple and easy” alternative for recycling kitchen waste.
“My main message is that composting can be done in a small space and it can be done with a minimum of fuss – which means that it can be done indoors and it won’t attract flies and have odours,” he says. “I wanted to find something that involved dealing with waste – stuff we have here anyways – and making it available to people when it otherwise wouldn’t be available… As a job, I love it – if you have to call it a job. It’s not work; it’s fun.”
A week ago, I bought a system from Al, who surprised me by arriving at my house with the whole set-up bungeed to the back of his bicycle – two 15-litre buckets and a one-kilo bag of Bokashi. It was with great delight that my six-year-old son inaugurated the bucket with its first handful of Bokashi, followed by the first piece of compost fodder: a half-eaten banana. Since then, we’ve been carefully following Al’s instructions to throw in our kitchen waste, compress it with a plastic bag, and sprinkle a handful of Bokashi onto every three centimetres of food.
So far, no stink, which pleases me immensely. In fact, it smells great – unlike some of my past, well-intentioned composting experiences. I still have a deep-seated olfactory memory of reluctantly opening the lid of a traditional kitchen compost, psyching myself for the wall of warm, steamy stench that seems to announce “party time!” to all flies lucky enough to be in the vicinity. It’s like the opposite of aroma therapy… aroma trauma! (Actually I’ve often wondered if there could be a market hole for aroma trauma…)
While a traditional compost decomposes food using heat and exposure to air (hence the stinkiness we tolerate in the name of recycling and being good to the Earth), the Bokashi system is anaerobic, doing its magic in an air-tight container. The Bokashi, which smells like sweet vinegar, is fermented by Biosa – a mixture of photosynthetic bacteria, lactic acid bacteria, and yeast.
According to Al’s literature, these micro-organisms occur naturally worldwide but in recent years, there are less of them in many soils due to over-farming and the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Hence here’s another advantage to the Bokashi system: it gets these helpful microbes back into the soil where they can assist plant growth and disease-resistance.
Putting this beneficial concoction of friendly micro-organism infested waste into the garden sounds like a great idea indeed – but what if you don’t have a garden?
“Of course the question comes up: Where are you going to put the stuff?” says Al, who suggests community gardens as a good destination for the Bokashi bucket’s finished product. Right now he’s exploring the possibility of starting a pick-up service for people who don’t have anywhere to put it – so check out his website and ask him about it.
I’m very thankful that Al has taken on this project and I will update on it further down the road. For more information on Biosa Bokashi, visit Al’s website: www.greatday.ca