After noticing how much food their family threw away, a South African entrepreneur decided to figure out how the waste could be used for good…

“A worm farm allowed me to use some of the food waste, but not all,” recalls Karen Heron, co-founder of Earth Probiotic, a food waste management company.

“Then I discovered bokashi food waste recycling. I tried it and I am hooked, because all our food waste is now recycled.”

“Ten years later, Earth Probiotic Recycling, has assisted households and companies divert more than 4,000 000kg from landfill and instead, put back into soil.”

What exactly is a bokashi bin?

“A bokashi bin is an airtight container we use for collecting food waste,” says Karen.

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All4Women chatted to Karen about bokashi bins and how to use them in our homes to help deal effectively with food waste and create compost that we can use in our own gardens.

According to Karen, a bokashi bin has an internal strainer to separate the food waste from the juice. The bin also features a tap for extracting the bokashi juice to be used as soil feed. A bokashi bin is used with bokashi, which is the microbial inoculant used between layers of food waste to prevent rotting. It helps set off a fermentation process.

Earth Probiotic
Ecopreneur: Karen Heron, co-founder of Earth Probiotic, a food waste management company.

Can I use a bokashi bin in my home kitchen?

What are you doing with your potato and carrot peels? What are you doing with your leftovers? If you feel guilty about throwing away food and food waste, then a bokashi bin could be your solution!

The bins allow you to put all the food leftovers and peels to good use. Adding their nutrients and energy back into the environment. And it also helps make sure your garbage bag doesn’t attract flies and stink out your kitchen.

Karen says that bokashi bins can be used commercially and in your own home.

“Recycling food waste instead of throwing it away, is great because it allows one to make a nutrient rich compost for your garden. Less waste is added into landfill (thereby reducing greenhouse gases) and more soil is being created. At the same time, smelly refuse bins are a thing of the past.”

How is a bokashi bin different to a worm farm?

“A worm farm is fed a select portion of food waste,” says Karen. “While a bokashi bin recycles all food waste including cooked and raw food, meat, dairy and seafood.”

Bokashi is different.

  • Firstly, it allows you to recycle all types of food waste including cooked and uncooked meat, dairy and seafood
  • Secondly, it is a fermentation process where, daily, a food waste is added to the bin and then sprinkled with a handful of bokashi

Karen says that the microbes in the bokashi activate and then pre-treat (ferment) the contents of the bin. Once the fermentation has taken place, the contents can be emptied into a compost heap. You can also bury it or feed it to composting earth worms, where it breaks down into soil.

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What can the soil be used for?

The soil created once the fermented food waste has been composted. This soil can be used on everything growing in your garden including veggies, fruit, lawns and ornamental plants.

Does a bokashi bin ‘smell’?

One would think that fermenting food waste could create quite a stink! But, Karen says that if the bokashi bin is used correctly, it does not smell. “This is because there’s no rotting taking place in the bin. If the bin does smell, then not enough bokashi was added, the lid was not properly closed or, the food waste began to rot before adding to the bin.”

Where can I get a bokashi bin?

“Many garden centres and online stores across South Africa sell our products,” says Karen. “Plus they can be purchased from our online store – www.bokashishop.co.za

Can bokashi become a business?

On a larger scale, if you have access to a lot of food waste, bokashi bin food composting could even become a small business. This is exactly how Karen’s business, Earth Probiotic started.

“Earth Probiotic started with selling bokashi recycling products to households, then scaled to providing services and products to commercial clients. We now also manufacture locally produced in-vessel composting machines which can process up to 50 tons of organic waste monthly.”

Remember that there is strict legislation around selling compost. It is required to be registered by law.

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Karen is a firm believer in ecopreneurship and how it could benefit South Africans.

“We need to take care of our natural resources and this has potential to do good and turn opportunities into viable businesses.”

“With jobs scarce and unemployment high, starting a business is an option. And it can be done with no more than an internet connection, a desk and an idea,” says Karen. “The world has a soil crisis and looking after our soil means we look after our food supply. Growing food and learning to grow food, even on a tiny scale, will ensure we don’t go hungry.”

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