How to compost food at home

Composting is an easy way to reduce food waste that would go to landfill. Read our guide on how to compost at home and the benefits of two simple systems.
 

Composting bin with food leftovers

The way you dispose of your food waste can have a massive impact on the environment and, let’s face it, the planet. Have you thought about what happens to the potato peelings and bags of lettuce after you stick them in the bin? Check out our clever leftover recipes, like our potato peeling crisps, to use up everything you can from your kitchen. 

One way to reduce the amount of food waste going into landfill is to compost it at home. Two increasingly popular options are the bokashi system and worm composting. They sound scary but they’re really not.

Both bin systems are easy to set up and use and are readily available online (complete with everything needed to get started). I have both at home (in a flat with a balcony) and a combination of shopping little and often, meal planning and composting food waste means that in my house, we’re now living an almost zero food waste life. There’s no need to have both – simply choose the one which best suits your living space.
 

The bokashi composting system

Potato peelings on board
Bokashi is an anaerobic composting system, usually made up of two bins which are each roughly the size of a waste paper basket. It uses a special inoculated bran to ferment kitchen waste into a rich liquid compost for your plants. Each time you add a layer of waste, sprinkle it with bran, flatten it down and leave it alone, it might smell a bit pickly when you take the lid off, otherwise it shouldn’t bother you, if it does then something has gone wrong. Occasionally you’ll need to drain off the juice it produces, but that’s it.

What can you put into the bokashi system?

  • Raw food waste – peelings, vegetable cores, fruit peel
  • Cooked food including meat and bones
  • Cheese
  • Onions, garlic, chilli
  • Citrus peelings
  • Fat and oil 

The benefits of having a bokashi system

  • Its compact size – you don’t need a huge garden.
  • It can be kept indoors, surprisingly, the bokashi doesn’t smell when the lid is on. At most you might get a slight pickle-esque smell when the bins are close to full.
  • Make your own compost – once your bin is filled, make sure its lid is secure and leave it for at least five weeks to work its pickling magic. After that, neutralise the acid by sprinkling with garden lime, then dig the contents into your garden soil.

Worm composting

Vegetable waste on board with knife
When my partner first suggested this, I wasn’t keen but actually, I’ve grown to love it and like to take the worms their dinner of our waste bits after I’ve finished meal prepping. The worms eat their way through food matter, progressing up through the bin’s trays leaving an incredible vermicompost behind them. Like the bokashi, you also get a liquid which can be fed to plants (tomatoes love it) and compost which can be dug into the soil.
 

What can you put into the worm compost bin?

  • Vegetable peelings 
  • Fruit and vegetables 
  • Waste paper and cardboard

Be aware that you can’t put cooked food, meat or dairy in the worm compost bin. You also can’t put citrus or alliums in as the worms will not like their acidity. It’s also worth periodically checking that your worms are happy, if they’re clustered in the corners, something is wrong – possibly the pH balance. And if you see any slugs, get them out of there ASAP, they are not the worms’ friend.
 

The benefits of worm composting

  • The nutrient-rich fertiliser compost is fantastic for the soil – your plants and lawn will thank you for it.
  • The ‘worm tea’ is great for house plants and vegetables.
  • It’s fun for kids – a healthy vermiculture is incredibly interesting to observe.
  • Cheap to set up and you’re helping save the planet.

As we head into 2019, why not consider getting a bokashi system or worm bin for your home? You’ll be surprised at how little ends up in the black bin and with all that nutritious compost to hand, your plants will be the envy of the street.
 

Want more eco-friendly info? Check out our green guides...

How to reduce food waste
10 tips for reducing your single-use plastic waste
The best reusable coffee cups: on test

Do you have your own tips for composting? Leave a comment below...

Comments, questions and tips

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Victoria Atkinson
6th Feb, 2019
What a great idea, we were just talking about composting yesterday. I think a worm farm might be a good solution... off to hunt one down!
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