where do you put your biowaste?



Biodegradable waste in the form of face

by leesle/Adobe Stock

Where do you put your bio waste? If you live in a house or flat with garden, presumably on a compost heap. But for those of us living in town other approaches are needed.

As I found that cuttings and peels of veg and fruit are a main waste source in our home I asked around and researched for ways to deal with bio waste in a flat. This is the result:

  1. Get or make a worm box for vermicomposting. Vermicomposting is done using a wooden box with a container inside housing worms who take care of your cuttings. In Austria this is known as a Wurmkiste, which can be kept indoors and used as a stool. You can add raw veg and fruit, bio plastic, tea and coffee (bags), as well as paper. The worms produce fertiliser and the box can be used continuously. Cost: from 150.- Euro plus worm starter set 40.-.
  2. The bokashi method. Bokashi is a Japanese concept which involves fermenting your fruit and veg cuttings, as well as all other edible waste such as pastry, fish, meat, eggs and dairy in a airtight box. The waste has to be pressed together firmly and living microorganisms have to be added regularly for the process to work. When a bokashi box is full you have to let it rest unopened to ferment for two to three weeks. That is why you need two bokashi boxes to make it work. The remaining fermented nutrient-rich mass has to be incorporated into a compost heap, as it is too sour for direct use on plants. The bokashi liquid can be used diluted and used as plant fertiliser. Cost: around 70.- Euro for 2 boxes plus 1 kg ferment at 15.- for 3 months.

Both methods are practiced by friends of mine and I admit, that I did not notice any  smells coming from the wurmbox – the bokashi was kept on the balcony. Both were adamant that after a small learning curve at the beginning their preferred method was a smooth run. No escaping worms or leaking of the litte bokashi tap.

However, both methods stroke me as requiring too much commitment in terms of material, time and space for our present lifestyle. Also, my partner pointed out, that he wasn’t keen on extending our range of pets in the direction of worms. Furthermore both methods constantly produce compost or fertiliser and we only have a very occasional need for them.

So I felt I needed more input. A girl at a ZeroWaste event told me that her friends freeze the veg cuttings to avoid decomposition and smells. When they have a large enough amount, they find a container for bio waste.

Although freezing seemed inefficient, keeping it cool seemed reasonable and since we do have a bio waste container nearby I tried the following. I bought a large round plastic container, which fits into the drawer in our fridge:

Depending on what and how much we cook the container takes two to five days to fill. It is airtight so there are no smells and due to the low temperature and the fact that there is little oxygen in there, decomposition is minimal. When it is full, we take it down to the large bio waste container, empty it, give it a rinse, dry it and put it back into the fridge.

This simple method is cheep, non-smelly, does not require a lot of space or time, saves you from going down to the container every time you eat a banana or peel potatoes and reduces the smells from your normal garbage bag drastically. Especially in summer. It will however not yield home-made compost, but add to the communal one.