Article written by Sara Silva, from the project No Footprint Nomads.
1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted every year1. Food waste results in the emission of greenhouse gases and the loss of valuable resources, such as water, energy, and fertile soil2.
In developing countries, waste occurs during the production and transport phase due to lack of infrastructure. In developed countries, the loss occurs at the level of consumption, which shows that, as consumers, we have greater responsibility and power to solve this problem2.
One solution is to compost kitchen waste to prevent it from going to landfills. If you don’t know what composting is, read more about it here and then return to this article to understand the various methods you can use.
Composting methods ideal for apartment
Not everyone has a house with a garden or access to a community garden. Here are some composting methods that can be done in small spaces, are odorless, and easy to install.
Vermicomposting uses California red worms (Eisenia fetida) to transform leftovers into extremely rich fertilizer: the humus (solid portion) serves to enrich the soil of the pots; the liquid resulting from the composting process can be used as a fertilizer but must be previously diluted (1 part of liquid to 10 of water)3.
As earthworms survive up to 3 weeks without being fed again, it is a great pet! Just assemble a system of 3 buckets or boxes with holes and add the food waste together with dry materials such as paper, ash, or dry leaves and branches3, 4.
For more information, read more about it here.
Bokashi is a Japanese word that refers to a composting process in the absence of oxygen (anaerobic). Unlike common composting, which requires good aeration, in the Bokashi method the important thing is to ensure that there is no air to allow microorganisms to ferment the food scraps5.
This method does not cause odors and can be done in small spaces. You only need a bucket with a lid and a tap at the base to drain the liquid that forms during the process. A powder is added to the kitchen waste and it’s a vegetable mixture that contains microorganisms. It is these microbes that ferment the food, hence a natural vinegary smell when opening the bucket5.
The advantage of the Bokashi method over vermicomposting is that bones, fish, meat, and dairy can be added. However, the final product cannot be used directly on plants: it must be buried for 2 to 4 weeks until completely decomposed5.
For those who do not have a garden, you can always offer the product to a friend or family member, or to one of the farmers at the organic fair, or even start a small garden on the balcony.
In the market, there are options for those who do not want to have a lot of work or do not intend to have a new pet. Electric composters are a more expensive but more comfortable alternative. An example is the Food Cycler but there are already several models on the market. For me, the biggest obstacle is still the price of the equipment and the regular cost of filters. Nevertheless, the filters are made of carbon that can be returned to the earth and the plastic is recyclable.
Cardboard box (Japanese method)
When I read the news I couldn’t believe it but this method of composting has been used for a decade in small apartments in Japan – I’m talking about composting in a cardboard box. It couldn’t be more economical and simple: according to Jane Kitagawa, all you need is a cardboard box, tape, and an old towel or T-shirt to cover the box.
The secret of this method is the mixture of two ingredients: rice husk ash and coconut ash6. Alternatives to these ingredients are wood ash and biochar or biochar7. The process does not give rise to unpleasant odors and the addition of ash prevents liquid from forming.
To view the process, check out this post from The New York Times.
Community gardens, local farmers, and organic fairs
If none of these methods appeals to you or you don’t have time to compost at home, you can always save your food scraps and donate them to community gardens in your area. Contact your local authority for more information.
Another alternative, which I have already mentioned, is to donate the remains to local farmers. You can find them at organic fairs or municipal markets. The advantage is that you create a connection with those who produce your food and you have the opportunity to contribute with resources that benefit agricultural production.
Lipor “Recycling is giving +”
In Portugal, the program “Reciclar é Dar +” from the company Lipor collects waste door-to-door in some municipalities in the north of the country. Just contact them and find out if your area is covered. More information on their website.
Food wastage: Key facts and figures. (2020). Retrieved September 17, 2020, from http://www.fao.org/news/story/pt/item/196402/icode/
Jacobson, K. (2015). The Environmental Impact of Food Waste. Retrieved September 17, 2020, from https://moveforhunger.org/the-environmental-impact-of-food-waste
Sherman, R. (2018). Composting. Retrieved September 17, 2020, from https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/extension-gardener-handbook/2-composting
Portugal, Câmara Municipal de Albergaria-a-Velha. (n.d.). Coleção Cadernos Desperdício Zero – MINI GUIA DE COMPOSTAGEM CASEIRA. Retrieved September 17, 2020, from https://www.cmalbergaria.pt/albergaria/uploads/writer_file/document/1060/mini_guia_de_compostagem_caseira.pdf
Australia, City of Vincent. (n.d.). Fact Sheet – Using Bokashi. Retrieved September 17, 2020, from https://www.vincent.wa.gov.au/Profiles/vincent/Assets/ClientData/Documents/Environment/Green_Resources/VIN001000135_A4_BOKASHI_LR.pdf
Kitagawa, J. (2020). How to compost in a cardboard box at home. Retrieved September 17, 2020, from https://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2020/06/28/food/how-to-compost-cardboard-box/
Tabuchi, H. (2020). How to Start a No-Smell, No-Hassle Compost Box in Your Living Room. Retrieved September 17, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/05/19/burst/compost-box-indoors-coronavirus.html