Make the most of waste by the Auckland Council

Flatmates go bokashi

Published: Monday 13 March 2017

Jonathan Ridler is a great example of how waste minimisation practices and sheer enthusiasm can rub off on those around them.

He used to live in Mt Eden with Jesse Beagley, who was a keen vegetable gardener and composter of food scraps.

It also helped that Jesse’s mum, Phillipa Beagley, was also a facilitator for the Compost Collective, a community-based programme funded by Auckland Council aimed at increasing the number of Auckland households engaged in home composting and reducing organic waste.

The flatmates organised a ‘Compost Party’, and half a dozen of their friends turned up. By the time it wrapped, Jesse, Jonathan and their flatmates were signed up. They took advantage of a subsidised bokashi composting bucket deal available through the CompostCollective and began diligently processing all their food scraps.

“Before that, I didn’t really think much about waste,” says Jonathan. 

Alas, as flats do, they broke up and went their separate ways. Jesse and his girlfriend shot through to Japan and Sweden, and Jonathan left Mt Eden to find another place to live.

“As part of the divorce settlement, I got to keep the bokashi bins,” laughs Jonathan. They are now in use at his new flat in Remuera, where he shares with three others.

“The bokashi system is the perfect one for flats, where perhaps some housemates might not be as dedicated as others,” says Jonathan.

“With a worm farm or compost you can put in the wrong things, but with bokashi you can put in almost everything – it doesn’t matter. It’s pretty forgiving.”

While Jonathan is fairly new to gardening, having only ‘dabbled’ at his Mt Eden flat, he’s determined to create a vegetable garden at his new flat. Currently the bokashi waste feeds the bush at the bottom of the property, so Jonathan wants to use it in a growing series of pots and planter boxes out on the patio.

“For us it’s easy now – it’s just part of our life, it’s ingrained. Just thinking about our food scraps going into landfill and releasing methane seems like a real waste,” says Jonathan. “It’s just a matter of tweaking your routine.”

This waste-wise thinking has spread to other areas of his life, from becoming a more diligent recycler, to not using plastic supermarket shopping bags, to shopping more often at farmers’ markets.


Bokashi is an anaerobic method that uses a mix of microorganisms to pickle food waste. This decreases the smell and also speeds up decomposition once dug into the soil or layered into a compost heap.

Bokashi is Japanese for ‘shading off’ or ‘gradation’. It derives from the centuries-old practice of Japanese farmers, who covered food waste with rich soil that contained the microorganisms that would ferment the waste. After a few weeks, they would bury the waste.

Food waste is put into a bokashi bucket, pressed down to remove air, and layered with a microbial inoculant, made of sawdust, bran, and molasses, which provides the sugar for fermentation. The fermented food waste is left for a few weeks, removed and then buried or composted, where it becomes bio-available for new plants.

Check out to find out more about composting techniques and systems, to locate a composting expert, or to book to attend a composting workshop.