Been meaning to post these pictures for ages! This is how we do DIY buckets in Sweden. It just doesn’t get much simpler than this! Plastic buckets with a neat lid and newspaper to take up the liquid.
The buckets are standard off-the-shelf buckets — local manufacture and you’d probably find one in every home here. The lids for this particular brand (Nordic Plast if you’re a Swede) fit well, nice and tight and are easy to peel on and off. You’ll need some Bokashi bran and some newspaper. That’s it.
The pictures pretty much give you the idea. Tear a newspaper in half and put the two bits in the bottom of the bucket. Aim for a thickness of a centimetre or so first time round, you’ll get to learn how much you need pretty quickly. Sprinkle in some Bokashi bran, layer your food waste as usual with a sprinkle of bran on each layer. This system is based on absorbing all liquid so use your common sense — wet food = more paper. Serviettes and kitchen paper are great, just toss them in when you scrape the dinner plates. Midway up the bucket you can add a bit of newspaper if you wish, it’s a good chance to give the whole bucket a good push down with your hand when you have a clean surface. A section of newspaper on top is a good idea too, takes up the condensation.
Yeah, I know, you’re probably a bit sceptical at this stage. We were and so have a lot of others been. But give it a go and find out for yourself! You may have to give it a couple of goes to get it right, but after all you haven’t got so much to lose. If you’re curious about how much newspaper would be needed you can do a simple test in a baking pan or something. Put in a section of newspaper and pour in a litre of water. Then another litre. Then another… I was really surprised how much liquid the paper takes up. But of course, how much you need in your bucket depends on what you’re throwing out. A lot of fruit and salad and you’ll get a “juicy” bucket, a lot of bread and pasta and you’ll get quite a dry one.
The process from then on is the same as in a shop-bought bucket with tap. Fill the bucket. Let it stand nice and warm for a couple of weeks to ferment. Take it out into the garden and do something good with it!
We have tested these buckets with bio-bags inside as a liner. Some people like the idea, others not. It depends quite a bit on what kind of biobags you get, the thin ones tend to be a bit flimsy but should theoretically break down faster. If you can get hold of slightly thicker ones they can make great winter storage, just tie up the bag carefully when it’s full and store in a barrel, box, crate or whatever till spring. (Be on the generous side with the newspaper and stuff if you’re planning to store your bags for some months.)
The bags themselves take longer than you’d think to break down in the compost or garden, whatever the manufacturers say. But on the plus side you can tie up the bag and drop it into a trench in the ground (or the compost, or a big planter…) and not have to see the food again, so the ick-factor is definitely lower. Bokashi buckets are not hard to spray out, but bio-bags do keep them cleaner. To speed things up a bit (a lot!) it’s worth slitting up the bag when you bury it. That way the process gets going immediately and you’ll have soil before you know it.
How about all this newspaper in the garden or compost or whatever? If you’re running a compost it’s actually a good thing. The trick to a getting a happy compost is a nice balance of carbon and nitrogen. Often referred to as brown and green. Your kitchen stuff is “green” — a nitrogen bomb. The paper is “brown”, pure carbon. The two things together will do great things for your compost.
If you’re digging down the buckets directly the newspaper can be a bit of a pain. The worms like it ok, but it does take time to break down. You’ll probably find yourself picking blocks of compact newspaper out of the garden now and then and tossing them in the compost. You can always lay them in a bed under some leaves or grass clippings as mulch, keeps weeds at bay and the worms love working away under the paper. The paper is also drenched in microbes, so it’s a good way to get a little colony going in a new spot.
Of course, you don’t have to have special green buckets to do this. Any bucket with a tight-fitting lid will work fine. Pizzerias tend to toss big white catering buckets out by the dozen. Free to a good home and no cost. They sometimes have lids that are a bit annoying, but what the hell — you can have as many buckets as you like and just stack them up until spring.
The only big minus with this system is that you don’t have a tap. Therefore you don’t get the marvellous Bokashi liquid. So if you’re a gardener you’d probably only want to use these newspaper buckets as a secondary system. Or a winter system. Or a system to collect in organics from your friends and family (this is a great solution for the office).
On the other hand, if you’re not a gardener it’s quite nice not having the tap. No buckets to drain, no juice to dilute and run around with. Much easier bucket washing. Much cheaper.
So this is just an idea. Tried and tested and ready to use. Anytime you’d like!