Composting in Brooklyn With No Smell, No Flies


Vokashi founder and president Vandra Thorburn teaches a composting demonstration at a Harlem community garden. The new company helps Brooklyn residents compost their kitchen scraps using a unique fermentation process that releases no odors and repels pests. Photo: Vokashi

Composting in the big city has a host of challenges: a lack of space in the apartment for a bin, no backyard to use the finished compost and little time. But the new company Vokashi wants to make composting easier – and less stinky – for residents of one urban area, Brooklyn.

READ: Composting for City Dwellers

Rather than using worms or a combination of nitrogen- and carbon-rich materials to decompose food scraps, Vokashi uses bran inoculated with anaerobic bacteria, which don’t require oxygen, to ferment the waste. The process, designed by a Japanese horticulturalist, essentially pickles the organic material, which has two significant benefits: The fermenting waste releases no noticeable odor and actually repels flies, rats and other pests.

The resulting material can then be added to outdoor composting piles or ploughed directly into the garden, where it begins to decompose into nutrient-rich soil.

For about $40 a month, plus an annual $15 material-rental fee, Vokashi provides customers with bright green buckets and the special bran mixture. Customers toss their food scraps, including fruits, veggies, meats and bones, into the bucket, adding a layer of bran for every two inches of food.

They can keep the fermented material to use as fertilizer in their own garden or have Vokashi pick up the buckets monthly for delivery to a local urban farm.

READ: Guide to Composting in the Summer

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