It’s a sunny morning when I meet Maree at her Marrickville home where she runs her own business selling the Bokashi Bucket, a system she describes as essentially, “an alternative composting system.” The Bokashi Bucket works by harnessing the power of micro organisms. As we take a seat on the couch, an aging maltese terrier lounges at my ankles and Maree explains,
“You put your food-scraps in the bucket (kitchen waste only) and then you sprinkle the Bokashi powder on top. The Bokashi has got the micro organisms in it and the bucket is air-tight. Because of those things the waste ferments… it doesn’t actually break down in the bucket. When the bucket fills you bury the contents and the breakdown then occurs extremely quickly under the soil. It’s very beneficial, not only are you adding food nutrients but you’re adding more life to the soil with the microbes. And then the liquid as well can be used as a fertiliser and natural drain cleaner, the bacteria in the liquid help stop the algae build up.”
She speaks in a clipped accent, the legacy of a good deal of time spent in New Zealand. The accent is not the only thing to come from those shores either.
“I was visiting my family there [New Zealand] and my sister had it [the Bokashi Bucket]. I had never seen it before and thought it would be pretty terrific for Sydney. I was house sharing with people and thought I couldn’t get everyone to compost. I had been used to composting when I was living in New Zealand where I had larger yards and I think anyone who has ever composted and then lives in an environment where they can’t, they don’t feel very good about it. On my return to Sydney I couldn’t find the Bokashi Bucketanywhere. I went to the Watershed in Newtown and rang a few people and said ‘Do you know of this thing called the Bokashi Bucket?’ and no one knew of it.”
From there Maree saw the beinnings of a business venture, and as she explains, “It all just went from there, really.”
It’s something she feels pride in: the evolution of the business. “I’ve started with nothing and have turned it into a business that’s making a profit that I can live off. And I’m getting it out there.” Australia-wide, Maree can now boast twenty retail outlets that stock Bokashi Buckets and Kiama Council have purchased a large number to sell to their residents. “To get Kiama council on board was quite rewarding,” says Maree who feels her greatest success in the business has been it’s constant expansion. With this in mind she has her sights set on continuing to spread the word, making the Bokashi Bucket a viable composting option.
“I would like Bokashi Bucket to be a household name as much as worm farms. When I first started this, no one even knew. Talk to anyone and they didn’t have any idea what a Bokashi Bucket was and of course most people that I talked to would have known what a worm farm was. That’s my big thing – one day people will know, they might not have one or they might not want one but it’ll be something that people know. It’s just a slow process of constantly getting out there and talking about it more and more.”
Although she supports all forms of composting, Maree believes the Bokashi Bucket deserves to be acknowledged as a real option. “It’s quite a convenient system as it’s designed to be kept in the kitchen and it takes every food type: meat, dairy, processed food, you can put anything at all. With other systems they can be a bit more challenging to compost. Also, there is limited smell because the microbes neutralise the smell and it’s not actually rotting.”
With the Bokashi Bucket you’re also getting the benefits of the micro organisms in the Bokashi powder as well. “You are getting an additional fertiliser for your soil. If you’re a keen gardener that’s a great advantage. You also get the liquid which is, of course, full of micro-organisms. I get more feedback about that than I do about anything else; people are quite amazed at how quickly they notice a result on their plants after using the liquid.”
Over the past year Maree has become somewhat of a Bokashi Bucket evangelist, attending sustainable expos, lectures, markets and sending press releases. “I work hard on the weekends spreading the word,” she says. So far it seems to be yielding results. Within the last year the business has really started to take off and Maree now dedicates herself full-time. The Bokashi Bucket has also recently featured in Better Homes & Gardens, and The West newspaper. “I think people are genuinely wanting to do their bit,” Maree says, accounting for a lot of the interest in the Bokashi Bucket. “The sustainable environment has become the ‘it’ thing at the moment…hopefully it’s a not a fad.
The sense of achievement is obvious as Maree shares the anecdotes of particularly grateful customers. “One lady recently said ‘I’ve been trying to get our friend to compost for years…finally we’ve got her to, we bought her a Bokashi Bucket and she’s doing it.’” Another avid gardener swears by the Bokashi liquid as a fertiliser and at market stalls Maree is greeted by repeat customers who profess their love for their buckets. ” It’s quite inspiring to be involved in a business that is doing some good, educating people and helping to improve the environment as well,” she says.
And has the business changed her? Definitely, she’s quick to answer. “As I’m involved in the business I come across more people that work in environmental areas. I learn a lot more about the way waste is damaging to our environment. Before then, I was always interested in the environment but once you start working in it and meet more and more people that do it professionally, you listen to talks from people and you realise it’s really beneficial to compost.”
“I was always aware but now I’m a lot more serious about it. Its just education isn’t it.” And Soul Economyagrees.