Published: Thursday, March 26, 2020

ConservationFood Outdoor Equipment

18 March 2020 marks `Global Recycling Day`, and unfortunately too often the most neglected resource in the recycling process is food waste, which is also the most valuable resource. 

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It is a fact that food waste is a valuable resource for soil and composting this using bokashi and/or a worm farm enables you to recycle all food waste back into plant available nutrients for the soil. Below is a thought leadership especially for eco-friendly outdoor enthusiasts on how easy it is to recycle food waste while on holiday in wilderness areas. 


There is nothing quite like an African wilderness sojourn for outdoor enthusiasts. But whilst out enjoying these wonders how do campers, caravaners, hikers and self-caters administer the challenges presented with managing their food waste? “It's a fact that food waste provides a scavenging opportunity thereby attracting wildlife which can become a nuisance. Unfortunately, that's not all, these opportunities also create a dependency relationship between humans and wildlife and camp and caravan sites.”, says Gavin Heron founder Earth Probiotic.

To be eco-friendly, on-site composting is a must for any camper, hiker, caravaner or self-caterer.

Not looking after one’s food waste can be a disaster as was so well illustrated in “A Primates Memoir” by Robert Sapolsky. In his book, Sapolsky describes how baboons he is studying start dying from TB after eating contaminated meat from the waste dump.

"Keeping waste in the open and in a waste area is not really an option. It will attract scavengers and no one wants to tangle with a 60kg spotted hyena. We have heard of these amazing animals sauntering into camp kitchens, grabbing a waste bin and then walking out with it firmly clamped in its jaws,” says Gavin. 

Campers on the other hand usually burn, bury dump their food waste before traveling back home. Burying or burning your food waste presents its own problems. Burning never completely eliminates food waste, it also creates a foul-smelling environment. And then, of course, buried food waste can be dug up by animals.

Bokashi food waste composting is an easy and non-smelly option for managing food waste. It is an ancient Japanese process that converts food waste and similar organic matter into a soil amendment which adds nutrients and improves soil texture. You simply add food waste into a air-tight bin, sprinkle bokashi inoculant over each layer of food waste and close the lid. The microbes in the bokashi start a fermentation process so that the contents don’t rot or smell. You can then take the bokashi pre-compost home with you or give the contents to a local community garden who can then use it to enrich their soil. 

When visiting one of the many beautiful natural parks or camping sites we should endeavour to leave it as unsullied as possible. Practical tips to manage food waste and the wilderness:

1. Camping is all about space and when embarking on your trip, the bokashi bin can be used to store your food. 

2. On location, collect all food waste (everything can go in including all cooked and uncooked meat, bones, dairy, onions, etc.) in a plastic bag and at the end of the day add this to the bokashi bin, layer with bokashi and seal. 

3. Do this daily until your trip is over and then take the bin back home with you. The container is simply filled with what was in it when you started off – food (albeit decomposing, but at no additional weight). 

4. Once home it can either be added to a compost heap or dug into a hole under the drip line of a fruit tree – it will feed that tree with high-value nutrients. 

5.You can also feed this food waste to composting earthworms.

Food waste has nutrients that we can feed to soil. So when dumping or disposing of food waste we are not only creating an environmental hazard, but we are also wasting nutrients which could go back to enriching our soil.

Lodges can use composting machines which can be located outside and be adapted for solar power. A machine can process up to 5,000kg of food waste per month (including the carbon content). The advantage of in-vessel composting is that it is a closed process and, therefore, resilient to scavenging activity (but probably not elephants). Processing rates can be controlled. And as it is off the ground, the risk of contaminating soil is eliminated. Best for the soil, for the animals and for the camp where it is located.

Additionally, these machines will process garden/landscape waste, cardboard and egg trays. So not only will a camp reduce its food waste risks it will also be able to process additional waste generated by guests and staff. Processed compost can then be used in the camp landscape or even used to start a vegetable garden (again this will have to be located behind the fencing in the camp and so reduce it being grazed by kudu, zebra, warthog or even hippo). Ultimately, though, forging a solid wet waste management process is a key responsibility for operators and visitors in eco-sensitive areas. Rotting food waste is bad for everyone - guests, animals, and staff.

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