Different Types of Food Waste Recycling: Aerobic Vs. Anaerobic Composting

Posted by Eric Lancaster on

There are two different categories that are used to describe the different kinds of composting according to the way the microorganisms work. The main difference lies in the fact that Aerobic microorganisms need air, and anaerobic microorganisms do not. Before deciding which type of composting you are going to use, it is important to learn a little more about what kind of benefits each type will provide, as well as each type’s drawbacks.

Aerobic Composting
Aerobic composting is the type of composting that naturally occurs above the ground. This is because aerobic microorganisms require air to function. Typical aerobic composting areas take place in a simple pile, or in a container that allows air in to circulate around the materials. Aerobic piles also generate more heat than anaerobic composts. Temperatures may even get high enough to kill weeds and pathogens.

There are a few drawbacks to aerobic composting. First, the process can result in gaseous by-products that smell unpleasant to humans and attract pests. If you notice an odor similar to rotten eggs, your compost pile may be too wet and you need add more dry material – or – the pile may need to mixed/turned more thoroughly. This constant need to monitor and adjust the pile makes aerobic composting a bit labor intensive… which is drawback number two. The third drawback is that eventually the spaces holding oxygen between organic matter will be depleted. When this happens, the decomposition process slows down tremendously. A way to avoid this happening is to use a form of aeration during the construction of your compost pile. You can do this by placing an object like a recycled shipping pallet underneath the pile to allow air to travel beneath your compost. Also, adding beneficial microbes in the form of a microbial inoculant will help enhance the bacterial environment and speed along the process.

If your compost pile is shrinking and needs more oxygen, there are a few ways that you can get more air to it. One way is to turn your compost pile over by either dumping it into a new container or moving it over using a shovel or pitch fork. You can also stir your compost pile using a pitchfork to allow air to access other parts of your compost pile. Or, there are some tools on the market that look like giant corkscrews that can aerate the pile.

Anaerobic Composting
The alternate method of food waste recycling is anaerobic composting. This method does not use oxygen, therefore it must take place underground or in a sealed container. In the past, farmers in Japan used this method of composting in the fields. Traditionally, you would dig a hole or pit and place your compost materials in it, then cover it with a thick layer of soil so that no oxygen gets to it.

Today – thanks to specially designed composting buckets – anaerobic composting is much more convenient than ever. It is a faster process than traditional composting and does not emit an unpleasant smell. Anaerobic composting is actually a method of fermentation rather than composting. This is beneficial because the nutrients are not broken down like traditional compost methods, but are instead preserved in a bio-available form that plants can absorb.

Anaerobic composting is a great alternative to traditional composting and is the best method to use when you have waste that attracts bugs, has a bad odor, or is wet… common qualities of food scraps. It is also a great option if composting above ground is not allowed in your area (in some urban areas it is actually against city ordinances to compost), you have limited space, or you don’t enjoy the look (or smell) of a compost pile in your yard. With anaerobic composting you can begin improving the soil much faster than aerobic composting (within 2 weeks), so it is perfect if you are trying to start a fertile garden with quality soil. You can also use the anaerobic compost in planters by layering the compost with potting soil.

Bokashi Composting
If you live in an apartment or a home that does not have space for composting, the Bokashi Food Recycling System is a super convenient way to recycle your food waste no matter what sort of restrictions your residence has. This method is a type of anaerobic composting that uses a smaller container and sometimes two so you can process the first batch while you have another batch forming. This method is ideal for people who still want to compost but feel as if they can’t due to renting restrictions or lack of space.

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