Food waste is an unavoidable part of enjoying time out in the wilderness for campers, caravaners, hikers other outdoor enthusiasts.

Incorrectly disposing of food waste can be a disaster for wildlife as is illustrated in A Primates Memoir by Robert Sapolsky. In his book, Sapolsky describes how the baboons he observes and studies start dying from TB after eating contaminated meat out of an open garbage pit near a lodge in Kenya, in the 1980s.

 

 

Gavin Heron, founder of Earth Probiotic said:

‘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,’

To be eco-friendly, on-site composting is a great solution for campers, hikers and caravaners.

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Gavin adds:

‘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,’

Campers on the other hand usually burn, bury or dump their food waste before leaving site. Although at first glance this seems like a great option, burying or burning your food waste presents a whole host of its own problems.

Burning never completely eliminates waste, and also creates a foul-smelling environment around the burn site. And buried food waste can and will, of course, be dug up by animals.

 

 

Bokashi food waste composting is an easy and non-invasive option for disposing of food waste. It is an ancient Japanese technique that converts waste and similar organic matter into a soil amendment which adds nutrients and improves soil texture.

The process is simple, you add the food waste into an air-tight bin, sprinkle the bokashi inoculant over each layer of 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.

 

 

Here are some of Getaway’s practical tips to manage food waste in the wilderness:

1. Camping is all about optimising 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 everyday until your trip is over and then take the bin 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 waste to composting earthworms.

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

Lodges can use composting machines which may be located outside and adapted for solar power. A single machine can process close 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, not in danger of any scavenging activity (but probably not safe from elephants). Processing rates can be controlled, and as it is off the ground, the risk of contaminating the soil is eliminated.

 

 

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 ‘recycle’ other waste generated by guests and staff.

Processed compost can then be used in camp for landscaping or even used to start a vegetable garden (again this will have to be located behind a fence in the camp to reduce the chance of it being grazed upon by kudu, zebra, warthog or even hippo looking for a juicy treat).

Ultimately, though, forging a solid wet-waste management process is a key responsibility for operators and visitors in any eco-sensitive area. Rotting food waste is bad for everyone – guests, staff and animals.