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  • Writer's pictureAtiqah Nadiah Zailani

Make Compost, Not Waste

Turn your food & kitchen waste into compost, use it to grow your own food, and live more sustainably.

food waste compost sprouts

I achieved a life-goal recently, and couldn’t be happier: I started to compost!

I showed such disproportionate enthusiasm and pride over this that a few people, undoubtedly wondering why they’re even friends with someone so weird and dorky, got curious. So if you’re one of them, allow me to fully express my dorkiness and persuade you to start your own compost heap.

(If you’re already on the same boat as I am and need no convincing, just jump straight to the composting options below)

What’s compost? Is it delicious?

Instead of chucking your food waste and leftovers into a plastic bag, leaving it out the door to pool in one big gooey stink, and having them sent to the landfill to just sit there in a bigger pile of gooey stink, the better, smarter option is to compost them.

Composting is a process that turns your food or organic waste into soil – really, really good soil. Compost is what we call that heap of waste (and no, it’s not delicious). All that stuff breaks down over a certain time period, turning your trash into what we call ‘black gold’ that can be used to grow more food. In business speak, we call that ‘value-adding’. Of the real kind, not the fluffy, motherhood-statement consultant-speak kind.

If I can’t eat it, why bother?

Malaysians are very good at wasting food: the National Solid Waste Management Department estimates that we throw out 3,000 tonnes of preventable food waste daily (just wait till the month of Ramadan gets here!). Food waste is the largest contributor of solid waste and also the largest source of harmful greenhouse gases in the country. Composting can help significantly reduce the trash we send to the landfill and churn out good soil to boot, all while reducing our green house emissions and preventing erosion! That's a pretty sweet deal, no?

But that’s all high-level mambo jambo that only governments and obsessive environmentalists or agriculturalists worry about. Not you. That’s not your thing. So, why should you do this? WHAT’S IN THIS FOR YOU??

what's in it for me, hmm

(If you do actually care to know why, read this, and this, and this too.)

You will like composting if:

a) You are a gardener and find yourself in need of good soil to plant your papayas and pak choy – in the words of a fellow composter: “You will never want to buy soil from the store ever again!”

b) You don’t garden, but you’re into the outdoors, nature and stuff. You go hiking, you like to spend time outdoors and you enjoy the smell of fresh rain and fragrant earth. In your more hippie moments, you find yourself cradling bits of leaves and soil in your hand while you gaze lovingly at them (Ok, fine, maybe this is just me).

c) You wince a bit (or a lot) at the amount of waste your household produces as you carry the heavy, smelly, dripping plastic bag from your kitchen to the trash, and you think: “There must be a better way!”

d) You fancy yourself a scientist and enjoy experimentation. There’s a lot of fun to be had in constructing your own compost heap and observing the natural, ages-old magic of turning something yucky into something awesome. You will be mind-blown.

If you don’t fall into any of the above, you know what, just try it anyway. Just out of sheer curiosity. You get to learn something, connect with Mother Nature, carry out a scientific endeavour, reduce your waste and create something useful, all in one go.

Your options, should you choose to take on this endeavour…

If you have plenty of money and land space, firstly, I hate you. Secondly, there’s plenty of options:

various types of compost bins

  • You can simply dig a hole in your lawn;

  • You can purchase giant compost bins and put them in your lawn (Ace Hardware sells them for RM199 each);

  • You can hire someone to build you containers out of wood, bricks, or plastic;

  • You can even get fancier by purchasing a ‘tumbler’, one that you can happily spin – this makes it so much easier to mix the contents around as you’re supposed to every other week.

If you have money but no land space, meaning you only have a tiny balcony, or no balcony at all, you are stuck with containers.

  • You can opt to do vermi-composting, which basically involves having worms as pets and letting them do all the work for you. This speeds up the process considerably and gets you results faster. The catch is that you can only buy worms in the hundreds of kgs at a time (at least in Kuala Lumpur), so unless you have a few friends who also want worms for pets, it’s a bit much and too expensive to be worth the effort;

worm bin

  • You can have multiple containers and rotate between them. If you have the space for it, you can purchase a few free-standing compost bins. If not, stackable compost bins are the way to go.

compost containers

*The Daily Dump has excellent terracotta pots for this purpose, but alas, they are based in India and do not yet have distributors in Malaysia. But you can still benefit from their video tutorials, hosted by a very grumpy animated composter:

"You lazy, inconsiderate *bleeeeep* ... Oooops."

If you don’t have the land space, and you like making things … read on. Part 2: DIY Balcony Composter for Landless people)

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