In this month’s Cintai Tioman newsletter, we caught up with Elizabeth Eastwood from Pulau Tioman.
Elizabeth is one of the few individuals on Tioman who is currently composting food waste with a special method using a Bokashi bin.
In a recent interview with Elizabeth, she shared her journey on how she started composting kitchen food waste, and how proper food waste composting can help keep Pulau Tioman cleaner and greener for future generations.
1. How did you hear about Bokashi? And what got you interested to try it?
I first heard about the Bokashi composting bin through the Cintai Facebook page. Alvin (Reef Check Malaysia had a few trial bins and as I was composting kitchen waste a bit, I thought that this small bin would be ideal for the kitchen.
2. Before you attempted Bokashi, how did you deal with your food waste? And what were your concerns?
Before Bokashi I was saving kitchen food waste, such as vegetable peelings, egg shells, banana skins etc in an open bowl on the kitchen counter. Sometimes this would get a bit smelly, so I ended up putting the bowl in the fridge. Then once a week I'd dig a hole in the garden and put the kitchen scraps into the hole and cover it up. The biggest drawback with this was that the space in the fridge was limited and I couldn't save big amounts of kitchen waste. And I seemed to be constantly digging holes!
3. How has it been so far trying the Bokashi method?
The Bokashi method is super easy and it is a smallish bin so it doesn't take up lots of space. I just put all kitchen waste, including leftover rice into the bin daily and then give it a stir once a week. When the bin is full, which is usually once a month, I dig it into the garden or dig a series of holes to put the compost in to the holes. The liquid that is filtered through to the bottom of the bin, I pour straight onto the garden. The bin is easy to clean too.
4. What are your tips and experiences to share for first timers?
I’ve learnt from my experience to make sure that the lid on the bin is properly closed. Once I didn't secure the lid properly and flies got in and there were maggots roaming through the waste. As soon as the lid was on properly and within 2 days the maggots had all died. The bin when closed shouldn't smell and when you take the lid off it smells like decaying fruit, which is actually not unpleasant. Stirring the waste once a week seems to speed up the process. Some articles on composting say you shouldn't compost citrus peels or garlic and onions but I do everything and there hasn't been any problems in the garden.
5. Have you had a chance to share what you are doing with others? If yes, how has it been?
Here, I use the Bokashi system in the kitchen and my sister-in-law, Lyn, uses the bigger blue garden compost bin in her garden. Her garden is amazing and she grows lots of veggies.
6. What do you feel about how waste in general, and food waste, specifically are addressed in Tioman?
I feel that there are big issues with waste in general both in the sea and on land and as I live near the incinerator area, I witness this first hand. The incinerator is non-functioning and I did a bit of research and found that the technology this incinerator employs is environmentally harmful. At certain times we experience a river of rubbish that runs down the road to the incinerator as the waste waits to be shipped out to the mainland on a pontoon. We also experience fly infestation problems, and problems with other animals that live on the waste. A big issue is that the waste isn't sorted for recycling, so the volume of waste is large. Food waste from my experience doesn't seem to be used as compost. However, I did note that the Tioman Development Authority had an info counter during the Eco Challenge race, about using worms to help break down the leaf litter etc that they collect. And some of the resorts and dive centers are making a concerted effort at recycling and composting. Also, the education classes that Alvin and Mimi do at the school are helping the next generation understand the problems of waste on Tioman and offers practical ways that students can make a difference.
7. If you had a chance to be part of a community project to educate the rest about food waste composting, would you be part of it? And how would you intend to go about it?
I think people need to see and have hands on experience with food waste composting, the idea of show not tell. It would be great if those interested could see how the worms work at TDA, on a village wide level, come and have a look at Lyn's garden and the blue garden compost bin and have a look at my Bokashi bin. This is on the household level. Then, perhaps Richard from Swiss Cottage could show how a resort deals with and composts its food waste on a bigger scale.