Organic Matter

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 July, 2008, 12:00am

With landfills filling up, food composting may be the solution

While it may not be easy for urbanites to embrace the idea of food composting, it is an easy and relatively inexpensive answer to Hong Kong's landfill problem.

'Our landfills will be full in about seven years, depending on which figures you look at,' said George Woodman the director of Teng Hoi Conservation Organisation. 'With food waste making up 30 per cent of the total, it makes sense to find an alternative for disposing it.'

Composting is a natural method of using either microbes or earthworms to break down household food waste. It has been used for centuries on farms and in gardens as a way of recycling food waste and enriching soil.

The process begins with the waste being placed in layers in a special bin with bokashi, a patented microbe from Japan, for seven to 10 days. There are no odours, and the process is safe and hygienic.

With traditional composting, the waste is dumped in a pile and turned every day to ensure that oxygen works on all levels to break down the food. With bokashi the waste is buried. Compost should form within a month if the conditions are right.

Composting requires land, and because Hong Kong is a concrete jungle, many people reject the idea before considering its potential.

Teng Hoi is set on changing this mentality with pilot projects in seven local and international schools where children are processing cafeteria food waste and making compost on either Teng Hoi's farm or on school grounds.

While it is a daily, hands-on biology experiment, the hope is that the children will accept the idea and encourage their parents to do the same. Then, when it comes time to present a large-scale residential plan to the government, Teng Hoi can point to the success of its pilot projects.

For more information about building your own composter, including one that uses earthworms, see the Leisure and Cultural Services Department Green Hong Kong Campaign website