Singaporeans aren't known for actively developing sustainable habits since young. While the older generation did engage in cost-saving (and ultimately sustainable) habits, such as saving and crushing used eggs shells to sprinkle in gardening pots or using tingkats (tiffin carriers) – we have rather unfortunately developed a use-and-throw culture in the era of convenience.
A growing group of people are ready to explore more sustainable ways of living – be it bringing our own recycling bag, growing our own food at home, hydroponics, exploring plant-based meal options and more.
This brings us to composting.
Composting is a recycling process to convert plant materials such as fruit skins, food scraps and more into fertilisers. It does not take herculean efforts to do the conversion, as you're essentially leaving your wastes to their own device to break down naturally.
Gardeners have used compost from the breaking down of organic material for centuries to increase soil organic matter, improve soil physical properties, and supply some of the essential nutrients for plant growth.
If you've ventured beyond just a budding gardener and are looking to start your own composting (imagine the savings on fertilisers!), here's an overview guide to help kickstart your composting journey, even in a small space.
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Step 1: Start collecting your food waste at home
We all have to start somewhere, and luckily, this is an easy enough step to start. However, you cannot simply throw ALL food wastes into this particular bin. They do need to fulfil certain requirements to ensure efficient biodegradation. You definitely don't want to contaminate the whole heap and waste (heh) all that effort!
Here's a quick list of what SHOULD NOT go into your composting bins.
Meat, fish, bones, dairy, eggs, fat-based condiments and foods such as butter, animal fat, grease, citrus fruit peels, onions and garlic scrap, baked goods, coffee pods and teabags, stickers on fruits and veggies, coated cardboard packaging, and biodegradable bags (unless you know for sure they work for home composting).
In short, make sure what goes in are organic materials you chop off unprocessed food.
A countertop food bin can help you separate the food scraps that can go into your bokashi bin and normal trash can.
Step 2: Chuck them into a composting bin and wait
No seriously, I said it was easy. After the initial difficulty with sorting, which you will get with some practice, all you need to do is to chuck it in a bin and let them break down for as little as six to eight weeks, and sometimes up to a year or more. However, there are accelerators to help you along. Some people use soil, while some people use a starter that might have been provided with the bins you get.
When the ingredients you have put in your container have turned into a dark brown, earthy smelling material, the composting process is complete. Along the way, you can also collect a liquid that results from the composting process, called the "bokashi tea", which is a nutrients-packed liquid for plant fertilisation purposes.
Preferably, choose a bin with a dispenser spout at the bottom so you can collect bokashi tea.
Bonus: There's another way of composting that requires the help of our wriggly friends: worms, which will eat and poop their way to rich dark soil in the compost bins. Unfortunately, this method might not be for those uncomfortable with handling insects, and one must be a lot more careful about what you put in the bins lest you kill the worms that are helping you.
Generally, composting is mostly a matter of leaving your food scraps alone and letting them breakdown, even as you top it up with more scraps along the way.
Consider that the next time you are thinking of revamping your home garden!