Posted by: jauipop | July 13, 2008

Lovely, Tasty Vegetables *and rotton ones too

It’s been a couple of months meat free for me.  I do have to confess that I had a nasi lemak the other day that had ikan bilis (little mini fried anchovies) that I couldn’t really avoid.  It was a Malay tea house in Central Market before Pecha Kucha at the Central Market Annexe Gallary.  There was nothing else on the menu that was remotely meat free (traditional Malay dishes usually have beef, chicken, goat or fish) and the nasi lemak had the least meat/fish, so I decided to order that for my dinner.

So I’m not sure if i can say that I have been meat free, but I guess ikan bilis is a bit less harmful than anything else.

After speaking to a few people at the Pecha Kucha event, sponsored by the British Council, I’m thinking of creating a Malaysian Vegetarian Forum where Malaysian vegetarians can go and know that they’re not alone.  Most people who are vegetarian or trying to be vegetarians in Malaysia find it hard because they tend to be the only one in their group who are doing their bit either for their own health or for the health of the planet.

I guess I’ll be working on that once I decide which forum is best to use.

On another note along the same lines is the topic of composting.  I get the feeling that most Malaysians want to compost but don’t know how to or it is just too inconvenient.  Actually, most people around the world have the problem of composting being too inconvenient due to the steps that have to be taken, what can or cannot be in the composting bin or it might just be the smell.

There are a few composting systems around that could solve the problem of household wetwaste (and the ever increasing landfill problem).  One of them is called Bokashi.  I’m not exactly sure where it’s from but according to a blog I recently read, it is available in Malaysia from this woman in Sabah.  It’s about RM150 for a 5litre bin and the Bokashi grain (which I’m assuming is the bacteria).

Even then, the composting time still takes time and even though it’s designed to have no smell, it still could be deemed as inconvenient enough to deter people from buying and using it.  Still, I’d like to try it, so I’m going to source it out.  We’ve got a big garden in our house so we’ve tried out the dig-a-hole-and-compost method, but it’s really quite smelly and looks totally gross because of the worms/maggots decomposing the waste food.  So yeah, a sealed compost bin would be very welcome in my household!!

Another system which a friend of mine is working with is from a Technology company called Teccology Management Sdn Bhd. The guy who runs the place has bought this amazing composting technology from Japan.  At the moment, it’s designed for industrial use, ie. shopping malls, hotels, hospitals, airports, as the machines start at a capacity of 30kg and goes up to 250kg.  Plus at the moment, it’s crazy expensive.  So, it’s perfect for big business, but not households.

The great thing about this composting ‘machine’ is that it decomposes and produces organic fertilizer in 24 hours and just takes 1/2 and hour a day to operate (and that includes dumping the waste in).  Everything can be put in from vegetable cuttings, leftovers from meals, meat, bones, fish and even accidental bits of plastic won’t affect it because the end product is dry and plastics can then be sorted out.  It does all this by first using an effective composting bacteria (that can be recycled in subsequent cycles) and then speeding up the process by automatically stirring the waste along with controlling humidity and temperature.

They are a 2 year old company that is still struggling to convince companies and municipals to adopt this technology.  They have even approached Alam Flora about it and they have rejected the proposal.  This is ridiculous to hear because of the following reasons:

  1. The landfills in Malaysia are full of ‘wet waste’ due to the fact that our waste has lots of liquids. This means rancid runoff once the landfill is full and the runoff goes into our water systems and rivers.  This machine would solve that problem
  2. Alam Flora can make a profit from the system.  The calculations show that if they were to invest in the 250kg model, the sales from the organic compost to farms, gardens etc. would make the investment worth it in 1 year.
  3. If they designed their bins and trucks better, households would be able to have a bin at home split for food waste.  Their trucks then could have a separate compartment with this technology installed so that once the truck is back at the landfill, the waste would be turned into organic compost!  A simple solution that requires monetary investment that the bigwigs at Alam Flora can’t be bothered with.

I have requested to see whether they are able to make a household version that is about holds a capacity of about 1kg to 2kg.  I don’t know how much Malaysians would pay for it, but I sure would put down up to RM1,000 on a machine that could do that.  I mean, if I could get organic compost in 24 hours from my household waste, it’s totally worth it.  If people spend that much money on water filters in their house, this sort of investment to keep the Earth healthy should be within reach.

Question: How much would you spend on a machine that could do that?

Will write more on it soon!  Oh, and I’ll update everyone on the anti-sharksfin soup campaign.  Still working on the details!



  1. Nice writing. You are on my RSS reader now so I can read more from you down the road.

    Allen Taylor

  2. my parents do the composting stuff and my moms been telling my malaysian family about it too.

    its actually pretty easy if you do it the simple way without any machinery. just dig a small hole, throw your compost in it and cover the hole again.

  3. well, we’ve got a relatively big household so there’s quite a bit of waste to be dealt with. do you mean throwing the scraps into the hole or composted material? Over time, there’s lots of scrap material that isn’t too healthy for the soil and runoff water below that if it’s not composted properly – just like in landfills.

    also, the great thing about the machines/bins is that the end compost product can be used as organic fertilizer for gardening (and in the case of the machine that i mentioned, animal feed!)

  4. In Malaysian urban areas, home-based comsposting will be attractive if it can solve a few problems. a) How would high rise dwellers handle it, b) how would terrace-house dwellers handle it as most people extend their properties leaving next to no land, c) stray dogs and cats digging through your mini landfill and making a mess, d) the problem of leachate and its health hazards it will pose, like attracting clouds of flies. And then the biggest problem of all – the fact that urban dwellers are generally time-poor. People leaving the house for work by 7am and coming back by 8pm. If these problems can be addressed plus the cost of the composting device, then I think home-composting has a chance.

    Oh by the way,apparently restaurant leftovers is big business. They are picked up and brought to pig farms as food. Scary.

  5. thanks for your response damien! What you said is very true – and that is why most people don’t compost, the inconvenience is just too apparent.

    That is why the machine that I linked to the website would be perfect for urban dwellers. Actually, they are planning to propose that one of the composting machines is put in the rubbish area of apartments so that it will be a communal activity where people just need to put their scraps and close the lid. Someone just needs to be assigned to turn it on and put in the bacteria and empty it – but that doesn’t take more than 1/2 hour a day!

    If they were to make a mini version of that machine, it would solve all the problems that you presented – no smell, no flies (because it is sealed), no cats or dogs digging through because it is sealed and it doesn’t take up a lot of time. I reckon the mini one would only take up 15mins of time a day.

    The company is actually approaching all the big shopping centres because that’s where restaurants are mainly at, and food waste would be astronomical there! The compost that is produced can actually be used as organic animal feed, so they can still send it to the pigs – it’d just be cleaner and healthier!!

  6. I forgot to mention it but your vegetarian forum sounds like a great idea. East Asians are cultural vegetarians. We do it on certain days only and for any reason other than health. Healthy living thru vegetarianism is a strange western obsession you see on National Geographic. Frankly I’ve not met anyone here who’s vegetarian for health reasons. Not one.

    But I am sure the interest is there, courtesy of the occasional breakout of bird flu and mad cow disease. Take me for instance. A perpetual question I have is, where in the world do I find reasonably-priced vegetarian eating places here? I went to one modest-looking restaurant the other day and ended up $25 poorer for a simple lunch for two. After living so long in the US, it took me some time to realize that in Malaysia vegetarian food is sold like a special treat, like sharks fin soup. To be eaten only on birthdays and anniversaries.

    There are plenty of vegetarian blogs that will tell you how to fix veggie meals. They all assume you can go to the local market and get alfalfa, rhubarb, pumpernickel bread, stuff locals can’t even pronounce. With whole grain bread costing $12 a loaf, no make than $20 a loaf if you cost in gasoline and parking fees at Cold Storage, it only confirms the suspicion that vegetarianism is for cultural snobs. These are the simple things that add up to make vegetarianism a far greater challenge here than it deserves to be.

    So if your forum talks to people like they live in Petaling Jaya rather than Redondo Beach California, that would be an excellent project. I say go for it.

  7. Hi Jaui,

    Thanks for the comment on my blog. I’m happy that there are concerned teens out there in Malaysia who are aware of bokashi. Most of the time I just talk to people from the agriculture industry. Haha…

    Anways, I’ve just entered USM and of course the bokashi thing will have to take a break. But if you need info…I still have my ingredients list on how to make bokashi bran. Mind you, you have to be really passionate to experiment with these things.

    Anything…email me ya..

  8. Damien – thanks for the support for me starting up the Vegetarian Forum… I think i might start working on it to be up and running by next week. I actually have a friend who’s turning to being vegetarian after having some health issues… and there is actually a store here called Wood’s Macrobiotic (i mentioned it before) and the owner became an organic vegan because she had cancer and subsequently was cured.
    I think there are many cost-effective ways to become vegetarian. I know most of the blogs out there recommend very ‘western’ ways of being vegetarian, which can turn out to be very expensive – especially if you want to go organic. But there are inexpensive products on the shelves these days that are also healthy. Maybe i’ll buy some to take pictures of them (well, what’s locally available in Kuala Lumpur at least).
    A friend of mine actually does all his own cooking at home… and he’s a vegetarian. He says that it’s a matter of experimenting and figuring out what’s right and what’s not. There are enough good fruit and veg markets around to appease our appetites!

  9. Suriya – Yeah, I’m not really a teen, but thanks anyway! I think it’s great that anyone is doing this sort of thing in Malaysia.
    Just hope that new and more convenient technologies are introduced and adopted on a large scale so that the people who should REALLY be concerned about these sorts of waste management issues are actually the ones dealing with it!!

  10. Thanks Allen! sorry about the late response. Somehow your comment got put in the spam box!! Thanks for reading!

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