Councils show the way to minimise food waste

  • TSOL - Environment
  • Monday, 11 May 2015

The Kampar district council uses a Japanese composting method to transform food waste into compost. Photo: Kampar District Council

About five years ago, the Kuching South City Council embarked on a far-sighted project to resolve some of its food waste issues. It invested in a RM125,000 composting machine to recycle and compost waste generated at the city’s biggest market, the Stutong wet market which has 550 vendors.

“One of the first things we did was to shift the market from its riverfront site. What we have today is an integrated composting centre,” says Lim Ka Kuan, who heads the food safety and quality control unit of the council.

Waste from the market is segregated – organic waste such as meat and fish go into the composting machine while plastics and tree branches are recycled or disposed. Effluent from the composting machine is channelled to a liquid waste treatment plant located about 50m from the market, thus preventing odours.

In 2013, another machine costing RM30,000 was set up at the smaller Petanak wet market. Both machines prevented the dumping of 176 tonnes of organic waste last year. The waste was turned into 64 tonnes of fertiliser which was sold by the council.

“The yearly maintenance for both machines amount to about RM30,000. Of course, it’s not easy implementing measures like these. We still face resistance from traders when it comes to waste separation. But these are just minor setbacks. We hope more people will see the good this brings,” says Lim.

In Kampar, Perak, the 120,000 population dumps about 70 tonnes of waste a day, much less than the 117 tonnes of 10 years ago. The reduction is thanks to composting of food waste at 16 locations.

Kampar district council secretary Nor Akmal Yang Ghazali says the Takakura composting method was first implemented in Kampung Tersusun Batu Putih. It was then shared with interested communities and free composting baskets were distributed. In markets, traders segregate their food waste and it is collected by the council and sent to a composting centre at the landfill site at Jalan Sahom.

“Community participation is integral to the overall implementation of this system. Capacity-building is done through training and seminars and the plan is to further reduce waste by 5% to 8% within the next three to five years.

“Thanks to composting, we no longer have issues with leachate and smells. In fact, our expenditure on commercial fertiliser dropped by RM4,100 between 2011 and 2014, and maintenance cost of our trucks dropped from RM26,000 in 2012 to RM11,000 last year. Most importantly, the lifespan of our landfills can be extended by 25 years, now that food waste is taken out of the disposal stream,” he says.

The Kampar district council uses a Japanese composting method to transform food waste into compost. Photo: MDKampar

Since 2012, Ajinomoto (Malaysia) Bhd has hit a 93% recycling mark for the 3,000 to 3,300 tonnes of waste that it generates annually. Systematic solid waste management has been implemented within the Ajinomoto Group since 2000 and in 2003, the Malaysian operations formalised its efforts through a set of targets. The aim then was to reduce disposal of waste to landfills and increase recovery through the 3R concept of reduce, reuse and recycle.

From the start, segregation of waste was promoted among staff in order to change mindsets and habits. Best practices from Japan were introduced and a division was formed by the management to manage and monitor solid waste management activities.

Waste segregation bins are placed in the office and factory grounds. All waste is weighed and recorded. A central facility was set up for sorting of waste to be sent to a treatment plant.

Slowly, the staff began embracing the culture of recycling, as seen in the spike in the recycling rate, from 34% in 2002 to 43% in 2013 and finally, 93% in 2012. The figure, however, is still short of the 99% recovery rate target. (Apparently, 100% is not achievable as the remaining 1% consists of hazardous materials which still has to be sent to Kualiti Alam.)

The initial focus was on recycling solid waste and after this reached a rate of 90% in 2009, the attention switched to food waste generated in the cafeteria, culinary activities at D’umami Station, and R&D laboratories.

In 2010, the cafeteria operator stopped using polystyrene and plastic packaging and the following year, introduced recyclable food containers. In 2012, the staff was taught how to make usable enzyme from waste.

A RM100,000 composting machine capable of processing 100kg of food waste a day was also launched.

Soon, food waste within the company was reduced significantly to between 25kg and 30kg per day compared with 125kg previously. As the composting machine was not fully utilised, this prompted visits to neighbourhood eateries to encourage food traders to segregate their waste and send it to Ajinomoto to be composted. The compost is then distributed to the staff.

Food waste now constitutes 60% of the waste that is recycled daily (1% is wet food while the rest is residues of their food products). Solid waste forms the remaining 40% and consists mainly of manufacturing by-products such as amino acids, carbon and nitrogen, which are supplied to a fertiliser manufacturer.

RELATED STORY: Food waste issues are causing a stink

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