Small Efforts, Great Return: Composting in Bali
Have you ever considered the amount of waste you help create daily directly and indirectly? We’re speaking of the kind of waste we all produce both ‘at home’ and ‘away from home’ simply by virtue of being alive. Since our relocation to the so-called ‘Island of Gods,’ the problem of waste management has been in the forefront of our imagination; so much so, that not a day goes by where we don’t actively think about it. We wrote with regards to this just a few months ago, but writing about it is never enough! Which is precisely the reason why, in today’s entry, we speak about our experience with composting over the past few months, and in turn, we support of a cool initiative and startup based in the island willing to make a difference one trash can of organic waste at a time!
Compost is one of those things so basic and simple that’s super easy to actually overlook it. As the name implies, compost is organic material left to decay and ferment of its own over a short period of time. Composed mainly of things like leaves, twigs, organic kitchen scraps, and yard waste, compost is considered one of the most beneficial and enriching things you can produce for your farm/garden out of organic things you’ve previously discarded.
The list of things you can compost is actually quite large: from any scraps from fruits, vegetables, or coffee grounds, to paper, yard stuff, leaves, things like sawdust, ashes, or wood chips, the key for what to compost and what not to compost is to think organic, non-toxic, and pesticide-free.
In Europe and North America, for example, most governments and regions have a pretty high standard when it comes to waste management and waste disposal, and citizens have access to the rudiments of an education as to why recycling is an essential step in lessening the impact of humans over their environments, as well as to how to go about it. Whether or not we then follow what we’re taught –or whether our governments then sell our waste to a third-party country– is a different story. But the information is there for those keen to do their bit of looking into it and truly practice living more responsibly. Still, composting is seldom taught or spoken about. And so, most citizens in Europe and North America live rather sanitized lives where their relationship with the waste they produce seemingly ends once they throw their waste products into their respectively colored bins.
Indonesia is a bit of a different story. Be it because of its geographical location, lacking infrastructure, or just because of an overall lack of awareness, the amounts of waste materials (and plastic) one can run into on a casual stroll through the jungle, at the beach, or in any of its different urban nuclei is bananas! Yet, though waste is perhaps more visible in Asia than in other parts of the globe, existing data reveals that, on average, it is other regions of the planet that have the highest per capita rate of waste production. Surprising, huh?!
Indeed, according to research, each human generates around 1.5 - 4.5 kg of waste per day. Official records indicate, for instance, that the average American citizen produces 2.26kg of waste, the average European 2.2kg, while Eastern and Central Asia individuals produce around 1.1 Kg of waste per day. Still, out of this total amount of waste per person per day, approximately 20-30% is made of possibly compostable materials. So the actual question is why aren’t more of us jumping on the composting wagon?
Many of us naively think that there ain’t much of a difference between sending our organic waste to a landfill site or to a composting facility. Yet, landfill-bound waste that includes organic residue in its midst will contribute to the generation of harmful greenhouse emissions because of a lack of oxygen. No oxygen means no decomposition. And so, when we send our organic residue to a landfill we're preventing these materials from decomposing in environment-friendly ways.
Composting, on the contrary, is only beneficial. Composting is an oxygen-rich way of allowing organic waste to decay and decompose thanks to the processes that a variety of living organisms –things like fungi, microbes, worms, etc.– help kickstart. That means: compost keeps organic waste alive while, at the same time, some of the very (micro-)organisms intervening in the composting process will help bind heavy metals in the soil keeping them from turning up into our water. And who wouldn't want that?
Hence, throwing potentially compostable waste to a normal landfill does nothing to contribute to the improvement of the environment –not to mention that, keeping waste all mixed up actually prevents a great part of other recyclable materials from being actually repurposed. In fact, just think of this statement: “[i]f a quarter of us switched from dumping organic waste in landfill sites to composting it, we'd save the equivalent of 2.5m tonnes of CO2 from reaching the atmosphere each year.” Insert big-eyed emoji right here!
Urban Biologist Bali: Compost Made Easy
This is the reason that first motivated us to start composting here in Bali. Though we didn’t have the kind of space or facilities necessary to start composting in our backyard, Urban Biologist Bali, a local startup, made it easier for us to start composting ex-situ (aka, offsite). What Urban Biologist Bali offers is a no-hassle, on-site or off-site compost service for a very reasonable fee, AND with a nice return. What's the return, you may be wondering: your very own organic, pesticide-free soil!
Urban Biologist Bali will come over to your home, restaurant, or business once a week, grab the 8 or 20 Liter bucket they previously provided you with now filled with your organic waste, and exchange it for another empty bucket they'll pick up the upcoming week. Your bucket is then taken to their local farm and, after a three month period, they'll come over to your place and ‘pay you back’ with premium soil. You can then choose to use that soil for anything you want or, should you not want the soil, you can easily donate it to the local farming community. Awesome idea, right?
Still, this project does not exist in a vacuum and can be integrated alongside a variety of similar initiatives surfacing all over the world over the past two decades or so. Most of these initiatives actually borrow from the good 'ol wisdom of our parents and grandparents and techniques that were once 'forgotten' due to the thrills of hyper-technologization. The goal they pursue, though, is for more of us to begin taking ownership of our consumption and waste-production habits and begin recycling and composting more, so as to lead a life as close to '0 footprint' as possible.
Being in such a small part of the planet where infrastructure is not always already in place, we must confess it really feels great to have such an easy go-to solution for us to do our fair bit of composting and recycling here and now! And did we already mention how cool our backyard garden is looking thanks to this?!