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On a mission to turn Yangon’s food waste into organic soil

Spoiled meat, fish and vegetables are dumped every day in Yangon as they easily go rotten and produce foul smells.

Waste disposal sites produce methane, which pollutes the air, ruins the soil and underground water sources, and takes up valuable land.

Yangon city, the crowded commercial capital of the country, produces 2300 tonnes to 2500 tonnes of trash a day, or about 0.5 kilograms of waste per person, according to the Yangon City Development Committee. About 61 percent of the city’s waste comes from households, more than 30pc from businesses, 0.1pc from medical waste, and 3pc from other sources.

On the other hand, Yangon is expected to run out of land for waste disposal sites within five years, said an official of the Pollution Control and Cleansing Department.

Bokashi Myanmar

To deal with the problem, Bokashi Myanmar is trying to reduce wet waste by turning it into organic soil.

“About 65pc to 70pc of garbage disposed of daily is wet waste,” said Ko Inda Aung Soe, co-founder and general manager of Bokashi Myanmar.

‘Bokashi’ is a Japanese word meaning “humus” or “fermented organic matter,” which is widely used in farming and gardening around the world. Bokashi Myanmar was formed by five people in early 2018 – a man and a woman from Myanmar, a German, a Belgian, and a Swede.

They did market research in strategic rural towns in Mandalay and Yangon regions before launching the operation.

“We had to study whether there was a market for humus,” Ko Inda Aung Soe said.

Initially, Bokashi Myanmar was a volunteer project, taking part in environmental management at the U Thant Museum and international schools, but now it has turned into a commercial venture.

Yangon waste management

In Yangon, rubbish is collected by trucks of the YCDC and carried to the landfills at Htein Pin, Dawei Chaung, Dala and Seikkyi Kanaungto. Among them, Htein Pin is the largest, and can accept up to 1450 tonnes of waste per day. Dawei Chaung is the second largest, and can accept up to 1000 tonnes of waste per day. Some people in Myanmar carry out recycling of reusable plastic and glass, and know that dry waste like plastic is dangerous because it is non-biodegradable.

Bokashi Myanmar aims to prove that wet, or organic, waste can become fertilizer.

“Almost everyone still considers these things as waste. We want to carry out ‘value changes’ about it. It is one of our aims,” Ko Inda Aung Soe said.

The main raw materials of Bokashi Myanmar are leftovers and wet waste disposed of by people.

One of the main problems in Myanmar is that people are still lack knowledge about waste sorting.

“Most people know very little about sorting waste. For example, they buy mongingar soup in a plastic bag, and since the plastic bag contained the soup, they throw the bag in with the wet waste. On the other hand, a loaf of bread that’s gone mouldy seems dry, so they throw it into the dry waste bag,” Ko Inda Aung Soe said.

Currently, he said, Bokashi Myanmar collects wet waste from international schools, hotels, restaurants, travel businesses, and fresh markets.

Effective microorganisms

By composting kitchen waste, Bokashi Myanmar produces humus that can be used in agriculture by composting it with effective microorganisms (EM) bokashi bran. Bokashi bran is made locally from a balanced mix of local rice bran and shredded rice husk, and fermented in an anaerobic environment with EM, molasses and filtered water. The humus can be used for gardening, or to grow potted plants if you don’t have land.

In addition to making humus, Bokashi Myanmar also works to educate the public about sorting waste, and provides workshops and training courses.

“We want people to make humus themselves from their household waste. If they recycle their household waste, there will be no more litter on the street and waste can be reduced,” Ko Inda Aung Soe said.

Restaurants, hotels and international schools in Yangon have become interested in making soil from organic waste, of which they produce 5 to 7 tonnes of wet waste daily.

Food waste and climate change

Discarding waste in a garbage bin is not enough, Ko Inda Aung Soe said, because wet waste produces greenhouse gas, which is mainly responsible for climate change.

“It produces carbon and methane, as well as bad smells. Everyone thinks they are being clean and doing their duty if they collect waste at home and discard it in garbage bins, but people don’t see they are contributing to climate change,” he said.

Bokashi Myanmar is trying to make a clean environment by changing food waste into soil. They aim for a green city, and a clean fertiliser to produce clean food for people.

“If the earth has nutrients, the plants, fruits and flowers will have them, too, and what we eat will also have nutrients. That is the way to make healthy plants, healthy food, healthy people, and a healthy earth,” Ko Aung Soe said.

Source: Myanmar Times

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