Community Composting in Mui Wo

One of the big problems we have on our community garden is getting the compost heaps to rot down quickly enough to provide us with the compost we need to improve our soil, which is not very good. The months of dry weather, especially this year, mean that you have to make repeated trips to the stream to carry back water to pour over the dry materials of the pile. It’s very time-consuming, and not much fun in hot weather, so it often doesn’t get done. This results in a pile that scarcely rots at all, even after months. Well, this summer I’ve made a real effort to turn over the pile every couple of weeks and to give it a good soaking, and this is beginning to produce some useable compost.

However, we’ve often thought about how good it would be to have a community composting machine. All of the kitchen and garden waste that people have could be turned into compost instead of being dumped into the overflowing landfills; it would provide a few jobs for people; and it would provide invaluable compost for the local farmers, especially those who grow things organically. It might also go some way towards drawing people together in a common cause and building some sense of community in this disunited village. Tania Willis and myself wrote to government departments and the newspaper to give the topic an airing, but in order to get a grant to install a composter we really needed to be an official organisation, and at the moment we’re not.

So, it was with great delight that I heard from Mabel that the Outer Islands’ Women’s Association (OIWA) have actually applied for, and received, a grant for installing a community composter on their plot next to Mabel’s farm. They are now in the process of building the housing for it, and apparently intend to start collecting waste from the local estate, which I presume means Luk Tei Tong, and then branch out to take in the whole of Mui Wo. I’m not sure quite how they intend to do this: if they rely on people bringing it to the farm, I don’t think it will work, but if they employ someone to collect it, it should be a success. This is truly a big step forward for organic farming in Mui Wo, and the OIWA once again deserve a big round of applause for the excellent work they are doing here.

Don Latter

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About transitionsl

I've been an English teacher for the best part of 30 years, teaching in England, Tanzania, Brunei, Australia and Hong Kong. I've always been interested in nature and environmental issues, but it was the discovery of Peak Oil about five years ago that galvanised me into trying to help my local community to prepare for what will be a dramatically different world to the one many of us have been used to. I've been helping to run a transition group, following the guidelines created by Rob Hopkins's Transition Movement in the UK. This blog is an attempt to engage in discussion with a wider group of people in Hong Kong on the ways to transition from our current oil dependency to a state of fossil-free local resilience.
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6 Responses to Community Composting in Mui Wo

  1. Rober says:

    Hi,

    How can I get in touch with the OIWA, I’m interested in following this innitiative.

    Cheers

  2. Sebas says:

    Yup! Would be a wonderful innitiative if only the machine installed was a composter! I believe the OIWA got an OKLIN digester and according to the manufacturer’s website the material they get after 1 month in the machine is not mature, its unstable and contains high amounts of NH4+, a strong pollutant. So if you want to get a machine, be sure the product obtained conforms to HKORC compost standards or you might end poisoning your farm and gardens!

  3. Sebas says:

    Bellow is the link to the compost analysis showing that the material obtained from the machine is not mature:
    greengoodcomposter.com/news/ows-study/

    • transitionsl says:

      Yes, things have not been quite as wonderful as I’d hoped they would be at the time. I’m not sure what they do with the product that comes out of the machine, which doesn’t seem to amount to much, but I wasn’t aware of it being a pollutant. Not good news.Thanks for the information.

      • Sebas says:

        My pleasure!

        A pity for the wasted time and money, maybe the OIWA should return the machine to the supplier 🙂

        Basically, people want to do composting in no time and without adding carbon, which of course is nothing short of magic 🙂

        If you want to do composting, you need 3 things:
        -Oxygen
        -Carbon
        -Time (at least 3 weeks to get a more or less mature and safe to use compost)
        and of course, the Nitrogen in the food waste.

        A few manufacturers try to sell machines that use “magic” bacteria and make compost in 24 hours, while not requiring any of the above, but they often rely on enormous amounts of electricity to heat up the waste and evaporate the water to reduce the waste’s volume (which is not required when doing aerobic compost, as the process itself releases heat). The machines will produce a kind of powder that is not safe to be used in agriculture or even to be disposed in landfills!

        Anyway, you can check the link bellow for more info on how composting works.
        http://www.kcsengineering.com/rotating-composters-composting.html

        Cheers,

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