I refer to today’s Straits Time article ‘Seng Kang stink lingers‘ featured on the front page of the ‘Home’ section. You may also view the full article here.

Clearly, the compost heap at Punggol Way has not been done or maintained properly, as compost definitely does NOT stink! The bad odour is due to an anaerobic process resulting from excess moisture and nitrogen – food waste in this case.

Also the article stated that the 200-tonne mound consists of “rotting food and woodchips”. Now, if woodchips are the only source of carbon-rich materials in the mound, of course the mound will stink! There is too much nitrogen-rich material in the heap (i.e. rotting food waste) and it has to be balanced with at least an equal portion of carbon-rich materials such as (i.e. browns).

Moreover, woodchips are TERRIBLE in composting! They break down too slowly due to their tough material and structure.

Instead of transporting the “compost” away to be incinerated, thereby spreading bad odour to more areas in Singapore, adding to more incineration and fuel costs, and worsening air pollution (my, my, my…), I humbly propose two quick and simple solutions:

  1. Mix in more carbon-rich materials (also known as ‘browns‘), such as dried horticulture waste, paper, cardboard etc. This way, excess liquids can be absorbed by carbon-rich materials, aiding in the composting process. For more information, visit 4 essentials for composting, how to get the right compost mix, and how to speed up the compost process.
  2. For another quick and immediate remedy, cover the mound with hay. Yes, hay! It doesn’t cost much if you know where to get it, especially when hay just consists of dried grass. If Joseph Jenkins can cover his mound of family faeces (or sh*t or poop) at home with hay, resulting in NO odour, a stinking compost mound definitely has no problem with the same thing too. Check out my experience with hay here – it transformed my once stinky compost bin into a pleasant-smelling thing.

In retrospect, it is rather disheartening to read about another composting failure. Composting would be such an incredible breeze and a satisfying experience if people were properly informed and educated in this aspect. If our western counterparts are already doing it everyday – with gladness! – I don’t see why composting could not be embraced in the same way.

I look forward to the day when composting is seen as a solution to recycling waste and replenishing our land with nutrients. In the beginning, “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” (Gen 1:31) Let’s not complicate things and close the carbon loop, shall we?

To create your own compost bin at home, click here.

For any feedback, enquiry or suggestions, feel free to contact us at info@kainosis.com.

Some pictures just for fun 😉

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2 responses »

  1. Eliah says:

    heya, i was wondering if ‘mixing’ in browns into a compost pile the scale of the one in sengkang would pose challenges in terms of the labour-intensity, energy consumption (due incorporating machines like ploughers), as well as the ultimate effectiveness due to the “vastness” of the pile, or is it sufficient to just lay the browns in a layer thick enough that covers the compost pile, such as the smaller scale one you’ve done at our house’s doorstep =)

    If the latter is true then shiok what! Maintenance won’t be such a problem then!

    So the bigger question is, as deliberate composting increases in scale, would the difficulty in maintenance and smell-control increase exponentially such that it becomes very ineffective, socially unacceptable in a country like Singapore with such a dense population?

    If “lazy composting” like what you have exemplified in this blog works for a large scale compost pile then that’d be cool right =D

    • Joseph Solomon says:

      Definitely composting greatly increases in labour-intensity as scale increases. However this is only because not much attention has been paid to composting in general. You don’t find many top notch engineering firms working on optimizing the process – that’s not to say there aren’t top notch solutions out there already, don’t get me wrong!

      Either way, “lazy composting” is most certainly not for large scale operations. The “fuss-free composting” method as I prefer to call it (more edifying), is a solution for a very specific and niche problem – apartment composting in the tropics. It is however, a very large niche that can contribute to solving Singapore’s (and any other country for that matter) waste problem!

      So the simple answer is that while difficulties and problems do increase with scale, so do the available solutions. In fact the greatest problem in dealing with household level waste is that there really is no adequate solution. Composting done properly does not smell and while mechanizing and automating the process is expensive, the opportunity cost of continuing to dispose of waste in an unsustainable manner is higher.

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