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Special children composting to help Mother Nature

Cutting vegetables and separating the unwanted leaves and stems are a daily routine at Bukit Harapan

NESTLING along a busy trunk road that heads to the city and Mount Kinabalu, Bukit Harapan, a home for special persons believes not only in helping the disabled and underprivileged children, but also the environment.

Residents Sherley Kamius and her brother, Casley will carry the unwanted vegetable stems and rotting leaves to a spot where composts have formed. Vegetables are plenty in the home as all are given away by hawkers, who cannot sell them off.

The intellectually-challenged siblings and other children in the centre – which houses 43 residents – carry out this daily chore.

The exercise is repeated after meals with organic food waste going to the heap. It is their commitment to the environment – helping Mother Nature to heal.  

By composting organics and wasted food, methane emissions are significantly reduced. Organic waste in landfills generates methane, potent greenhouse gas.

Composting also saves water by helping the soil hold moisture and reduce water runoff and the environment benefits from recycling organic materials.

Sherly and Casley discarding vegetable stems and wilting leaves on the heap.

Sustainable Management of Food

Every year,1.3 billion tonnes of food in the world is either lost or wasted, says the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Food Waste Index.

With world hunger on this rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to reduce food waste is becoming increasingly urgent.

A report published in July 2021 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Food Programme, the World Health Organisation and other UN agencies shows that one-tenth of the global population – as many as 811 million people – were undernourished in 2020, up 118 million from 2019.

In addition to exacerbating hunger and food insecurity, food loss and waste contribute to the three planetary crises that threaten our collective future – climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

Kelly L, Pexels

While loss and waste occur across the entire food system, households are not powerless. In fact, with almost 570 million tonnes of loss and waste produced in homes, the action of Sherly and Casley at Bukit Harapan is critical.

In the old days, families with a garden plot will add compost to soil to improve its physical properties. They may even use compost instead of soil to grow their vegetables, fruit tree saplings and chilies plots.

Mature compost is a stable material with a content called humus that is dark brown or black and has a soil-like, earthy smell.

It is easy to make compost through combining organic wastes, such as wasted food, trimmings, and manures, in the right ratios into piles, rows, or vessels.

And by adding bulking agents such as wood chips, will accelerate the breakdown of organic materials. Next is to allow the mixture to react and mature through a curing process.

Compost has many advantages as it reduces and, in some cases eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers. In reforestation and wetlands restoration efforts, it can be used. Another good thing about compost is that it can be used to remediate soils contaminated by hazardous waste.

It enhances water retention in soils and provides carbon sequestration.

Food scraps and garden waste together currently make up more than 30 percent of what we throw away and could be composted instead.  

With three basic ingredients consisting of browns (dead leaves, branches, and twigs), greens (grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds) and the right amount of water.

Caregivers taking time off to tend to the flowerpots with fresh compost

How Does Composting Help the Environment?

Putting organic substances back into the planet’s ecosystem will enrich the soil with essential nutrients that synthetic fertilizers cannot substitute.

There is a major connection between composting and the environment. A 2019 report from US PIRG asserts that the number of communities that offer composting has grown by 65% in the past five years.

Composting keeps organic waste out of landfills. Not only does that prevent landfills from prematurely meeting volume capacity, but it also minimizes pollution. Plant and food materials do not decay efficiently when in landfills.

The layers of wastes trapping the plant, and food waste result in an anaerobic environment. Unfortunately, there is a massive disparity between aerobic and anaerobic composting.

The airless landfill environment causes decaying waste to produce a high concentration of methane gas during the process. Methane is a greenhouse gas that has 21 times the potency of carbon dioxide.

While Sherly and Casley may not understand the making of compost and its composition, their daily effort brings hope to our land, which should be filled with natural nutrients. In the meantime, the fresh compost from the ground of Bukit Harapan, will fill the flowerpots dotting the 1.6-acre parameter, and saplings.

And for those who wish to help Bukit Harapan, email to or 0198505308. Or visit its website

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