Ani Suswantoro, Contributor The Jakarta Post, Lebak Bulus, S. Jakarta
On a Saturday morning in early January, Sri Murniati, 63, a former Health Ministry official in East Java, spoke on compost making to a group of participants at a workshop. Her husband, Djamaludin Suryohadikusumo, 72, who was forestry minister from 1993-1998, accompanied her.
The training workshop was conducted in an open, thatched-roof hut in their nursery, where birds sang and the breeze blew. The couple's nursery, Karinda Garden, is in the Bumi Karang Indah housing complex of Lebak Bulus, South Jakarta, where they sell medicinal plants, flowers, seedlings and of course, compost.
"In big city like Jakarta, with more than 12 million inhabitants, waste management is very crucial. It is not the government's responsibility alone, but ours as well," Murniati told the participants.
"Roughly, Jakarta waste is 65 percent organic, 25 percent recyclable and 10 percent dangerous and poisonous waste. If we can take care of our organic waste, the government's burden will be lighter. The money allocated to treat waste can be used for other purposes," she said.
Murniati has heard various reasons people have given as to why they do not compost: that they are too busy,disgusting, they already pay for waste collection and that they can buy compost instead of making it.
"However, the main point is concern for the environment," she stressed.
When this theory segment was over, Djamaludin escorted the participants to inspect the phases of composting.
"Correct composting will not create a foul odor at all, but will smell like the original material (fresh soil)," he said.
"We have filled this nursery with flowers, so that it will look colorful to impress visitors and to show them that composting does not mean an ugly, disgusting job, but an easy and valuable activity," Djamaludin told this writer after the course.
The Djamaludins moved in 2000 to the Karang Tengah area of Lebak Bulus, where they were disappointed to discover that quality compost for their gardening was unavailable. There, they also observed that vegetable hawkers discarded much organic waste, and were thus prompted to try composting themselves.
The couple researched information on effective and efficient composting until they stumbled across the Takakura Magic Basket, created by Japanese-born Koji Takakura.
Since then, the environmentally conscious couple have shared their experience with others, in the hope that they also would compost to care for the environment.
To date, more than 4,000 participants, ranging from kindergartners to professionals from various institutions, have participated in their biweekly composting workshop.
"I am very happy when, upon completing the workshop, people really start practicing what they have learned. I sometimes call them to check their progress," said Murniati, to which her husband Djamaludin responded by smiling and nodding in agreement.
For more information and to arrange a composting workshop with the Djamaludins, phone (021) 75909167.
Simple steps to composting
- Takakura composting utilizes aerobic microbes, which need water, oxygen and correct temperature; frequent mixing helps supply oxygen.
- Correct composting generates warmth and moisture when mixed.
- Microbes need carbon-rich materials -- dry, coarse, rich in fiber and are brown in color (dry leaves, dry grass, rice hull, corn husks, sawdust, straw) -- as energy source
- Microbes need nitrogen-rich materials -- have high water content and usually are green (vegetables, fruits, kitchen waste, egg shells, used tea leaves, coffee grinds) -- to propagate
- One part brown material mixed with two parts green make the best compost
- Correct compost smells like healthy soil
- Prepare Takakura Magic Basket
- Use mature compost (6-8 kg) as compost starter
- Cut small pieces (2 x 2 cm) of organic waste (fruit peels, egg shells, garden and kitchen leaves, rice, vegetables); discard broth in food for composting; do not use bones, shrimp or leftover meats/animal products in compost -- they attract flies
- Make a well in the starter, put in waste in and mix
- Cover basket to warm mixture and prevent flies from laying eggs
- Optimum humidity is achieved when compost mixture is damp, but produces no dripping water when squeezed. Add rice hull or dry leaves if compost is watery, or sprinkle on a little water if compost is dry.
- Stir regularly 2-3 times a week. Do not add more waste to a full basket -- remove the mixture to a bigger composter to add waste.
- Compost is ripe when its temperature, appearance and smell resemble soil: in about eight weeks
- Get the entire family involved
- Put a pair of scissors on the dining table and get everyone to cut up their share of waste
- Place Takakura baskets in several strategic areas in/around the house; those who enter the area are responsible for mixing the compost
-- Ani Suswantoro