Food waste is a significant problem in Brunei Darussalam. In 2019, approximately 32 per cent of waste was attributed to food, a hefty part of the country’s already high level of waste generation at 1.15 kilogrammes of waste per capita. (The global average is 0.74 kilogrammes per capita, according to the World Bank).
To address this, a group of government officers from the sixth cohort of the Young Executive Programme (YEP) initiated a community project to turn food waste into compost.
A quantity surveyor at the Ministry of Development and the team leader Haji Muhammad Haziq bin Abdul Haji Zariful said the cohort came together to form Kumpulan Bumi (Earth Group) and their community project ‘Baja Buddies’ and hoped to raise awarenss on the importance of composting, reducing food waste and showcasing the organic lifestyle.
“Brunei is the highest producer of greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the ASEAN region and also the highest waste generator,” he said.
“The landfills are filling up (with food waste) and when it decomposes on its own it will emit even more greenhouse gasses.”
He said there isn’t a large enterprise in the country to tackle the problem, and thus after a team brainstorming session, the cohort decided to do something about it.
Haji Muhammad Haziq added that the project is in line with the second goal of Brunei Vision 2035, which is to achieve a high quality of life. “We felt that this project should and can happen.”
The team has held a two-day awareness event in collaboration with Institute of Brunei Technical Education (IBTE) School of Hospitality and Tourism, with the objective of raising awareness among the students on the importance of waste management as well as composting food waste.
They also informed the students on how they can contribute in the composting project.
The first day was an online ‘Baja Buddies Composting Awareness’ session held via Zoom with instructors and students of IBTE School of Hospitality and Tourism, where they spoke on composting as well as organised games to engage student interest.
On February 17, the group went to IBTE to set up their ‘Baja Buddies x IBTE’ composting crate. The whole composting process was recorded and made available for the students and teachers to watch and learn from.
Legal Counsel at the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) and Kumpulan Bumi group member Nurul Husna Aqilah binti Haji Abidin said, “We wanted to work with the students on the project to raise awareness on compost. We wanted to show the compost process to the students from the very beginning; however the surge in COVID-19 happened.
“So we created a video and plan to post it on our Instagram to reach even more people.”
Education Officer at Institut Tahfiz Al-Quran Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Siti Hanisah binti Haji Othman said composting as a solution was also inspired by the Eco Ponies Garden, where they were shown how to compost.
However, not everything can be used for compost, she said and stressed that it was important for the youth to learn how to separate food waste from everything else.
“In the long-term, we hope for more students to be involved in the project and make a pledge to separate food waste to be used for compost,” she said.
Meanwhile, Senior Technical Instructor at IBTE School of Hospitality and Tourism Nurul Fakhriah binti Abu Hasrah, who is also from YEP cohort six, said she hoped composting can be taught to underprivileged families, who might be able to earn an income by producing and selling organic fertiliser.
The group has also contacted the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood to discuss farmers using vegetation waste for compost.
There are still vast opportunities for farmers to explore in using organic compost as fertiliser, said Haji Muhammad Haziq.
Kumpulan Bumi and their composting journey can be followed on Instagram via @bajabuddies.bn.