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There’s no cost to compost in Phuket

PHUKET: I have a compost heap and I’ve been thinking about what I have to do in order to compost for our house. The more I think about it, the more I realise most people living here won’t do it.

By Kevin Shupe

Tuesday 12 March 2013, 10:23AM

Kevin Shupe

Kevin Shupe

I’m not judging them, but when a large majority of people are interested in expensive import cars, trophy wives, luxurious houses, designer clothes and the latest smartphone, I just don’t think many of them are going to take their kitchen scraps out into their carefully manicured yards.

I would really love it if everyone proved me wrong, but I just don’t see it happening.
I’ve had friends say, “Oh you compost, I’ve thought about composting.” But from everyone that I’ve met in my five years on Phuket, only one co-worker started composting. I’m not sure if he still does it anymore.

I think it’s quite easy to do though. Most everyone knows where to put their trash. Now it’s time to move on to recyclables and then hopefully one day their kitchen scraps. 

I’ve seen a few new recycling centres open over the years, I’m just hoping now that Martin Hauke’s plan comes to fruition, and Phuket starts its own island-wide composting programme. After all, it’s not impossible.

I grew up watching my parents compost in Dallas, Texas. 

We lived in the countryside and my father built a large compost bin out of four posts and chicken wire. He would put all the grass cuttings into the bin once a week. Mom kept a lidded bucket in the kitchen for the scraps and my job was to take the bucket out when it got full. 

One thing I couldn’t get over was how high a compost heap could get by the time autumn came around and how compact it would be within a few months.

This went on my entire childhood. After university I lived in South Korea where all kitchen scraps are required to be sorted, so the local government can compost the waste. You had to pay for the bags which then funded the government programme to pick up the bags of scraps.

Once I moved to Phuket and got a place of my own I decided I’d follow my parents lead and start composting near the house. 

I didn’t have the money to buy or build my own compost bin. I didn’t even own a single tool. So I began composting the grass cuttings and leaves. It was very easy. 

I just made a pile in an unseen corner of the yard. I didn’t mix in any kitchen scraps because at the time we didn’t have anything to cook with.

Once we started cooking, I started placing the kitchen scraps at the bottom of the pile and turning it about once a month. Later we moved out to a place with a bigger yard. We also started cooking a lot more which meant I had a lot more to compost. But what to do? 
I knew a lot of kitchen scraps could create a foul smell and attract rats. Instead of creating a compost pile, I decided to create a compost hole. The idea was to mix in the local dirt with the compost to minimise the smell.

Thai Residential

The idea worked like a charm and over time the hole got wider and wider. It’s now around a metre wide and about 30 cm deep. At least once a week, I take a five gallon bucket full of kitchen scraps out to the heap. We have a juicer and go through several kilos of produce each week. 

I also rip up cardboard boxes which adds to the volume that has to be taken out, so it’s not like we’re gorging ourselves on food with enough scraps to feed a village.

Personally, I don’t want a smelly compost heap that attracts any sort of pest or vermin. So it’s important not to put meat, dairy or oil in the compost. We feed our meat scraps to the dog. 

For oil, I like to pour it out where I want a hole dug. The next day, I’ll let the dog go buck wild digging and snorting where the oil was poured. He seems to like it and I get a little extra work done without lifting a finger. We don’t use a lot of dairy, but if we have something that goes bad, I usually bury it.

About once a year, I’ll use the compost in a new or old garden around the house. I get a kick out of it because it’s free and I know for certain that I’ve made the dirt around the house a bit better. Keep in mind the dirt around the house was horrible to begin with. 

The closer you get to the house the more buried refuse you’ll find. Since gardens are usually alongside the house, that’s one place you’ll want to dig down and remove what rocks and trash you can find. 

Mixing in the compost as you do this is a great way to give your soil a major boost in nutrients when you start your next garden.

We live on a hill and the back yard is a downward slope. Some of the ruts were so bad when we first moved in that I avoided the backyard for a long time. Not so any more. 

The backyard is one of my pride and joys as we now have coconut and mango trees grown from sprouting coconuts and left over mango seeds. We’re also growing pineapples from old pineapple tops and banana trees from cuttings.

Free food is the best kind of food.

Upon reading the recent Phuket News article “Are we all just wasting our Phuket time?”, about a possible mass compost scheme on the island, reader Kevin Shupe got quite excited. As an avid composter himself, Kevin felt a certain level of sympathy for what he saw as people’s disinterest in speaker Martin Hauke’s plans, so he wrote a reply in the  online comments. We contacted Kevin and asked him to go into detail about what he does and why he does it. 

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