A Malaysian's tips on reducing food waste

I hate rubbish in general, but "wet rubbish" produced from vegetables and meat has got to be the worst. 

I used to follow my Mum's method of getting rid of food waste: throw them into a plastic bag and store that in a bin in one corner of the kitchen and hope for the best.

That never worked well for me. I don't cook often enough, so by the time that bag is full, it would've been a week. By then, it would be a smelly, rotten, ghastly mess. And worse, it attracted and bred pests (found maggots in my wet waste bin more than once). Throwing it out would generally be a nasty experience.

However, last year, in a desperate bid to reduce the roach population in my apartment, I decided to stuff my food waste in the freezer. (No food sources, no roaches, so goes the theory.) 

It worked. But the weirdest thing happened: I enjoyed the experience of not throwing wet garbage out so much that I thought, why not eliminate it forever?

Why not go Zero Waste, I thought.

Zero waste proponents believe that by reducing their garbage, the environment would be better for it. 

But you may think that it's impossible to do it in Malaysia, where recycling is still a thing tree huggers do, and plastic is everywhere.

But I can tell you most assuredly that it is possible, and that I no longer throw out my food waste. Meaning, none of my food waste ends up in the landfill!

Here's how I do it:

1. Waste not and reuse!

Use vegetable scraps to make vegetable broth, bones to make bone broth
I got this brilliant idea from Oh my Veggies: keeps vegetable scraps such as onion skins, stalks and peels to turn into nutritious vegetable broth. I now collect them in a baggie and keep them in the freezer until I have enough.
I do the same for bones; I toss them in a stock pot to make stock. All the waste produced from that I would...

2. Compost

I live in an apartment, but that doesn't mean I can't compost my food. I have a bokashi bucket, which is a brilliant little Japanese invention that enables me to compost despite being garden-challenged. I keep the bokashi bucket in the yard, ready to be stocked with vegetable scraps. Ocassionally, I'd collect the liquid produced from the process and use it to water plants. Once the bokashi bucket is filled up, I'd bury the contents in the ground somewhere for it to complete composting. I also place scraps in my freezer until I have enough for the local community garden's compost heap. 

3. Bring a glass jar or container everywhere

It bothered me that I had to throw plastic and paper cups each time I bought my cha time fix or green juice. So, I bought an RM5.30, 900ml jar from Daiso. I love the jar so much - it has a screw on cover which doubles up as a handle, and that makes it really easy to carry it around, and it's large enough to store my favourite drinks. I do get a weird look from the servers, however. Malaysians are still not used to zero waste folks like me! This, of course, applies to takeout meals as well. For that, I use a glass container.

With these three simple methods, I have reduced my trash to such an extent that I only throw out a bag of rubbish every week. And it's dry, non-smelly rubbish!

My trash situation is still not where I want it to be, however. Ideally, I only want to throw a bag of rubbish once a month, but the most pervasive trash I can't seem to get rid of are the plastic bags my organic vegetables come in with.

Malaysia does have some vegetable subscription box services, where they deliver boxes of veges to your doorstep, but they are eye-wateringly expensive, and the quantity too much for a single person.

I could also make my way to Bangsar's The Hive, where you can collect your vegetable deliveries from local farms in baggies, but I have to be realistic - it isn't convenient for me to drive all the way to Bangsar and struggle to find parking just to avoid getting 'bagged'.

So until then, I'd have to tolerate the crazy amount of plastic bags my groceries generate. Any ideas?