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How to Make and Use Garbage Enzymes

By Bhavani Prakash

Update to this article on 4th March 2011.

Based on the responses by readers and those whose opinions I have sought, I would advise readers to read the original blog entry below in the context of the next post:  ”Responses: How effective are Garbage Enzymes?” where I make the introduction based on feedback:

The sum and substance of the feedback is that Garbage Enzymes (the term itself may be a misnomer) can be used as a homemade vinegar for non-edible cleaning purposes. The efficacy of Garbage Enzymes as a fertiliser or pesticide or an air purifier is not yet verified by scientific research.  Even less obvious is its ability to lessen greenhouse gases. There are varying views on its contribution to waste management – in the local context, is composting a better way to manage waste, instead of adding molasses? Or can this be considered as one additional way to manage waste that would otherwise go to the incinerator?

The original article:

Garbage Enzymes are wonder home-made cleaners which double up as effective natural fertilisers and pesticides. They have the potential to revolutionise our kitchens by converting our kitchen waste into something truly restorative.

Who invented Garbage Enzymes (GE)?

I caught the garbage enzyme (GE) bug more than a year ago, when I learnt the fermenting process at Joyce Lye’s Kampung Senang Charity Foundation at Tampines, Singapore.

The formula was researched and popularised by the founder of the Organic Agriculture Association of Thailand,  Dr. Rosukon Poompanvong who won an FAO award in 2003 for her outstanding contribution to organic farming, through her work in using fermented organic waste as fertilizers, pesticides and livestock feed.

What are Garbage Enzymes?

GE is nothing but a vinegar or alcohol derived from fermenting fresh kitchen waste such as veggie and fruit dregs (peels, cuttings and bits), sugar (brown sugar, jaggery or molasses sugar) and water.

The enzyme is derived after one filters and removes the residue after 3 months. The key ingredient is molasses, which the bacteria and microorganisms present in the waste metabolise into alcohol. This is reduced in its final form to acetic acid or vinegar. Vinegar with its acidic properties is well known as an all-round non-toxic cleaner.

How to make Garbage Enzymes

Supplies needed:

Molasses, Jaggery or Brown Sugar

Fresh vegetable and/or Fruit peels ( dregs, peels and cuttings which are not cooked)

Air-tight plastic container

Measuring cup

Method:

1. In an airtight plastic container, measure and add

1 part molasses+ 3 parts veggie/fruit peels + 10 parts water

Example by weight:  Weight 100g molasses or brown sugar + 300 g of veggie/fruit peel + 1000g of water

Use any multiples thereof, maintaining the same ratio

2. Give the mixture a good shake, and screw on the lid tightly.


The whole process takes less than 5 minutes to make once you’re all set up with the ingredients and container, and the fermentation takes a minimum of 3 months, so it’s best to stagger the enzyme making in batches with labels on the container indicating the date they are made. This will ensure a regular supply later on.

Please note: You’d need to keep the container airtight. However you must open the lid once a week or once every few days to let out the gases, otherwise they may build up to explode in the container.

Here are some pictures of how the GE should look like during fermenting:

Photo: Datin Moo Siew Yoong (Linda)

3. After 3 months, you can filter the residue to get a clear, dark brown liquid that has a fresh, sour smell like vinegar. (Shown in the picture above)


How to use Garbage Enzymes.

Garbage Enzymes are concentrated vinegars and work better when diluted with water. The required dilution ratios are provided below.

For Organic Gardening or Farming:

Here are guidelines for your garden/farm for use as natural fertilisers, insecticides, pesticides and as a plant growth hormone. For highly degraded soils, spraying continuously for 3 months can help restore soil quality.

Please use diluted solutions as tried and tested above – they work better in homoeopathic quantities and are more effective. Concentrated solutions can burn the plant or make the soil too acidic.

I’ve been using a combination of home-made compost, vermicastings, as well as garbage enzymes, so together they help nourish the soils of my organic garden at home.  However, I do know that at Tampines, Singapore Kampung Senang Charity Foundation exclusively uses GEs for their thriving community garden. They use GE once a week, by spraying the diluted solution (1:1000) on the leaves and the soil. The gardener likes to do this really early in the morning to facilitate better nutrient absorption.

For Household Use. Unlike for gardening, you can be more flexible with the dilution rates. Here are some suggestions:


Dos and Don’ts when making/using Garbage Enzymes

  1. Use an airtight plastic container, and not metal or glass ones which can’t expand as gases build up within the container, and may explode.  Even with the plastic container, it’s important to open the lid once a week or once every few days during the first month and stir.
  2. Store the container in a dry and cool area away from direct sunlight. Keep the GE at room temperature and don’t store inside a refrigerator.
  3. Use any combination of fresh veggie or fruit peels or dregs. I personally prefer a combination of pineapple, papaya and citrus peels. Do not use cooked food, meat or fish, or other non-food items like paper, metal, glass, plastic and so on.
  4. Don’t worry about the white, black or brown substance that forms as a layer on top of the enzyme.  The white layer is yeast that is rich in Vitamin B complex and Vitamin C and can actually be used for making bread or roti
  5. If you see worms, add an extra ratio sugar and cover air tight. They will disappear by themselves.
  6. You may filter out the residue after 3 months using a sieve or even and cotton cloth or T-shirt. If you can wait for 6 months, it’s even better.  There is no expiry date for the GEs once filtered.
  7. Reuse the residue, as a fertiliser in the garden by drying and mixing with the soil, or combining it with fresh veggie/fruit dregs as a starter for a new GE batch.
  8. Dilute the GE with water for most uses. This increases its effectiveness. Dilution is especially important when using as fertilisers or pesticides for plants, where high concentrations can prove too acidic for them.

Making GEs will keep tons of kitchen waste from landfills and incinerators, including the plastic bags that are needed to bag them. Think of how much CO2 emitting fossil fuels can be avoided that would otherwise be used in making, packaging and transporting toxic cleaners, fertilisers, insecticides and pesticides.

Using GEs improves indoor air quality and promotes organic gardening or farming which will help generations to come, in terms of health and healthy soils.

Hope you’ll join me in fermenting and spreading the Garbage Enzyme revolution!

This article was first published on VegVibe, a Singapore based magazine on green living.

About the writer:

Bhavani Prakash is the Founder of Eco WALK the Talk .com and is a sustainability writer, speaker and trainer. She is passionate about the role of individuals and communities in bringing about the much needed change we need to see in the world.  She can be contacted at bhavani[at]ecowalkthetalk.com. Follow Eco WALK the Talk on Facebook,TwitterLinked IN and YouTube

Further links you may be interested in:

EWTT: How to compost at home using container pots

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Posted by on Feb 27 2011. Filed under Chemicals, Cleaning, Food, Recycling/Repurposing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

4 Comments for “How to Make and Use Garbage Enzymes”

  1. Hi, interesting idea but flawed science. Although there are enzymes within the bacteria and yeast cells in the solution, the use of the word ‘enzymes’ here is misleading, as any enzymic activity would be within the cells not in the alcohol/acetic acid solution around them.

    I have no doubt that a weak vinegar solution does help with cleaning, and if diluted, the nutrients in the solution would either help plants grow or at least not harm them.

    The anaerobic conditions in the liquid will release as much greenhouse gas as the same amount of fruit/veg would in a compost heap or landfill, in fact, if aerobically composted, the same fruit peels etc might release less CO2 than the potential of methane from the ‘garbage enzyme’ pot. Additionally, every 10 litres of liquid made uses a kilo of sugar, the production of which has a large carbon footprint. No worse than the same volume of beer, though…

    I have nothing against the making and use of home-made cleaners, but I’d be careful what sort of amazing claims you make about it.
    John ‘Low Carbon Lifestyle’ Cossham, York, UK

    see also this link: http://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=18993.0

  2. Thanks John…appreciate your points.

    - a home made weak vinegar solution from recycled kitchen waste is better than using commercial vinegar from the supermarket (which has its own huge footprint!). Vinegar (home made or commercial) is a far simpler, less toxic and less carbon intensive product than a host of other cleaners available in the market.

    - A kilo of sugar (and preferably unrefined sugar) is better than having the huge amount of kitchen waste bagged in plastic and sent to the incinerator – as is being done in Singapore. Along with compost, this is another way that kitchen waste can be gainfully used. So again the footprint has to be seen in context.

    - As a detergent, Teresa…if you’re going to reuse the water in any way, you can’t add anything to the conventional cleaner. However you could add it to a soap nut solution which is natural. There are other detergent formulae here…http://tipnut.com/10-homemade-laundry-soap-detergent-recipes/ but I haven’t tried them, because either I can’t get borax here, or because I want to substitute the bar soap.

    - i have been to the same forums you have…and have the same scepticism about the claims about whether this is a solution to global warming – this is the point I steer clear of in the article, as I am not clear about the science there…or the claims made on that count.

    The pro GE folks are practitioners who tend to be around this region – Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand etc. Farmers that I’ve spoken to in India use various other fermentation formula in organic farming. Lots on anti GE on the net.

    I did do a lot of research before writing this…so i leave it to the readers to make their own decision….maybe give it a shot first! I have seen the results in two urban community gardens in Singapore – GUI and Kampung Senang, and spoken to the founders/gardeners who use this extensively.

    I will forward this to one of the leading research institutions in India on organic farming, and find out where they stand on this…and will share the results when I hear from them.

    To use it as a normal surface or window cleaner at least (even if you disagree with all the rest)…I still think this is a great idea to recycle kitchen waste into homemade vinegar.

  3. From the Facebook thread : http://www.facebook.com/ecowalkthetalk

    John Cossham: I have no problem with it, so long as the solids when filtered out are composted… if they are put in the normal rubbish for landfill or incineration, then it’s a real waste. And I wonder if you’re confusing GE with EM? EM, or Effective Micro-organism cultures are REALLY interesting and they are widely used in the Orient, and their use is growing over here, such as the growing popularity of Bokashi EM and EM-infused plastics. It is widely used in agriculture, which makes me think you might be confusing the two?

    Eco WALK the Talk: Though I’m not confusing the two (as I have seen people use GE as a natural fertiliser), perhaps EM is even more effective. Perhaps you could give some leads on how people can make their own cultures and how they could be used?

    I think the homoeopathic dilution of GE is what makes it more effective than the chemical composition itself. So there are always mainstream chemists who may argue that homoeopathy is nonsense. But increasingly we see scientists talk about water having memory…and how it stores information. Maybe that’s why the people who use it like it! Is it the placebo effect…i don’t know? But it should be interesting to find out more!

    I’m going to add this thread as a link to the blog, so readers can see this discussion too, and come to their own conclusions. Also this is a learning journey…if you could show us something better such as EM….all of us benefit! Thanks John..appreciate your time :)

    John Cossham:Well, homeopathy is nonsense, and it works because of the placebo effect. There are no well designed double blind randomised trials published in peer reviewed journals which support it being effective more than placebo. As for EM, because it relies on a mix of specific bacteria and fungi, you have to get a starter culture. From that you can ferment up a load and then spray it onto bran, and use that bran to make it easier to compost cooked food, meat, etc, and reduce the problems with rats.

  4. Continued from facebook thread: http://www.facebook.com/ecowalkthetalk

    John ‘Compost’ Cossham Well, homeopathy is nonsense, and it works because of the placebo effect. There are no well designed double blind randomised trials published in peer reviewed journals which support it being effective more than placebo. As for EM, because it relies on a mix of specific bacteria and fungi, you have to get a starter culture. From that you can ferment up a load and then spray it onto bran, and use that bran to make it easier to compost cooked food, meat, etc, and reduce the problems with rats.

    OneNationUnderMom You two are real experts! This particular area of ‘greenness’ is new to me, although composting is not. Both of your insights are much apprecaited!

    Eco WALK the talk Thanks OneNationUnderMom…though on this particular one, i seemed to have stirred a bit of controversy :-) Don’t want to be promoting any pseudo-science…so emphasise its use as a vinegar. For the use in organic gardening, i have sought out more information from different groups of people, and am awaiting the contact id for the research institute in India.

    John is absolutely awesome in his knowledge of composting (and am sure other things too!) : Do visit his thread here: http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=2224133069&topic=4060#topic_top

    I do have to disagree with his views on homoeopathy being nonsense..and this comes from personal experience, having used it where allopathy medicines don’t exist, or have toxic side effects. Is it placebo…again I can’t say…but it has been very helpful in my case!

    Are clinical tests the way they are conventionally framed the only way at looking at a particular problem holistically? I’m not always convinced…though of course, without a doubt, a science based approach is very critical in most cases.

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