Monday, April 30, 2012

Reaping benefits from organic waste

THREE years ago, I found out how to make garbage enzyme by fermenting kitchen waste. Someone had sent me a link to an online story about a chap who made garbage enzyme from kitchen waste.

According to the story, one of the by-products of making garbage enzyme is ozone.

The enzyme maker said that if all households worldwide were to make garbage enzyme, we would be able to replenish the depleting ozone layer.

However, what attracted me to garbage enzyme at that time was more than ozone production.

I was interested because I had also read that garbage enzyme could be an effective alternative to cleaning detergent, especially for cleaning toilet bowls, the bathroom walls and floors.

I was getting tired of using pricey chemicals that seemed to lose their effectiveness once the products became too popular.

At that time, I had also found out from my neighbour Simon that his wife had been making garbage enzyme for household use.

One evening when I visited them, I had commented about how white their marble floor looked. Simon's wife told me that she had used liquid from fermented pineapple peels.

By fermenting pineapple peels in a solution of brown sugar, the resulting enzyme when used for cleaning the floors, she said, would not only give their marble floor a shine but also make it look whiter.

I was convinced.

My first venture was lime peel enzyme - made by fermenting lime peels I had collected from a drinks stall near the office.

Two kilos of lime peels fermented in 10 litres of brown sugar solution over three months provided me with enough enzyme for over four months.

My cost was less than RM10 for a bag of brown sugar. The enzyme, when diluted with water, not only cleaned the floor of my condo's corridor better than bleaching agents but it left a lovely lime scent.

I also found that there were fewer ants there these days.

Last week, the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) became the first local council in the country to venture into turning market waste into fertiliser and fuel, through vermicomposting and anaerobic digestion processes, respectively.

The project between MPSJ, Universiti Putra Malaysia and traders being undertaken at Taman Sri Serdang market is part of the Serdang Green Town programme launched last month.

Vermicomposting uses earthworms to turn vegetables, meat and other perishable wastes into organic fertiliser while anaerobic digestion uses microorganisms under little or no oxygen conditions to break down wastes and produce energy.

Similar to the making of garbage enzyme, vermicomposting and anaerobic digestion are friendlier means to get rid of organic wastes.

According to the news report, MPSJ's effort will help reduce two tonnes of organic waste at Taman Sri Serdang market daily.

The organic fertiliser generated from the vermicompost will be shared between the council and the traders while the biogas produced from anaerobic digestion will be used to power the market's generator set.

I wish other councils will take the cue from the MPSJ to do their bit for the environment. Market wastes often end up choking the drains, or if dumped at landfills, generate more greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

By using vermicompost or anaerobic digestion to deal with such wastes, local councils not only save on having to buy fertilisers for their parks and nurseries, they can also save themselves the headache of looking for landfills and clearing choked drains.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Disabled drivers who endanger themselves

IS there a speed limit for disabled persons riding modified motorcycles? I am asking this because of what I saw on the Middle Ring Road recently while I was on the way to Sri Damansara from Batu Caves.

I was driving at 70kph on the elevated highway when a disabled motorcyclist overtook me on the two-lane road.

I doubt the chap, who was riding a modified cub with a rear three-wheel set-up, was aware of the speed at which he was going. He must have been travelling at no less than 90kph before he disappeared into the distance.

The incident was not the first time I had seen a disabled motorcyclist throwing caution to the wind.

Some months back, I saw one who was following a train of bikers riding up the road shoulders to avoid the traffic jam on the road.

The fact the disabled biker almost lost control of his machine when one of his rear wheels slipped did not appear to frighten him, as he tried to maintain balance on what I thought was a narrow ledge for the modified bike.

Another encounter I had was near Sentul Pasar one morning. A makcik with a disability was riding a special motorcycle with a signboard mounted in the rear. The signboard that read orang kurang upaya (or OKU referring to person with disability) was written in a font large enough to be legible from at least 10m.

I thought that was how all bikes for the disabled should be set up. Seeing the makcik riding slowly on the left lane, I also thought that she was a fine example for other disabled bikers to emulate until I noticed that she was not even wearing a helmet. The only covering on her head was a red headscarf.

The traffic policeman, who was busy manning traffic at a zebra crossing there, must have missed it or he would have given her a summons for riding without a helmet.

Once, while travelling from Malacca to Kuala Lumpur along the North-South Expressway, I found myself behind a very slow moving MPV. I thought the driver must have been catching forty winks when I noticed the OKU sticker on the rear windscreen.

But as I was overtaking the MPV, I saw a middle-aged man driving with one hand on the steering wheel and the other, a mobile phone. He was either surfing the Net or he was trying to text someone. When he saw me staring at him, he didn't look surprised, and he continued with what he was doing.

I get angry whenever I see able-bodied motorists depriving the disabled of the OKU parking lots or when they do not give way to the latter when on the road. But when disabled bikers or motorists do not show concern for their safety or that of others by riding or driving recklessly, it drives me up the wall.

Monday, April 16, 2012

All fired up about grilled burgers

LAST month, my wife told me about a burger stall near home that had been attracting long queues, so much so that the customers had to wait up to two hours to have their orders fulfilled. I thought she was joking.

Then curiosity got the better of me last week, so I decided to check the stall out. It is in Desa Setapak, by the only access road into Wangsa Maju Section 2.

Usually, I would not drive into the area unless necessary because of the jams created by inconsiderate people who park - and double park - their cars and bikes along the two-lane road. That evening, with my wife, I decided I had to find out for myself if the stall was really as popular as she said.

When I arrived in the area, my appetite was dampened - not by the bumper-to-bumper crawl on the road but by the back-to-back queue at the burger stall she showed me.

One chap in the queue told me that I could take a number and return later to collect the burger when it was ready. Otherwise, we could join the queue and soak in the free smells first while we waited for our orders.

Since the end of the line was nowhere in sight where I stood, I decided not to wait. So I suggested to my wife that we go for chapatti at the Punjabi stall in a less crowded neighbourhood.

Later, my wife complained that I didn't know what I was missing. She said her colleagues had been singing praises about the grilled burgers at the stall, simply known as Kaw Kaw. They even helped to promote the lava-rock flame-grilled burgers on their blogs and Facebook.

A few days later, when I read about the same burger stall in a local daily, I regretted not finding out how good the burgers were. According to the report, the stall's loyal customers did not mind waiting up to three hours for their orders.

A colleague who had tried the grilled burger told me that once it took him over two hours to collect his order but he did not mind because the bite was well worth the wait.

"The patties are large and delicious," he said.

"You can even order the 'tower burger' if you have a big appetite," he added, referring to burgers with a stack of patties, made famous by Dagwood Bumstead, the comic strip character in the 1970s, if you recall.

According to the report, the stall sells an average of 250 burgers daily, at prices ranging from RM7.50 to RM18.50 each, and up to RM55 for a tower burger.

Judging by the queue, the operators must be laughing all the way to the bank. I am sure you will too if you do the maths.

Just when I thought the street burger business was getting saturated, the success of this stall surprised me. Although grilled burgers are not new - Burger King had been offering flame-grilled burgers since the late 1990s - I don't recall having seen any street stall offering one until now.

Now you know why this stall's grilled burgers is hot with fast-food lovers. Humbled by the discovery, I shall now look at street burger businesses in new light.

But if you are thinking of going into steamed burger business, forget it - someone has already beaten you to it.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Let us drink to health...

DO you know what a Milo Volcano is? I didn't until I saw a chap order it at a stall I frequent a few days ago.

It is simply iced Milo in a tall glass, except that the drink is topped with several scoops of the chocolate-y powder heaped into a mound resembling a mini volcano. That gives the drink its name, I think.

How the 40-something chap could down it all in one sitting alarmed me, but my wife was not surprised. She said the man could have a high metabolic rate and the extra sugar probably did him no harm.

That incident reminded me of my first encounter with the three-layered tea.

I had seen the drink advertised at stalls and restaurants two years ago and decided to order it one hot afternoon. It was the first and last time I was to do so.

The iced tea, milk and gula apong (nipah palm sugar from Sarawak) presented in three layers in a tall glass turned out to be too sweet for me. Even after the ice cubes had melted, I had to pour half of it away and add water to dilute the remaining tea. In the end, I abandoned it. Seeing anyone order the drink these days gives me the jitters.

Another popular drink at the stalls is the teh lychee. Don't ask me who joined together this odd-couple of a beverage.

I suspect that taking it on regular basis, especially after a heavy lunch, will not only kill you, but also your employer. I cannot imagine anyone being able to stay awake after a washing down lunch with the teh lychee.

The tea usually comes with several lychee out of the can. To add the fragrance to the drink, lychee syrup from the can is added - in addition to the heaps of sugar that had already gone into the tea.

I once asked a beverage maker what had inspired this strange combination because lychees are traditionally rarely taken with tea. The man said he had seen it at a stall one day and decided to offer it at his as well. The response from his customers, he added, was sweetly encouraging.

Today, not only do you have teh lychee, there is also the Ribena lychee, and other mutations of the original.

The makers of these drinks have jumped on the bandwagon of offering a dizzying range of dangerously-sweet concoctions that are so popular that at some places, you have to take a number and queue up - just like in hospitals - for your sugar-laden treat.

If we are to eradicate lifestyle diseases, I think we might just stand a chance if we were to focus on the drinks as well as the food. Most of us can avoid oily, fat-saturated food, but how many of us can cut down on our drinks at the mandatory tea-times?

If the local authorities can grade food premises according to cleanliness, the health authorities can grade them based on the nutritional content of their offerings.

As for the drinks that are sold off the shelves, I think they should also carry health warnings - just like the cigarettes.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Eating off supermarket shelves and not paying

LAST week, while shopping for cheese at a supermarket's cold storage section, a shopper attracted my attention.

The man, who was in his 60s and dressed in sports attire, was browsing through bunches of grapes across from the section where I was standing.

From the way he was rummaging through the unwrapped fruits, I figured that he must be a meticulous buyer - until I saw him surreptitiously popping some grapes into his mouth.

He did it several times until one of the supermarket staff spotted him. When the man realised that two pairs of eyes were trained on him, he quickly made his escape, but not before plucking another fruit and popping it into his mouth.

If you have been to the supermarket often enough, you may have seen similar incidents.

Just hang around the tidbit counters and I am sure you will see greedy shoppers dipping their hands into the cookie jars, despite the "No Sampling" signs.

Last week's incident with the grape stealer was not my first encounter with a greedy shopper. I would not have been surprised if the man was shabbily dressed. I might even have forgiven him if he was, for he could be too poor to afford grapes.

But from his attire -- he was wearing an Adidas T-shirts and track pants, a pair of Nike shoes, and had a Suunto watch strapped to his left wrist - he looked like he could afford more than a bunch. God knows why he treated himself to the fruits as if they were samples.

The worst case I have seen of a food thief was at a supermarket where a man and his wife had four kids in tow.

One of his daughters had been throwing a tantrum and he wanted to pacify her.

So, he reached for a pack of Vitagen drinks, took a bottle and gave it to his daughter, before returning the package, one bottle less, to the shelf.

When I saw the man again at the checkout counter, he and his family were walking through one of the empty lanes as if they had only been window-shopping. Obviously, he had no intention of paying for the bottle of Vitagen he took.

I once asked a supermarket supervisor how her employers dealt with shoppers who helped themselves to foodstuff and did not pay for them.

She said it was difficult to act because by the time the floor staff sprang into action, the evidence would be gone. The food would have been eaten and the containers thrown away.

"But, if we catch them in the act, like drinking packet drinks or eating ice-cream, we will politely ask them to pay for the food first.

"Some of us have been accused of being rude to our customers, especially when they have successfully got rid of the evidence. The more educated ones may even threaten us with legal action if we fail to show proof of their wrongdoing."

What do you think of supermarket goers who help themselves to food that are not for sampling? I consider it shoplifting.

How would you describe taking something from a supermarket and not paying for it?