Sunday, September 16, 2012

Meet Nathan

*my column in the Sept. 16, 2012 issue of Cordillera Today

Nathan Cheng

At a workshop on garbage held at UP Baguio last August 29, 2012, the issue was tackled intensively but at the end of the day, we still spend astronomical figures to take care of our garbage and we still don’t have a sustainable solution to the city’s problem. But our family wanted so much to address at least our very own household’s waste management issues, so we visited a friend’s house the other day for some help.

Let me introduce you to Nathan Cheng. He did not put up a company, nor did he promise to end the city’s garbage woes. He did not run for any position in the last elections and I don’t think he plans to seek an elective position next year. Besides, even if he harbored any political ambitions, I don’t think he can: he’s only 13 years old. And a few years ago, he came up with the Vermi-Compostable Heterogeneous Organic Waste Bin Recycling System.

Vermi-what? Vermi-C.H.O.W., for short, as he calls his vermicomposting system.

A recycled plastic container serves as a garbage bin
Worm holes: the worms go out at night to secrete waste/compost, 
then go back in and continue to eat organic waste
Vermicomposting is the “process of composting using various worms, usually red wigglers, white worms, and earthworms to create a heterogeneous mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and vermicast. Vermicast, also called worm castings, worm humus or worm manure, is the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by an earthworm. These castings have been shown to contain reduced levels of contaminants and a higher saturation of nutrients than do organic materials before vermicomposting.” (Wikipedia) 

Vermi-C.H.O.W. Bin Recycling System 
What makes the system stand out is its simplicity – it is low-maintenance, very easy to manage and very efficient. The contraption is simple – a basin, a recycled water container in the middle, the biodegradable waste inside that container with some African nighcrawlers (Eudrilus eugeniae) along with it. The worms eat the waste, digest it, and then they get out of the container and use the basin as their toilet. Yup, Nathan’s pets are toilet-trained. The worms’ excretions have been proven to be highly effective as organic fertilizers.

Nathan’s mother, Antonette, showed us how the system works: place the biodegradable waste inside the bin and a few days later, harvest the compost in the basin. When the worms multiply and the bin gets too crowded, set-up another one. It’s that simple.

But does it work? First thing we noticed when we entered their house was how healthy their plants were – they’re all fed with the compost that the system produce. There were no flies hovering around nor was there foul odor emanating from the numerous Vermi-C.H.O.W. systems in place all over: the garage, the porch, out in the garden, up on the roof.

After being gifted with a starter kit, we made our way out and outside their house Nathan’s mother picked up a couple of bags of biodegradable waste left by their gate by their neighbors – Nathan’s system now takes care of all the biodegradable waste of their neighborhood.

Nathan’s system has won numerous awards but have you heard about it? Probably not, for Nathan is not interested in making millions and making others make millions from his invention. Neither will he allow politicians to capitalize on his brainchild to advance their vested interests.

In the meantime, Nathan Cheng, 13, is doing what most of our leaders have failed to do – do what he can to make Baguio a better place for his and future generations.


Roy Hapa Sy said...

just read the entire article. this kid makes and does sense. i hope he discovers and shares other simple things that we can do to save the environment. please give him a pat on the back for me for a good job!

RIDERGirl Manila said...

wow! so proud of this kid. this kid is a hope for the future. i think i know where he got his genes. a good gene pool too! the environment is one of my advocacy thrusts and i am so glad that a kid is already doing his share to save mother earth. for his future and the future generations that the current generation is failing at. Mabuhay ka, Nathan!