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Curtin Malaysia students learn about waste management from local environmental champion

Miri – 23 April 2019 – Over 50 mechanical engineering and Engineering First Year students and six lecturers of the Faculty of Engineering and Science at Curtin University Malaysia (Curtin Malaysia) attended a talk on ‘Domestic Composts and Organic Fertilisers’ by Miri City Councillor Mathew Benson Mounsey at the university campus recently.

In his talk, Cr. Mathew highlighted the impact of plastic usage on the local community and importance of reducing its use. He spoke at length about the 5R strategy, which includes refusing to use plastics, reducing domestic wastage, using sustainable alternatives, recycling of various items, and re-purposing or composting kitchen waste.

Cr. Mathew shared his experience in using organic fertilisers over chemical fertilisers and the different types of composting methods. In addition, he demonstrated methods of making low-cost compost bins and domestic compost bokasi powder and juice which can help accelerate the composting process. 

The talk was conducted as part of the Engineering Foundations: Design and Processes unit of the student’s First Year Engineering (FYE) course. The unit involves the students carrying out community-based projects to improve the livelihoods and living conditions of rural communities under the supervision of Dr. Sukanta Roy, head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. The course unit also emphasises the importance of the United Nations’ Sustainable Goals and requires that the students incorporate them in their community projects.

Dr. Sukanta said the talk held much relevance to projects the students are currently working on to address challenges faced by villagers at Kampung Sungai Sebatu, a small Iban village on the outskirts of Miri. Having observed the difficulties of the villagers, which includes low income from farming and lack of transport, electricity and water supply, the students are trying to come up with tangible solutions to address their woes.

In the process, the students are learning more about the villagers’ long-term aspirations and assessing their situation based on geography, climate, social lifestyle, economic conditions and other factors as part of their design evaluation.

According to Dr. Sukanta, the villagers plant vegetables in their backyards for their daily consumption but do not practice systematic farming methods to ensure more consistent and efficient output. Most of them still have to buy their provisions from the market in Long Lama, which exacerbates their meagre income and lifestyles.

In addition, the villagers tend to simply bury or burn their food waste at their own designated landfill when they could compost them to make fertlisers for their crops and thus save on buying commercial fertlisers. Dr. Sukanta said the students are exploring the feasibility of converting such food waste into cost-efficient organic fertilisers to increase crop yields and make the villagers more self-sufficient.

In thanking Cr. Mathew for his highly informative talk, Dr. Sukanta said Cr. Mathew was a true champion for the environment and a good example for the students to follow as they continue to engage with the communities and transform lives for the better.

Dr. Sukanta said the Department of Mechanical Engineering will continue to organise guest lectures and field trips for its students every semester as they help them connect and apply what they learn in the classroom to real-life situations.

Cr. Mathew has been a Miri City Councillor since 2016. He is vice president of Dayak Association Miri where he has been actively involved in promoting of the importance of education, preservation of Dayak culture and traditions, solidarity in a multicultural society, and development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

He is also a member of the Creation Justice Commission specially assigned to carry out awareness programmes of environmental issues in the Miri community. In addition, he is assistant secretary of the Society for Miri Urban Poor, an organisation committed to supporting the urban poor in Miri.

For more information on Curtin Malaysia, visit its website (, its Facebook page (CurtinMalaysia), Twitter profile (curtinmalaysia), Instagram (curtinmalaysia), YouTube channel (Curtin Malaysia) or LinkedIn page (Curtin Malaysia).

Cr. Mathew giving his talk to Curtin students and lecturers.

Cr. Mathew demonstrating a composting method.

Cr. Mathew with students and lecturers at the end of the talk.