Wednesday, 12 November 2008 5:27 AM

The Banana Circle Recipe

The Banana Circle Recipe, a simple recipe of taking one man's waste and turning it into environmental treasure, is one of the examples the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) is using to illustrate ways that island populations can deal with the rubbish problem that affects the world.

An article by the Fiji Times Online reveals how this recipe is working for Kiribati and that 'with fragile ecosystems and economies highly dependent on tourism, the Pacific islands would do well to heed the atoll experience'.

The idea is being used by SPREP as part of its waste resource kit it produced for the Pacific Islands.

Ritia Bakineti was the national coordinator of the Kiribati International Waters Project (IWP) that helped spread the banana circle message through the community as an effective, low-cost, solution that can be used to help improve waste management.
According to her, the recipe is "a simple composting method where several banana trees are planted around a hole lined with cardboard and any plant waste is simply fed into the hole".

"Sometimes grey water from the kitchen and laundry is piped in to feed the banana roots. This helps to keep organics out of the landfill and helps to protect the groundwater lens. Of course the main incentive for most people is that they get to grow a healthy supply of bananas for their families."

According to the article, when the project was launched about three years ago, Bakineti ran a competition to find Banana Circle champions, 'telling SPREP that they wanted to look for ways to support existing waste reduction initiatives and promote some practical solutions in the community'.

'"The main message we wanted to communicate during the competition was that waste is a valuable resource," she said'.

'The campaign took a three-pronged approach: Encouraging residents to reduce littering, compost plant material in "Banana Circles", and separate their remaining "waste" into the new biodegradable "Green Bags" for collection'.
'The banana circle idea was one that allowed families to not just reuse their organic waste, but to also move towards getting some economic gain out of it'.

'The main competition winners in Kiribati that first year were Ruka and Tekori Tekitanga, who told SPREP that their new Banana Circle helped them realise the value of their organic waste'.

'"The rich and fertile compost from their banana circle has been used to enhance their abundant garden that now includes flourishing cucumbers and cabbages," the program found. They have even harvested cabbages from the fresh rich compost which were earmarked for sale in the local market'.

'Even wastewater from the laundry and dishwashing was reused in the Banana Circle, with the family finding that "in this way hardly any pollution will reach the groundwater, thus safeguarding the goodness of water"'.

According to the SPREP Waste Kit, the technique is not exclusive to bananas as other plants may be grown around such a pit compost system.

'Surprisingly, a Banana Circle compost heap can even absorb old tin cans and paper but these, SPREP says, should be in moderation. Wastewater from washing dishes and clothes, organic household waste and leaves and grass from the yard are perfect!'
'SPREP says the Banana Circle builds on an ancient composting technique used in the past on atolls, where leaves and other rubbish on the ground were put into a pit near the house'.

"Once the pit is full (and of course it is composting down all the time, and so takes a long time to fill up) a tree is planted on top. Another ancient technique is to pile leaves around the base of breadfruit trees. The Banana Circle is a refinement of these ancient traditional practices, where cardboard is used to encourage a mat of roots to grow along a damp lining to the pit, so that water is retained, and the full nutritional value of the compost is recovered by the plant".

'The Banana Circle is one easy way that families can take charge of their waste, and turn it into environmental treasure'.

To download the Waste Kit Book, "Rubbish is a Resource! A Waste Resource Kit for the Pacific Islands" or to order the book, visit the SPREP website (www.sprep.org).