Saving Good Food From Becoming Bad Waste

FOOD WASTE SOLUTIONS

Saving Good Food From Becoming Bad Waste

MAEKO's Chelsea Chee wants to save the planet from being inundated by the uncontrolled dumping of food waste by making composting a profitable business solution.

Here are some shocking facts enough to just ponder. By the year 2020, there will be enough food waste to fill up 16 Petronas Twin Towers. And yet, most people aren’t aware of this pervasive problem and the harmful effect it has on our environment.

“The amount of food wasted in Malaysia can feed up to 2.2 million people,” says Co-founder and CEO of MAEKO, Chelsea Chee.

The amount of food wasted in Malaysia can feed up to 2.2 million people.

“And when you throw the food away into the landfills, they will rot and can lead to greenhouse gas emission.”

Mentari Alam EKO (M) Sdn Bhd or otherwise known as MAEKO is a private corporation dedicated to solving food waste issues.

Established in 2011, founders Chelsea Chee, Mae Ooi and Darren Chee have joined forces to create a range food waste composting machines.

These machines, that uses an aerobic microbial compression technology, allows the food waste to compost within less than 24 hours, before being turned into fresh fertiliser for farming or gardening.

“Our machines consist synergies between mechanical and biological.”

“Darren handles the engineering division while Mae looks oversees the microbial element.”

“My role is to come up with business models and strategise the company’s direction.”

“When we launched this company, our ultimate goal was to divert all the food waste from the landfills. We are striving to put an end to the pollution that’s contributing to climate change.”

“We wanted to create simple and easy to operate machines that can basically break down all kinds of organics including banana peels, animal bones and even crustacean shells,” says Chee.

To date, MAEKO has converted a whopping 3,433,824.05k kilogram worth of food waste to usable compost.

MAEKO’s machines were rolled out in officially 2015, garnering clients like DHL, Sarawak Energy, Sime Darby, ECO World and many more.

“I wouldn’t consider (the price) to be on the high end but we are looking at RM30,000 and above,” says Chee when asked to comment on the affordability to own a MAEKO machine.

“You can either buy it or lease it from us and we’ll be sure to service the machines as well,” she adds.

MAEKO is not all about profit making: Chee and her colleagues also works closely with non-profits like youth-based AIESEC, to raise awareness on food waste management.

“We have this program called ‘Clean up Plate’ that’s been operating for the past two years. We spread awareness to universities and schools because we believe the devastation (caused by food waste) can be put to an end if the younger generation is educated on this matter.”

Chee and her team have come a long way from sketching machines on the drawing board to winning the IPIEC Global contest in 2018, an innovation competition which helps IP owners, SMEs, and researchers to bring their innovations into China.

While glancing at a mason jar, filled with fertiliser which was once discarded food scraps, she expresses her thoughts and hopes for the Malaysian government to one day take notice of their efforts to reduce pollution from landfills. 

“I truly believe our government should support our cause because the Malaysian government is spending two billion ringgit every year to solve this problem.”

“Malaysians are wasting 50, 000 tons of food on a daily basis.”

“If the government is spending all this money getting rid of the waste, they should just invest in our technologies which are built and assembled right here in Malaysia,” says Chee.

As CEO of the company, Chee grapples with the financial challenges of wanting to expand and grow the company even further. MAEKO has received funding from Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd to help the SME on its ambition to grow bigger and widen its footprint.

“We’ve expanded 80/20 rule of having government to support us in terms of their buying power. But we have now reduced it to 50/50.”