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Updated: April 7, 2010 15:14 IST

Waste management begins at home

K. V. Prasad
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At a time when the Coimbatore Corporation is embarking upon a massive solid waste management project to dispose of nearly 800 tonnes of waste a day, a micro-level effort is taking shape in Ward 43 to reduce the amount of waste transferred from a house to the Corporation's community bins.

Ward councillor N. Tamilselvi has initiated the practice of home composting that can be done in apartments and even small line houses. Demonstrating it at her first floor house, Ms. Tamilselvi points out that space can never be a constraint to waste reduction.

The councillor demonstrates a three-pot system of converting vegetable waste into manure through a simple procedure. But, she points out that only raw vegetable waste should be used and not cooked ones.

Salt

“Salt in the cooked vegetable waste will spoil the entire process. It will not facilitate composting,” she says.

Layers of onion peel, chopped waste of greens and other vegetables and egg shells are sprinkled with cow dung slurry in a pot of 15 kg capacity. The waste decomposes and turns into manure. It is then transferred to another pot, with the layers' position getting shuffled in the process. This enables complete composting.

The manure is then put through a sieve on its way to the third pot where it will acquire the form of fine manure.

Ms. Tamilselvi says she has done a short-term course in waste management at the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. “While Corporation Commissioner Anshul Mishra provides immense encouragement to good waste management practices, environmental scientist at the university P. Subramaniam provides constant guidance,” she says.

After the course, she studied the waste generation in her ward and found that it was 300 gm a person a day. A family of five generates 1.5 kg. This is taken as the average raw kitchen waste generation for home composting.

The process of filling the first pot goes on for 10 days. Each layer of 1.5 kg of waste a day is sprinkled with the cow dung slurry.

After 10 days, this is transferred to the second pot and allowed to dry up as manure. “If the vegetable waste is cut into fine pieces, the transformation into manure will be faster,” she says.

At present, 30 houses in her ward have offered to join the ward-level project after being trained by her. The ward is among the nine (out of the total 72) in the city that have been chosen by the Corporation as model wards for waste management. “I am willing to teach this to more people in the city free of cost because this concept has to catch on,” she says.

This type of composting will reduce the burden of waste management on the Corporation. Hotels and other eateries too can practice this, she says. “When building plans are submitted to the Corporation, the civic body can insist on such basic, micro-level waste management as a condition for approval,” she suggests.

“This too can be made mandatory as parking space and rain water harvesting. It is not expensive and the manure can fetch money. Two kg of waste can be produced out of 15 kg of waste. A 15 kg pot costs only Rs.60 and the sieve costs Rs.30. The manure can be sold at Rs.2 a kg,” she explains.

Uzhavar Sandhais can make the best out of this concept. The shandies can have composting pits instead of pots because of the high volume of vegetable waste, she says.

People think that the worms in the composting pot will cause health problems. “The worms will remain always at the base of the pot. They will not come to the surface. One can even have food, sitting near the pots. No stench comes from these,” she contends.

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