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Updated: March 4, 2013 00:20 IST

Pipe-composting project goes down the drain

Shyama Rajagopal
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A pipe compost. Photo: Vipin Chandran
The Hindu A pipe compost. Photo: Vipin Chandran

Tripunithura Municipality’s effort to solve organic waste management at source through pipe-composting seems to have gone awry.

Nearly five months ago, pipe-composting units were installed at many households after the Municipality ordered Kudumbashree workers to stop collecting waste.

The initiative was aimed at reducing waste generated in the municipality. However, residents now have to deal with smelly backyards and hundreds of worms crawling inside their pipe-composting units.

Bindu S., a lecturer and resident of Inside Fort area, says a unit which consists of two PVC pipes with a width of six inches, buried vertically in 30-cm-deep pits, are inadequate to meet the needs of even a four-member family. “The pipes fill up in no time.”

She says the waste put into the pipes do not seem to get decomposed.

“We were told that the waste would decompose and could be used as manure. But we are left with a nauseating smell in the backyard. Our neighbours cannot enter their own backyard,” she says.

Ms. Bindu has not touched the pipes for nearly a month now. “I try to bury the day’s waste in small pits. I cannot imagine what is going to happen when it rains.”

Thankamani Sukumaran, a housewife and resident of Kannankulangara, grinds her kitchen waste and flushes it down the drain in the sink. “We resort to this method while we wait for the waste in the pipes to decompose. What do we do otherwise, we have to manage somehow.”

The awareness classes held at residents’ association meetings never guaranteed that the pipes would solve our waste management problem. The whole initiative was probably an ad hoc mechanism adopted by the Municipality to stop waste collection by the Kudumbashree, Ms. Sukumaran says.

“The re-appearance of bags filled with waste on various street corners is the result of the failure of the pipe composting units,” says Ravindra Kurup, vice-president, Kottakagam Residents’ Association.

The waste is not getting decomposed because even when the second pipe is being used, the waste in first pipe does not dry up.

People have been saddled with an ad hoc arrangement even when the municipal council was advised against adopting this system, says Mohana Chandran, a waste management expert. Mr. Chandran had been involved in taking awareness classes for residents through residents’ associations. He told The Hindu that he had warned the council about the failure of the system.

“The waste gets decomposed only when there is air circulation in the pipes, and the water content remains not more than 50 per cent,” says Mr. Chandran, who is a deputy manager at BPCL.

“Bacteria cannot act when there is high water content. Most of the kitchen waste has a good amount of water.” Due to the small width of the pipe, it is difficult to put waste. Only a part of the waste gets decomposed and the rest is infested with worms.

“The smell of the decayed waste is sickening,” he says.

Pipe-composting is based on ring composting practised traditionally. The units have met with little success as there is very little soil contact. Someone has to take extra care to keep churning the waste and not to close the lid too tightly.

R. Venugopal, chairman, Tripunithura municipality, said he did not receive any complaints regarding the pipe composting units.

Tripunithura town, at present, collects two loads of waste every day from hotels and shops, which is taken to Brahmapuram.

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