For more than five years now, St. Thomas Mount-cum-Pallavaram Cantonment Board has been converting a huge quantity of kitchen waste into manure, while most other local bodies in the city’s suburbs seem to have their lost way in tackling biodegradable waste.

Due to effective implementation of provisions spelt out in Solid Waste Management Rules, 2000, the local body is able to prevent close to 3 tonnes of garbage from entering its dumping yard every day.

Further, kitchen waste is converted into high-quality organic manure through vermin-composting at four places in the Cantonment.

A variety of earthworm native to Africa is used in the vermin-composting process. “For converting municipal solid waste, we have found that Eudrilus eugeniae is much better than the ones naturally found in farmlands around Chennai,” said Shiva Krishnamurthy, senior project director, Hand in Hand, the non-governmental organisation that is helping Cantonment Board in its solid waste management project.

A longer life, faster multiplication and ability to digest kitchen waste faster were the reasons this variety of earthworm was preferred. They are procured from farms in Vedanthangal, Cuddalore and Puducherry.

In the process, each month, the Board is able to generate close to 2 tonnes of manure, which is sold at Rs. 10 per kg. “What we earn from the sales of the manure is negligible, but we are able to reduce a significant amount of garbage from entering our dumping yard,” said S. Prabhakaran, chief executive officer of the Board.

Source segregation is ensured in the 14,500 households and this has also eliminated dumping of waste in public places and subsequent complaints from residents.

Of the 9 tonnes generated everyday, 3 tonnes comprise kitchen waste, recyclable plastic and paper waste in equal measure, said staff.

The 120 workers engaged in primary collection sell the plastic waste they collect, earning additional income of Rs. 50 a day. There are plans to create kitchen gardens in each of the four sheds where vermin-composting is undertaken, the staff said.

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