Over the past few weeks, The Hindu’s Clean Chennai drive has prompted residents to get started on eco-friendly practices. During the campaign, Apoorva Sripathi and Susanna Myrtle Lazarus meet four women who have already adopted them
A trash-free dustbin gives Charitra Parthasarathy a sense of achievement. “You feel incredible when you look at your dustbin and see no waste at all,” says this 29-year-old freelance TV journalist.
It started a year ago when she purchased a khamba pot from her friend and decided to begin composting. After a couple of months Charitra moved to source segregation and now has managed to get a good amount of manure for her plants.
“Composting does require effort. I collect my vegetable and organic waste and dump it into the khamba, stir it once in 3-4 days and add a teaspoon of compost microbes to help the entire decomposition process,” Charitra explains. She also makes sure that the khamba is placed in a corner away from water and pets.
After segregation, Charitra and her husband then moved to recycling. They culled out a small corner in their home, threw in a couple of cardboard boxes and started segregating at source. “More than anything, it's great to discard old batteries and e-waste this way. Chennai has a few organisations like kuppathotti.com that will come and collect all sorts of waste from your home periodically,” Charitra says.
Perhaps what she is most proud of is her zero-garbage home and that she influenced two other couples to start composting at home. As her colony has around 100 houses, Charitra plans to start a door-to-door campaign to encourage the others into an eco-friendly living.
Meet Adyar resident Radhika Rammohan, who has been composting and conscientiously following source segregation of waste for around 15 years, even before she moved to Chennai.
But the more important practice she has tried to implement is reducing the amount of stuff that enters the house. And how does she do this? “I take containers and my own bags when I go grocery shopping. Very rarely do I buy anything with too much packaging. I prefer products that come in plain plastic covers over those that come in printed covers. These are easier to reuse and recycle,” says Radhika.
The most unique thing about her recycling is the way she discards plastic and milk covers, aluminium, cardboard and wood waste. These are collected separately and washed and cleaned and each month, are given directly to a rag-picker.
Radhika explains, “They do a great service to the society, and with no appreciation. I just want to save them the task of digging through rubbish. They deserve the money they can get from selling it to the raddiwallah.”
Speaking about composting, she says, “At our home, we do it on a very simple basis. We live in an independent house in Adyar so we’re fortunate enough to have a compost pit in our garden.” She adds dried leaves from around the garden along with kitchen waste like vegetable peels and tea leaves. Radhika adds, “It would probably compost faster if we churned the mix more frequently, but every couple of months we remove the mulch from the bottom of the pit and use it for the other plants in the garden.” Radhika is one of the founders of the not-for-profit organic store reStore.
It was a story in The Hindu six or seven years ago that brought composting to Sowmya Mahadevan’s attention. “I read about the composters, and it seemed a shame that not many people were using it. So I bought one for myself and started composting,” she says.
A former software engineer who has now taken a break to raise her second child, Sowmya began with the apartment complex where she used to live. “While I lived there, it was quite successful. Community composting for the 20 people who lived in the complex went on for two to three years, but has stopped now,” says Sowmya. However, she has continued composting in her new house as well.
Apart from this, she has also become a clone for the dailydump.org and helps people set up their own composting units at home. She says, “I do what I can at my level by spreading the word. I also try to reduce the waste that leaves my house; it is only things like diapers that cannot be recycled or composted that are thrown out.”
Forty-six-year-old special educator Meenakshi Sriram has been into source segregation for 6-8 months now. “It all started with our NGO Samriddhi Foundation. Soon I plan to take this up for the entire area of T. Nagar,” Meenakshi says.
According to Meenakshi, the method is very simple. “I have three terracotta buckets for segregation. One is for organic waste (kitchen waste and food), one for plastics (PET bottles, aluminium foil) and the third for waste that neither be recycled nor be used for composting (sanitary napkins, cloth).” She gets a neighbourhood scrap dealer to pick the waste up.
Since she has been doing this only for a short while at home, Meenakshi hasn’t collected a large amount of compost. “Whatever little I do collect goes to my bottle gourd plant,” she exclaims.
With four members in her family, does she find it difficult to get them segregate by the rules? “My husband and I sincerely follow the routine. My children however are just getting used to it. We also keep telling them to take a look at what they’re throwing and where.” Meenakshi has also taught her servants to segregate the waste usingkhamba. Meenakshi and her husband have conducted awareness workshops at Srinagar Colony, Saidapet and parts of T. Nagar. They have also conducted a workshop at Karaikal. She praises the Chennai Corporation for their help as well.
Pdfs of presentations made at Clean Chennai @ Home workshops in Adyar (Sep 7) and Nungambakkam (Sep 8)
Composting by Navneeth Raghavan
Garbage segregation by Navneeth Raghavan
Managing garbage effectively by Srinivas Krishnaswamy & Preethi Sukumaran
Here is a quick guide to start composting and recycling: http://thne.ws/cc-fridgesheet
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Keywords: CleanChennai @Home workshop, waste management, Clean Chennai campaign, Chennai garbage disposal, Chennai solid waste management, my chennai my right campaign, source segregation, Charitra Parthasarathy, Sowmya Mahadevan, Meenakshi Sriram, Radhika Rammohan