Doubts about composting? Wonder what happens to your plastic? Here are the answers as given by our experts at the Clean Chennai @ Home workshops.

What are the benefits of composting?

It is the best way to handle organic waste at the source. By reducing the amount of waste that leaves your house, you do not contribute to the immense amount of garbage that is generated on a daily basis. Apart from this, the compost is great for your home garden or for any plants along the road.

What do I need to compost?

A terracotta pot or plastic container with a few small holes, some wet waste from the kitchen and dried leaves, sawdust, coco peat or shredded newspaper to balance out the moisture. Several organisations also sell easy methods to home compost.

What is the use of coco peat and sawdust? What role do they play?

Coco peat and sawdust can be used as dry waste in the composter instead of dry leaves. They help even out the moisture content in the composter.

Where can I get sawdust and coco peat?

Any timber mill will sell you sawdust. Coco peat is available in most nurseries.

I have a garden. Can I compost directly in the ground?

Yes, you can. To prevent rodents from getting to the waste, you can place concrete rings in the compost pit and cover it up.

Can we put meat in it?

Yes, meat, bones and eggshells can be added to the composter. They will take a longer time to turn into compost.

What about worms and insects?

Worms will definitely be present, but they are good for the composting process. They increase the speed at which the waste turns into compost. They will remain inside the pot, so there is no need to fear them.

How often does one need to compost?

Adding daily kitchen waste to a composter is great. It is best to compost as often as possible; once it is a regular activity, it will hardly take ten minutes each week.

Can composting be done in apartments?

Yes, it can be done on the balcony, terrace or any common area. All that is needed is an open space.

What do you do with the manure that's produced?

Compost can be used in home gardens, or given to a nursery. Alternately, it can be spread around the trees planted along the roads.

How long does it take for a certain mass to compost?

It takes around 60 days for a potful of kitchen waste to turn into compost.

What do I do if the waste in my composter gives a bad smell?

It probably means there is too much moisture content in the wet waste. Add some dry waste to the mix or take out the waste and make it as dry as possible before putting it back in. You can also spray some lemongrass oil mixed with water while you wait for it to dry.

Why can’t we just burn dry leaves?

While it is beneficial to burn leaves like neem to keep mosquitoes away, it is not advisable to burn the leaves of all types of trees. It is better and safer to compost them.

Wouldn't compactors help in reducing the volume of waste?

Yes, but they do not help in the long run. They also use electricity. Composting is an easier way to reuse the waste we produce. Also, when the garbage is mixed, it is inefficient to handle, Source segregation and composting at source makes more sense.

What happens to the plastics that we give to the raddiwallahs?

They become part of the down-cycling chain. Plastics given to the Corporation are used to make roads. However, even the best grade of plastic can’t be down-cycled more than four or five times. Something will always remain from plastics so it is best to limit our usage.

Workshops:

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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