Over 200 participants turned up at the Clean Chennai @Home workshop in Nungabakkam to learn about the effect that garbage has when it leaves the home, how to segregate, recycle and compost and what can be done to make the city clean.

Every Chennaiite produces around 700 grams of solid waste, on an average, every day.

“That’s 255 kg a year. A family of four therefore, produces over a tonne of waste each year,” said Srinivas Krishnaswamy, co-founder of Krya, at The Hindu’s Clean Chennai@Home workshop in Nungambakkam on Sunday.

Speaking about why garbage disposal is such a huge problem in a city like Chennai, Mr. Krishnaswamy said, “The root cause is that all types of waste are disposed of together. After waste is mixed, it is nearly impossible to segregate and so, source segregation is the only answer.” Efforts from the Chennai Corporation to implement this have not met with any success, he said.

Is what we throw away really waste? Studies have shown that over 50 per cent of waste produced in a house is compostable organic waste. Mr. Krishnaswamy said, “By composting, we reduce half of the garbage that leaves our homes while creating the black gold that is compost. Having separate bins for wet and dry waste might seem like a small step, but it is game-changing for the environment.”

Plastics are the worst offenders as they are not biodegradable or recyclable. “Even the best grade of plastic cannot be down-cycled more than four or five times. Plastic will always remain in some form, so it is best to limit our usage of it,” said Preethi Sukumaran, co-founder & CEO of Krya.

About the packaging that dals and masalas come in, she said, “Only clear plastic covers of that quality can be down-cycled. If they have been printed on, nothing can be done with them. I use such covers to close steel boxes to prevent insects from getting in.”

Composting is a mindset, the experts said. Navneeth Raghavan, a Chennai-based environment and solid waste consultant, asked the audience some tough questions about their waste disposal practices. “We use several excuses not to compost. We should look at how we can help reduce the pressure on the environment rather than blame the conservancy agencies,” she said. She also gave residents tips on best practices for composting in apartments.

“Composting takes barely ten minutes of your time each week. It is only a mindset – once practised, it will become as normal a task as brushing your teeth in the morning,” she said.

Over 200 participants participated in the workshop and listened keenly to the experts. They shared their composting experiences and many expressed their intention to start reducing their waste at home. Several insightful questions made the interactive session lively and interesting.


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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