Everyday kitchen and garden waste can be recycled judiciously with a little effort. It can also pay rich dividends, some experiments in the city show.

The Chennai Corporation has offered assistance to large apartment complexes by offering to collect non-biodegradable waste and excess manure.

In poorer neighbourhoods, the civic body distributed coloured bins but residents do not segregate waste as there is no compulsion to do so, they say.

Those who do segregate waste are often rewarded. For instance, Asiana Flat Owners Association in Venus Colony, Alwarpet, is reaping the benefits of source segregation. The complex has 175 apartments, and every year there are at least eight to 10 new entrants, says manager K.V. Ananthakrishna Iyer. Six women segregate waste collected from the flats. They work two hours to separate plastics and non-biodegradables from household waste.

The apartment has built a composting shed with four compartments to collect biodegradable kitchen (vegetable) and garden waste. Meat and other non-biodegradable waste, leftover cooked food, medical waste and glass and sharps are disposed off separately.

The 2.25 acre complex has a green oasis, the manure for which comes from the apartment's composting yard. “Meat could invite rodents and spicy food creates a film of oil over waste preventing its easy degradation,” says R.Ramanathan, a resident of the complex for the last 13 years. Although the effort was started five years ago, the association members continue to educate the residents. A fine is imposed on those who violate the rules of disposal or forget to leave their garbage for collection. And violations are not a rarity, they admit.

While a “corporate approach” has worked well for the apartment complex, enthusing students to participate has helped D G Vaishnav College to manage its waste for the past 18 months. What started as a simple compost pit in a vacant land behind the college has now evolved into Rs.4.5-lakh vermicompost shed which not only generates manure for vegetables from the college for its canteen but also gets small returns for the conservancy staff. “When the NSS volunteers were trained to conduct an audit and they were enthused to take up the project,” says M.Veliappan, Programme Officer, Exnora International, T. Nagar.

The project began with collecting canteen waste and teaching the students to drop waste in dustbins. The college conservancy staff segregates the waste. When the college built a shed for vermicomposting, Mr. Veliappan's effort paid off. “The college has developed a garden and a banana grove. We get around 100 to 150 kg of biodegradable waste and the compost is used for trees in the campus,” he says. Paper, plastic, laboratory waste, bottles and packing material from the college are segregated and disposed of by the conservancy staff, who share the proceeds among themselves.

The Madras Institute of Technology, Chromepet, is also building compost sheds, Mr. Veliappan says.

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R. SujathaJune 28, 2012