Solachi Subramanian says vermicomposting must be made compulsory

Homemaker Solachi Subramanian always segregated waste. She put away plastic wrappers, milk covers and polythene covers separately. Newspapers, unwanted correspondence, remnants of envelopes and shreds of paper were set aside too. Still, she continued sending a sizeable quantity of waste to the Corporation dump.

The idea of reducing even that struck her when her son came back with a school project about vermicompost. She read up on it and realised that almost all her kitchen waste could be effectively used. Soon, she had a healthy number of earthworms in an unused plastic bin and enough manure to sprinkle over the many plants in her rented house in Bharathi Park Road.

Every day, as she cuts vegetables for cooking, she sets out the waste separately for the worms. Even those, she cuts into little bits so that the worms can work their way through them faster. The only things that don’t go into the bin are onion peel and garlic. The worms apparently don’t fancy them. “They love baby corn and the peel, though. So, I chop them coarsely for a rare treat,” she says.

Seeing Solachi’s bin, you know that a vermicompost bin does not need too much space. And that even when kept just outside the kitchen, it does not give off any offensive smell. Solachi, with active help from son S. Keshavan, who is in Class II, turns the contents of the bin every two days. Her son proudly points out to some long, plump red-brown worms. “They were tiny when I introduced them into the bin. They grow and multiply really fast,” says Solachi.

Soon, she transferred some of them to a larger concrete ring under a coconut tree. There, the worms gorged on coconut husk, wet cardboard… and nourished the small flowering plants in the ring. When it is time to remove the vermicompost, Solachi stops watering the bin for a couple of days. The worms retreat to the moist bottom and she scoops out the dark brown-black compost on top for her plants.

“I think vermicomposting must be made compulsory, like rain water harvesting. And, garbage collectors must refuse to accept vegetable waste. Only then will we see change,” she says. Solachi regularly speaks about the benefits of vermicomposting to her friends.

She has since moved house and left the worms behind.