Composting can save the city

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Make it a routine and ensure that bio-degradable products are not packed off in plastic bags, says SATHYA PRAKASH VARANASHI

All living beings on the land come from soil and finally return to soil, a simple rule of nature that has ensured a balanced ecological cycle for millions of years. While the right kind of composition of all constituent ingredients of an object brings it to life, the decomposition of these ingredients leads to decay and death of the material.

Composting is a biological term for this act of decomposing, which happens everyday to all bio-degradable material such as vegetables, fruits, cooked food, cotton, timber, leafy matters with cellulose, meat and other animal products. As human beings, if we can ensure this process, we are contributing to the cycle of nature. If not, we are the villains breaking this cycle.

If we walk into rural settings, natural materials rotting and decaying all around us is a common sight. We may scoff at it, but in reality it is a far healthier process than having non-biodegradable waste like plastics and other manufactured material floating around. In villages, the bio-waste gets decomposed in the open with smells and flies; hence we tend to think of composting itself as a disease-causing activity, which is not at all true. Incidentally, it is possible to let the decay happen in a regulated way, without emanating any smell or fearing ill health, but instead collecting rich garden manure as the end product.

Urban dwellers tend to wring their hands in despair when we discuss solid waste disposal, saying it needs to be solved by the collective system, that an individual family can do nothing.

But individual families can do something. Besides generating less waste, we can recycle all bio-degradable materials into compost, reduce the burden on the city in disposing this waste, and turn it instead into a value-added product. In an urban set-up, one to two kilos of solid biodegradable waste are generated every day by an average family. This is a heavy burden on the city administration, but it can be easily composted even in a small apartment, and definitely in an independent building.

Organic matters, primarily leftover cooked items in our own homes, should be kept separately and put into the composting bin or pit if we have land. It is such a simple daily activity and after a few weeks it becomes routine. Occasionally, turn the waste around, add culture media to speed up the composting activity if desired, and wait for the required weeks — the compost is ready.

With more than half the volume of bio-waste being water, the dampness reduces, volume shrinks, and the waste compresses as days pass by. Every day a kilo of waste might sound high, but it requires less than 4 sq. ft. of floor area for composting it.

Home composting gives us the joy of being close to nature and the activity has a feel-good factor that we can talk about. It only requires further study, understanding of the concept and appropriate application.

(The writer is an architect working for eco-friendly designs and can be contacted

Since we see bio-waste being decomposed in the open with smells and flies; we tend to think of composting itself as disease-causing. This is not

at all true.



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