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What can you do with your food waste? Turn it into rich manure, of course

Last time, we explored being responsible for our own waste through source segregation.

Segregation is simply the act of separating our waste into wet waste (food) and dry waste (paper and plastic). If we mindlessly threw all the waste mixed together into the trash can, it is impossible for the city corporation to later separate it. All that they can do is to send this rotting mixture of food, plastic and paper to a landfill to sit for an eternity. Instead, through segregation, we can create exceptional value.

There is obvious value in the plastic, paper and metal we use and discard through recycling. This may come as a surprise but your food waste, when composted, can give you the satisfaction of working with the earth, as you create rich soil that hums with the promise of new life. This rich compost can be used to grow your own food in your kitchen garden.

What is Composting and how is it done?

Composting is simply the process of breaking down organic matter (food waste) in the presence of air and water, using micro organisms and small insects that feed on it. The end product is called compost, which is rich in plant nutrients and creates healthy soil. Landfills are not the ideal environment to create compost, since food waste is made toxic by the plastic and metal waste. As more piles up like a mountain, the layers below are cut off from oxygen.

Choose a dry, covered spot in your home, like a corner of the balcony or your garden. Take a large earthen pot or a bucket and drill 4 – 5 holes around the container at different levels to let air inside.

Line the bottom with a layer of soil. Now start adding food waste in layers alternating wet waste (food scraps, vegetable and fruit peels) with dry waste (straw, sawdust, dried leaves). Cover this container with a plastic sheet or a plank of wood to help retain moisture and heat.

Every few days, use a rake to give the pile a quick turn to provide aeration. If you think the pile is too dry, sprinkle some water so that it is moist.

Within 2 - 3 months, your pile should start forming compost that is dry, dark brown and crumbly and smelling of earth. There are readymade composting kits available for those who want to overcome initial resistance to starting composting. An example is the Daily Dump composting kit (available on www.dailydump.org).

Like all new endeavours, composting requires some experimentation, research and patience. With time, it will become second nature to you. By segregating, recycling and composting, a family of four can reduce waste from 1000 kg to under 100 kg every year. By doing this, we start to become the solution instead of remaining the problem.

Composting takes experimentation, research and patience but soon it'll become second nature to you


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