Chennai

A potted history of home composting

Navneeth Raghavan with her khamba pots

Navneeth Raghavan with her khamba pots   | Photo Credit: R_RAVINDRAN

Nine years ago, it started in Chennai with the entry of khamba pots. Since then, the movement has been assuming new shapes and character

Before transferring the responsibility of maintaining a gated community in Perungalathur to its newly-formed residents’ association, the TVS Group presented the 445 families living there with a gift. Can you guess what it was? Six aagas.

Aagas are big plastic pots that lend themselves to composting work. The aagas presented to the community can together hold 500 kg of perishable waste.

Today, TVS Green Hills, as the gated community is known, carries around 50 to 60 kilos of bio-degradable waste from every household to its composting area.

These aagas are contributing to home-composting, which has been quietly assuming the character of a movement.

It all started nine years ago, when the khambas made an entry.

Three-layered terracotta pots, khambas were an instant hit with many residents. They pots made the notion of composting at home, attractive.In 2008, Navneeth Raghavan, one of the early Daily Dump ‘clones’ in Chennai, started retailing the terracotta pots. According to Navneeth, nobody else was selling these pots. (Daily Dump is a Bangalore-based firm offering a range of home composting products).

“I sold 10 to 20 of these terracotta pots, every month,” she recalls.

Now, from multi-storey apartments to temples, she has a wide clientele. Over the last three years, Chennai has witnessed the establishment of six to eight outlets selling Daily Dump products.

“All these outlets together would be selling around 100 khambas a month,” she says, adding that many are looking at these pots as a gifting option.

Ashivta, another Daily Dump retailer with outlets at Alwarpet and Besant Nagar, says they have a long-term relationship with their buyers.

“You have customers coming to pick microbes, remix powder and other items needed to decompose the waste,” says Sruti Harihara Subramanian, founder, Goli Soda.

On the growing popularity of these products, she says, “Once a customer wanted us to showcase our composting products at a kitty party.”

From delivering the products at the clients’ doorsteps to training them to harvest the compost, these stores offer customised service.

“We handhold a new client for three months till they are confident of managing it on their own,” says Navneeth.

In the last few years, many outlets selling garden and landscape products have started to retail compost pots. Spaces Garden at Ayanavaram, for instance, sells two to three compost pots every month. This may be a small number, but they have created an awareness about this composting prop. People are enquiring about it, says Paul Joshua, a staff at the shop.

The pots at this store are priced from ₹ 1,200 onwards.

Segregation is one of the first steps towards composting. Some residents wonder if it is worthwhile spending ₹2,500 on a khamba? An aaga costs even more.

Mangalam Balasubramanian, the founder of Exnora Pammal, who recently started retailing Daily Dump products, says at Thiruvottiyur, where she is working with 3,000 families, 100 households are using khambas that were made available to them through a CSR initiative.

“People can use flower pots, drums or even khambas depending on their budget,” says Mangalam, adding that a khamba is a “one-time investment”.

“Let’s reduce the amount of waste going to the landfills. That’s the only way to save the earth.”

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 4:32:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/a-potted-history-of-home-composting/article18391592.ece

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