The author answers a few FAQs on composting
Sometime in 2009, Savita Hiremath, a Bengaluru-based journalist, started reading about solid waste management. Two years later, she formed a zero-waste community in her neighbourhood. She then started talking and blogging about waste management. Her research on the subject continued, too, as she spoke to experts — within and outside India. She has distilled the knowledge and experience gained over a decade into a book, Endlessly Green (Simon & Schuster), hoping to widen the waste management community in India.
Savita’s waste management evangelism is not an outcome of an epiphany. She grew up watching her mother practising a zero-waste way of life much before it became a fad among the urban upper-class. It was the memories of her mother, who passed on after battling cancer, that inspired her to practice and propagate this lifestyle. She also gets philosophical about waste in her book: observing our trash cans, she writes, can offer an insight of our life.
But where does one start? Here is Savita answering that and a few other FAQs:-
Where does one start with waste management?
You start at the home level before moving to a community level. My book is mainly for a volunteer at a community level. There are enough inputs for someone who wants to start at the home level as well. There are thousands of apartments across India. Even if we manage to implement 70 to 80 % of the recommended solutions, we can contain a significant amount of pollution. Once our kitchen waste is sent to landfills, it emits a lot of greenhouse gases.
Does one need expensive waste-baskets or containers for composting?
No. You can use even a discarded paint bucket for composting. It does not have to be fancy, especially at a home level because the quantity of waste will be very small. And, it is simple. You have a few ingredients, which you need to mix with the kitchen waste and composting happens without any hassle.
How expensive is this process?
You might need to spend about Rs 2,000 for a plastic composting kit and every month you will need about ₹150 to get the ingredients for composting. You get a return on investment as you can use the compost to grow your plants.
Is it a time-consuming and messy process?
No, it is not. You will not have to spend more than a minute extra on this per day. And, it does not produce a bad odour. Segregation happens easily. (Savita suggests a three-bin segregation method in her book: a) kitchen waste b) dry waste and recyclables c) sanitary and hazardous waste). Instead of throwing kitchen waste into the bin, you are now using a composting kit. Then, you need to buy a bulking material such as cocopeat, which is easily available. And, just follow the procedure.
What are some of the things that you can and cannot put in a compost heap?
Whatever that lived once can be composted. At the home level, we tell people not to put coconut shells and paper as both take a long time to break down. Other than these, you can process pretty much everything else. Even non-vegetarian leftovers and dairy leftovers are nutritious and will not produce even a whiff of bad odour.
What are its benefits?
First I see it as an ethical practice. Just by segregating waste and composting, you are taking care of 90% of the waste produced at home. This will considerably reduce the landfill burden. Second, when you start composting your kitchen waste, you take to growing your food that you know is safe and free of harmful chemicals. Third, it is beautiful to see something that you have been discarding transform into something useful in the composting kit.
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