Are you worried about the growing mountains of landfills all around Delhi? Do you feel the need to make a difference for the environment in which you live but are not sure what to do? Don’t worry, we have got you covered this World Environment Day! And we bring to you an environment friendly lifestyle change you can make without leaving the comforts of your home!
An urban Indian citizen produces approximately 700 grams of solid waste per day. Most of this is wet or organic waste and can be easily composted if segregated and kept separately. However, due to mixing of degradable and non-degradable garbage all of this potentially useful wet waste ends up in the landfills without decomposing.
We, as environmentally conscious citizens, can easily make compost at home and turn our kitchen waste into BLACK GOLD! This will also divert garbage from the landfills and the segregated recyclables like bottles, paper, metals can be easily put back in the production cycle. Thus, segregation of waste and composting of wet waste at home takes us many steps forward towards living a Zero-waste lifestyle. It is now also the mandate of the Government that each household begins segregating and composting its waste.
Before we begin talking about composting in the Indian household, let us first get rid of an old myth. And that is, no matter how much someone tells you this, know that compost is not smelly!
Affordable composting practices are very easy to begin with in India due to easy availability of earthen-ware pots. These pots are really cheap for beginners. You can also dig a pit if you own a backyard and start composting or even use an old bucket to begin with.
As more and more people live in confined spaces like apartments, out of the various composting methods, the aerobic or hot composting method is the easiest and most affordable way to begin with.
What is Composting?
Composting is a simple method of breaking down organic matter or what we call food/ kitchen waste in the presence of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and water. The end result attained by such a practice is known as compost or black gold, and is rich in plant nutrients, providing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to the soil when added to it.
Conditions Required for Composting
- CARBON which comes from the browns such as dried leaves, wood, cardboard, paper.
- NITROGEN from the greens namely vegetable and fruit peels, coffee grounds, tea leaves.
- OXYGEN from airing out the pile.
How to Start Composting at Home?
Start with assembling your affordable composting unit. Head out to the earthen-ware market and buy 2-3 large mouthed earthen pots commonly called matka (as they are readily available in India at cheap price). Ask the potter to drill 6-7 equidistant holes on the body of the pot and 1 hole at the bottom.
When you add kitchen waste in the earthen pot, it will release a liquid called leachate since the kitchen waste has high-water content. This needs to be collected at the base, hence, mount your pot on a small clay bowl or an old tyre. Finally, cover your pot with a lid. Secure the composting unit in a corner on the terrace or balcony and you are all set to start composting.
Segregation is the key to proper waste management. So before you do anything else, make and maintain three dustbins in your home:
- One for wet waste or greens
- One for the browns or dry waste
- One for all the recyclable and non-degradable waste (this can be given to the waste pickers )
Composting is essentially easy and done in layers of browns and greens and hence you need to know them correctly.
The Browns: Carbon Rich Minerals
- Dried leaves
- Wood clippings and twigs
- Shredded paper
- Dried grass
- Cardboard egg cartons
- Tissue papers
The Greens: Nitrogen Rich Materials
- Vegetable and fruit peels
- Egg shells
- Coffee grounds
- Tea leaves
- Green grass clipping and green leaves
The composting process as basically a layering method of two ingredients – the carbon and nitrogen – the key is to know how much of each should be layered. The browns are predominantly carbon and the greens are predominantly nitrogen. For composting you need an approximate mix of both in equal ratios to create a healthy pile.
The other two ingredients needed in the pile are oxygen, provided by the holes in the pot and water, which can be sprayed by you into the pile.
What are Some Absolute No No’s in the Pile
- Meat, dairy, fish or bones
- Animal poop
- Any synthetic material
Steps to Start Composting
- Set up your pot on a base.
- Layer the inside bottom of the pot with newspaper.
- Add a thin layer of soil at the bottom.
- Put in and layer the greens for the day (your wet waste).
- Next layer the browns for the day, all of your dry waste.
- Cover all of the wet waste properly with dry waste, and make sure you layer enough browns over the greens each day as wet waste rots faster as it contains more moisture. Dry waste absorbs the moisture and the nasty smell produced by the wet waste. If this layering is not done properly your compost will start to smell and attract unwanted insects.
- Repeat the same layering process every day until the container is full.
- Turn and rotate you pile once a week using a spoon or trowel.
- If your pile is too dry you can sprinkle some water, or if it gets too watery and soggy add more browns to the pile.
When the first pot fills up start with the second pot and place it on top of the first one, when the second is done top it up with the third. Don’t add any new waste to the older filled pots, you can check it once in a while for rotating the compost and the compost will be ready in approximately 45 days, plus minus a few weeks according to the weather and heat provided to the pile.
It takes longer to harvest the compost in winters than in summers. Though it is advised not to include cooked food using high content of oils to cook but you can experiment by adding the cooked food leftovers and covering them with an extra amount of browns.
Your compost will attract flies, ants and some other insects but don’t worry they are a boon for the pile and will help break it down further. Composting is like meditation and helps make a routine for you along with providing the satisfaction that you are helping the environment by a simple lifestyle change.
Composting should be made a community practice and more and more communities should start doing it. This will provide good nutritious compost for nearby plants, reduce waste going to the landfill and help the waste pickers to get recyclable material pre-segregated. So, let us pledge on this Environment Day to make a conscious choice and start this environment- friendly practice.