Yes, we are speaking about kitchen waste.
On average, an Indian household generates nearly a kilo of organic waste every day. The natural answer to this is obvious – feed it to the plants as fertiliser. This natural solution keeps the cycle running – right in our balconies.
And there are two easy ways to get this going – composting and vermicomposting.
But before we jump to a decision, one needs to understand the functions of these methods.
The end goal of both composting and vermicomposting is to decompose organic waste and turn it into fertiliser.
While composting is a slow process that makes use of fungal and bacterial action, vermicompost accelerates the process by the use of earthworms.
Now on to the factors that should define what you choose.
It is vital to understand the waste we generate in our kitchen every day. And by that, we mean you need to list out the foodstuff that is consumed in your home regularly.
Say, for example, someone in the family loves citrus fruits – lemons, oranges etc. That means their peels are inevitably ending up in the trash.
(Although they are phenomenal face masks too. Tips here.)
Earthworms are not too fond of citrus, so if you opt for vermicompost, these peels will need to be discarded in another way.
Onions, garlic and non-vegetarian waste like bones too are difficult for the worms to digest.
But in vermicomposting, you can put wet waste like apple cores, potato peels, watermelon grinds etc. in one part of the bin until the compost starts looking dry. Then all you need to do is shift base from one part of the kit to the other part. The earthworms will take care of the rest.
Another point to consider here is how much money you are willing to spend.
A compost kit will cost you between Rs 600-900 (check it out here), but it may come without a composting bucket.
Alternately, you can buy a composting kit with a bucket which will cost you between Rs 950-1,900 (Buy it online, here).
Depending upon your waste input, you can choose to buy kits with more than one bucket too. These composting kits will kickstart your process. Once your food waste starts turning into fertiliser, you can reuse portions of it as the composting catalyst.
Vermicompost, on the other hand, can cost you anywhere up to Rs 3,000 and is a more involved process. You can find more details here.
(Though you can always upcycle old plastic boxes as kits, and get a friend to provide you with earthworms.)
How much space do you have?
One of the myths surrounding vermicomposting is that it requires ample space to function.
The reality is that this method can be started in a 2 ft x 2 ft x 2ft bin! Of course, as the input and output increases, you will have to add the number of containers to your composting project.
Composting, on the other hand, is best started on a terrace of a roof. Sunlight and natural moisture tend to quicken the process.
Technically a composting regime can be started on a kitchen counter too – provided you ensure to arrange a layer of dry organic waste (like dry leaves) over all the wet waste – to ensure the odour is trapped.
What exactly do you need?
Do you have a lush garden with dozens of plants that need fertiliser regularly? Or you are nurturing just a handful of plants and composting to manage your waste?
Such questions are critical determining factors before you choose one way or that.
We also got in touch with Shreepad Hardas, a 44-year-old Pune resident who has been composting his wet waste for a few years now.
Explaining the infrastructure one needs for either method, he says, “For composting, one can have an enclosed yet ventilated container made of polymer. The container should allow you to easily stir up the material periodically (every other day or so). One can reuse (with due diligence) old plastic drums that are available for cheap from industrial chemical shops. Vermicompost also needs similar containers, but for ease of handling, we can have a porous partition. We need to remember that worms are living things. They need air and water in the right quantities. They have their predators like birds and rats, hence, need protection.”
“Composting takes anywhere from two months to over six months (depending on the type of waste and method) to get useful output. In vermicomposting, the worms can start feeding on your partial/full compost and keep giving output. If a person needs a faster conversion of waste to useable manure, he can opt for vermicompost, but, with an understanding of how to keep the worms happy and increasing,” Shreepad elaborates.
Once you consider all these factors, it is time to start a trial. You may encounter particular challenges initially- ants that attack earthworms or a stinking composting kit.
But no child learns to walk without falling and similarly, you will get the hang of it too.
As a cheat sheet, we have created a short table of every factor that comes into play in either method.
Made a decision already? Here, learn how to take up composting and vermicomposting:
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)