Our garbage problems have become so big that TS Eliot’s famous poem, The Wasteland, could well be taken literally. As plastic sinks into oceans and landfills are choked with sanitary waste, it’s time to take responsibility for our waste and pave way for solutions. While authorities struggle with the vast amount of garbage generated daily, citizen action can go a long way in effective waste management.
Composting is one of the simplest ways of contributing positively to waste management, and one you can easily do at home.
Homemade compost for kitchen gardens. Image source: Pixabay
Before we go further, what is composting? It is the process of creating compost — decayed organic matter that can be used as manure in farms and gardens. While large-scale composting is undertaken by municipal authorities, it is also extremely simple to execute at home.
Many urban dwellers are hesitant to try their hand at composting primarily due to the lack of space in contemporary homes and apartments. Terraces barely hold a patch of green and a garden is a real luxury. There are also questions about odour, bugs and worms, all of which contribute to making composting seem far more complex than it really is.
If you are planning to take your first steps towards composting, here’s what you have to do.
Get a container
An indoor composting container by Eco Bin. Source: Facebook
If you are absolutely new to composting, a ready compost container will ease the preparatory process. Try aerobic composting (decomposition of organic matter via microorganisms that require oxygen) with Orbin or try Eco Bin, which incorporates Bokashi, an anaerobic Japanese method of composting.
Vijay Satish, head of business operations at Eco Bin, says, “Composting requires favourable weather conditions, and the Bokashi process is temperature-controlled. The Bokashi juice derived from the composting process enhances soil conditions greatly. Most of our users are organic farming enthusiasts
For DIY-loving waste managers, there’s always the option of creating your own bin. Pick a mid-sized to big bin — preferably with a lid — so that you can keep adding food waste and organic matter over a longer period. Drill a few holes around the container to allow air circulation. Line the lid with newspapers or add a filter to keep bugs and odour at bay.
Find your space
Indoor composting. Source: Flickr
The best places to start composting are outdoor spaces, like your terrace or roof. With sunlight and natural moisture, the compost pit is likely to function more efficiently.
When you are really strapped for space, the easiest place to start is your kitchen. Countertop composting can be started on your tabletop or sink, which in turn can be given to your local composting authorities or used as plant nutrients.
Contrary to popular opinion, having a composting unit close to your household’s rooms is no issue at all. Sheela Shah who manages Waste Wise Bangalore with her son Viren and drives waste management initiatives in her community throws light on her own experiences. “My composting unit (incidentally, a plain plastic bucket) is set up in my balcony. People sometimes worry about maggots in such units making their way into the house, but we have never faced such issues. Nor have our neighbours or guests complained,” she says.
Gather your waste
Compostable waste. Source: Pixabay
The right ingredients are crucial to the success of your composting efforts. While the difference between wet and dry wastes have been established to some extent, many are still not aware of what kind of food waste goes into a compost bin. Raw foods and peels are ideal — bones, dairy, rice and wheat products can take longer to decompose and sometimes attract bugs. Uncoated paper can be added to compost bins too.
Layer your food waste with cocopeat or dry organic waste such as leaves and sawdust (from natural wood only). The cocopeat helps with enhancing the nutrient value, as do dry leaves. These can also help with odour control.
You can also use ready-to-use kits, made available by waste management startups like Daily Dump (which also offers earthenware composting containers) or local composting organisations.
Maintaining your compost bin
Image source: Flickr
An average family of four yields approximately half a kilo of food waste every day, all ready materials for a compost bin. It is an organic process and easier than you think.
“The first day may seem time-consuming, but once you get used to it, composting is as easy as making your daily cup of tea,” says Sheela. I have made it a habit to add our waste to the bin every morning, covering it with two handfuls of cocopeat and dry leaves. You can leave it as it is and go about your work and daily activities. You can even go travelling without having to worry about the bin.”
Anaerobic processes like Bokashi allow fermentation in a more controlled environment and are even simpler.
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It can take a few weeks or even up to three months for composting to show results. You will get a dark, earthy, crumbling mess that can be used as fertilizer for your very own garden — or make for a conscious gift for green-thumbed family members and friends. As Sheela puts it, composting takes some getting used to but it is an incredibly rewarding experience.