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Bin there. Done it?

Wondering how to dispose your garbage? HEMA VIJAY catches up with some Chennai residents who have innovative solutions

Photo: K. Pichumani

NOT A WASTE Navneeth with her painted mural garbage disposal pots

There are some people so possessive of their garbage they will not let too much of it move out of their homes! More seriously, these Chennai residents manage their organic garbage right at home, showing us how easy it can be.

All of us do sell our paper and glass wastes to the paperwala, but we don’t do much about our organic garbage, which actually forms the bulk of the garbage load. Composted, organic garbage gets reduced to a tiny fraction of its original volume. The first step is to stop dumping garbage into one common bin that the wastepaper drips revoltingly with yesterday’s sambar. Use separate bins for organic and inorganic waste (paper, glass, etc), and compost the organic waste; it’s easy, and even non-messy, these pioneers show.

The daily dump

Developed by Poonam Bir Kasturi of Bangalore, the compact and ethnic looking terracotta composter ‘Kambha’ is a godsend for individuals who want to do their bit for the environment, but do not have a lot of space. “You can keep it in a corner of your kitchen, balcony or landing outside the main door; it is not smelly and won’t attract flies”, says Navneeth Raghavan, who has been spreading the word about the concept in Chennai.

The Kambha has a top urn with a lid, where she dumps organic garbage. To aid the composting, Navneeth adds some dry composting inoculum. “In a normal household, it takes about two months for the urn to become three quarters full, as organic garbage dries up and reduces in volume inside the kambha. Then, shift this urn to the middle tier, keep the middle urn on top and add organic garbage into it. In about three months, organic manure will start falling into the bottom-most urn,” Navneeth explains. You can get the Kambha and the inoculum from Navneeth Raghavan (98400 82607).

The outdoor bin

For people who have more space outside their homes and a lot of garden waste to dispose of, Rajan Phillip’s outdoor compost bin will come in handy. A simple contraption, this three-feet and nine inches tall bin has a small 10-inch gap at the bottom for manure to fall out from. Held above ground by supports, it is protected from the rain by an overhead shed or a sheet that can be lifted off. “Now, dump organic garbage into it from the top; occasionally, add a little soil (to provide the bacteria) and keep it 60 per cent wet (the wetness of a squeezed sponge),” Rajan suggests. Coconut waste cannot be composted this way; dry it and use as fuel for traditional chulhas or boilers.

You can start taking out manure from the hole at the bin-bottom from 2 weeks to 3 months onwards. To maintain wetness of the mixture in summer, sprinkle water. Add a little cow dung, if composting seems delayed. If you detect bad smell, add some dry soil which filters the smell. You can fashion this bin in your own home, and Rajan Phillip is willing to share his expertise. He can be contacted at 2621 4023 before 9 a.m. or after 9.p.m.

Or like A. M. Malathi, you can take the help of some earthworms. “Vermicompost will not attract flies or mosquitoes as these insects prefer cooler material,” Malathi says. She dumps her organic garbage in a terracotta/cement/plastic container with a one-inch hole at the bottom, adding cow dung or sour butter milk occasionally. “When full, rake it, close it, and keep in a shady place. After about 35 days (in summer) and 50 days (in winter), the garbage would have turned powdery black. Spread it and let it cool for a day, and then put it back into the container. Now introduce earth worms (20 worms for a twenty one inch flower pot) and sprinkle water occasionally to keep it a little wet. Your manure is now ready”, she says. Malathi (93810 52277) is willing to give both earthworms and advise regarding vermiculture.

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Plastic bags handed out in shops and malls are mostly nondegradable, toxic, and clutter up our cupboards and cities. "It is simpler to say no to plastic bags rather than worry about disposing them of," says home maker Mallini Mukund, who makes it a point to take netted zip bags in her trendy jute shopping bag whenever she goes shopping for vegetables or any other stuff. If done by more of us, we could avoid lorry loads of plastic litter, everyday.

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Smelly streets?

Compost your organic garbage even if you don’t grow plants. You may use it, throw, sell or gift it, but would nevertheless save your street from becoming a smelly eyesore. Garbage management is not just a civic process. It is an attitude that defines your commitment to leaving behind a safe earth for your kids to live on. Like Mallini says, “It is not enough if we leave behind wealth for our kids, they need a non-toxic place to live in too.”

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