It is the simplest way of dealing with organic waste we generate. The challenge was about bringing it into the urban context, along with ease and convenience, so that it can be accepted and adopted by many.
As we started looking at household waste, we discovered that organic waste was 60-65% of the total waste we generate and composting is the simplest way of dealing with it. It needs the rigour of segregation at source, a dedicated set up and nature takes care of the rest.
At the beginning we realized that here was this age-old solution to deal with the problem and more importantly, a way of becoming independent of the erratic collection systems, mixed waste and landfills.
However, what needed to be addressed was how to make this more mainstream and acceptable to all. Should it be through Law, Behavioural change, Convenience or all of it.
What is it?
Composting is the natural process of decomposition of organic matter to produce a nutrient-rich soil conditioner called compost. There are 2 types of Composting: Aerobic Composting and Anaerobic Composting.
In Aerobic composting, browns like dry leaves or cocopeat are added to kitchen waste and decomposition occurs in the presence of air. Important to cut the kitchen waste to small pieces, and add an accelerator like sour buttermilk or comosting microbes to fasten the process.
In Anaerobic Composting (also called the Bokashi method) decomposition occurs in the absence of oxygen. Bokashi powder is added to kitchen waste and allowed to ferment and form a pickle. After 3 weeks the pickle is layered with old compost/cocopeat in an aerobic condition to get compost.
How Composting became mainstream?
Information on the role of composting, dispelling the myths surrounding composting in an easy, non-technical way has been one of our major successes. Thanks to the simple, DIY (Do-It-Yourself) methods of showcasing by our inhouse composting evangelists, we have been able to reach out, influence people, and bring the change.
The practical reviews of the various market products in the real home setting, carried out on social media, is a unique ongoing activity. The day wise tracking of the progress and the final outcome builds confidence with the viewers and inspires many to start composting. The proof has been in the growing numbers of citizens composting and the composting solutions available in the market.
What started as a waste management activity has moved to promoting ‘growing safe food’ from compost, thus bringing out the holistic nature of the activity. It has stepped up to becoming a way of life.
How to achieve it ?
We can look at Composting at different levels
Home Composting | Residential Community Composting | Large Scale Commercial Composting
One of the exciting breakthroughs in the journey has been the shift and widespread acceptance of home composting.
The ‘Swachagraha – Start a Green Spot’ campaign has played a major role in the adoption of home composting across the city. Many simple DIY (Do-It-Yourself) methods and vendor solutions were showcased at corporate, communities, institutions and public events.
You can read more about the campaign on our website www.swachagraha.in
Residential Community Composting:
Individual attempts at in-situ composting in apartments like Brigade Regency, NGV, Brigade Millennium in 2008, brought in a lot of learning and confidence
On what types of composting work in closed loop urban set ups
How to utilize housekeeping and other building resources in achieving the same
The role of Management Committees in facilitating composting set ups in the apartment complexes
The role of builders in providing facilities
And most important the economics needed to get Management Committees to agree to the Capex and Opex .
Large Scale Composting in a Commercial Setup:
Working towards the compliance of the Air and Water Act, we could carry out in-situ composting in all large facilities. As an experiment, we facilitated composting within a Mall. This gave us the confidence to recommend this solution even for large commercial setup like Tech Parks, Mall, Office Complexes etc
With the close engagement in this process, the takeaway has been that it is still an ongoing process with learnings and improvements, not just for the implementing stakeholders (individuals, communities, commercial complexes) but also for the solution providers. One of the objectives have been to create a robust market place with composting solutions to suit varying scale and size.
Important Drivers identified for large scale adoption of Composting
1. Quality Standards
Only those Solution providers who have the ISI mark (IS 16556 : 2016 Municipal Solid Waste Compost, Manure Grade – Specification)( MSW Compost, Garden Grade- Specification) provided by the Bureau of Indian Standards on the compost produced by their product ( under production / factory conditions) should be considered as approved to install in situ and community solutions with Bulk Generators and in the Ward.
2. Introduce Compost Buy-back Policy or Facilitate Farmer Connect
Where the solution provider does not buy back the compost, authorized agencies should be buy back compost from such ISI solutions directly from the Community.
Municipal Horticulture department should be mandated to use the compost in its landscaping activity.
Farmers should be incentivized to pick up and use the compost in their farms. Facilitating agencies bearing the cost of collection will incentivize the farmer connect.
3. Incentives for various categories
Bulk Generators – Waiver of the SWM cess based on Property tax to Bulk Generators
Individual Generators - GST exemption on composting products , to reduce the price of the composting products
Ward Community Solutions - Tax holidays to Solution providers to set up medium size organic waste solutions (over 500 kgs upto 20TPD)
Current Status in Bengaluru
Home Composting and Community Composting is widely adopted in Bengaluru. Today we have 20+ solutions for individual composting and community composting. All these are displayed at Swacha Graha Kalika Kendra in HSR Layout. It is a composting and growing learning center where citizens, officials and students can come, see and learn all about composting, growing and sustainable waste management.
SwachaGraha Compost Connect is is a one of kind experiment initiated towards connecting urban compost producers from apartments and gated communities, with farmers in and around Bengaluru. The aim is to send the precious organic waste coming out of urban kitchens and gardens back to the soil in the form of nutritious compost, thereby closing the loop in the most beautiful way possible.