Why is it important to treat waste on-site
Solid waste management is at crisis levels across India, especially Indian cities. The World Bank has projected India’s daily waste generation to touch 377000 tonnes by 2025. Indian cities already produce 62 million tonnes of garbage every year – the vast bulk of this solid waste. And our cities don’t have effective solid waste management solutions. Most of the solid waste we generate just gets dumped at landfills, becoming monumentally huge structures of waste, and leeching pollutants into groundwater and air and becoming a health and hygiene and safety hazard for everybody.
Civic bodies are trying to bring in changes. They need to. Our landfills are way past capacity and simply cannot process the ever-increasing quantities of waste we generate. Some of the changes involve simply sending waste to different locations like Mumbai did recently to reduce the strain on the Deonar landfill. A more fundamental change though is the shifting of the onus to individuals and housing societies. This is not a change that has been welcomed everywhere but this is a change we need. Individuals need to change their lifestyles to support governments in ensuring our waste management infrastructure can cope and also in ensuring that waste generation becomes a conscious and conscientious discipline for people.
It is imperative that all housing societies, office complexes, business parks et al treat waste on site. Not only will this reduce the stress on an already overloaded (and in most places antiquated) sewerage system, it is also beneficial to the environment – reducing air and water pollution. Treating waste on site is also an excellent way to ensure recyclable waste actually gets recycled. Another advantage is the ability to create compost which can be put to use in gardens and parks and the treated wastewater can also be used to water these gardens.
While there are multiple benefits to treating all kinds of waste, today we’re talking specifically about housing societies and the advantages of composting all compostable waste on site.
For housing societies across India, using wet waste to create compost is actually beneficial on many levels. Apart from the obvious reduction in waste management stress on civic bodies and the obvious benefits to the environment, there is also a fiscal benefit. Civic bodies are considering prosecution and fines against large housing societies for not treating their wet waste. The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has already approved policies to this effect, making it mandatory for larger housing societies to install organic waste composters on their premises. Delhi’s civic agencies also piloted a project last year to get housing societies started with composting on-site. With solid waste management becoming an ever-increasing crisis across India, it is only a matter of time before all housing societies and houses across India are mandated to treat organic waste on site. And with new solid waste management rules being formulated across the country, it is well past time housing societies and individuals pull their weight and contribute to a more efficient waste management solution.
But first, it is important to know the difference between compostable and biodegradable. Manufacturers of all kinds of products use their terms interchangably, sometimes out of ignorance but often enough with the intent to greenwash their products. But they are not the same.
Biodegradable means the ability of any substance to break down into parts small enough for microorganisms to consume. Which essentially makes most products biodegradable. Yes, even plastic. Because plastic does often break down into smaller and smaller particles. But biodegradable doesn’t mean it is good for the environment. Which is how we end up seeing news articles about dead whales with plastic in their bellies.
Compostable, on the other hand, is when microbes can break down all materials, leaving no residue whatsoever. Compostable products when treated do not pollute the air or the soil or the water and are, in fact, good for soil nutrition. In essence, all compostable products are biodegradable but the reverse is not necessarily true.
So what is composting exactly?
Simply put, composting is putting organic waste in a pile and waiting for nature to break everything down. This pile needs to be turned occasionally to help beneficial microbes flourish. This process of composting creates a lot of heat and breaks the organic materials down into a nutrient-rich compost. There are multiple methods of accelerating this process but the most beneficial is using bio-solutions that can not only speed up the process but also enhance the nutrient quality of the finished compost. The finished compost can then be used in gardens to help facilitate plant growth.
So how can housing societies get into the composting game?
First things first, housing societies need to ensure that all members get on-board and understand the importance of segregating wet and dry waste. Even further, wet waste should be only compostable waste, as explained above.
Once everybody is on-board and has started segregating their wet, compostable, organic waste, this needs to be collected everyday and all organic waste should be stored in a compost pit or organic waste composter installed on site. Ideal compost needs a mix of green and brown materials with moisture enough to aid the composting process without turning the compost slimy. Green materials include kitchen scraps, fruit and vegetable waste, dry peelings, eggshells and even coffee grounds. You can also add leaves, weeds and grass to this. Brown materials include paper, sawdust, hay and even small twigs. Green matter adds nitrogen to your compost while the brown matter adds carbon and ideally you need equal parts of both for high quality compost. If you are generating compost in a pit, make sure your compost pile is turned frequently – at least once a week – to ensure the good microbes can reach all parts of the pile. Depending on the waste levels, you should be able to generate good, high-quality compost from a month onwards.
At Organica Biotech, we have solutions especially formulated for housing societies in India that work specifically on the organic matter our kitchens produce to ensure optimum composting in all climatic conditions. If you would like to know more about how we can help you treat your organic waste at source, please fill the form below.