27th July 2015. I was in the hills of Kozhikode covering the Malabar Festival, a 5 day kayaking championship attended by pros across the world. While all was going quite well, I managed to slip and fall and have been nursing a knee injury since. So since travelling was out of bounds for a while, I rolled out my list of pending projects and this Compost Challenge was first on the list. Here are my observations and learnings.
Over the years as a writer, wrote a series of stories about plastic chocking our systems and the good guys out there who are working on garbage segregation solutions. Journos are supposed to report stories objectively, but somewhere, something pulls you to get involved and in my case it was the compost story. So I took up the challenge: 30 Days of segregating garbage and composting wet waste.
Do you segregate garbage at home? Wet waste i.e veggie, fruit peel, seeds, leftover food, non veg and any other bio-degradable waste into one dustbin and dry waste i.e paper, plastic, aluminium, in another bin? Is it possible in a city and with crammed home spaces? How much time does the entire process take?
Segregating Waste into Wet and Dry
If you do segregate, then all it takes is 2 minutes for you or your home caretaker to chuck the wet waste into the composter each day.
If you don’t segregate, that’s something you might want to start. Back in 2012 when I came across a BMC poster in my building saying they will be monitoring society garbage segregation, I was quite thrilled about this new development towards a cleaner city. The poster said there would be a truck each day to pick up wet waste and a truck once a week i.e every Thursday to collect dry waste. Since that day, I started segregating wet and dry at home.
After a morning run one day, I saw the BMC garbage truck guys still accepting mixed garbage bags and further more mixing up already segregated garbage bags, I was so disheartened! I stood there for a good 15-20mins asking them about the BMC rule. You know what they said? No body follows it, so we just take it all mixed and then segregate it ourselves!. And all this, after the BMC guys had assured me that they segregate wet and dry and dispose them off separately.
Myth Busting About Composting
So I looked for a better alternative on my own. I knew the concept of composting existed but the lack of space, knowledge of how to start off, the time commitment involved and the smell – these were the main deterrents. If only I had started the 30 Day Compost Project earlier, I would have discovered that all the 4 Reasons for not composting – lack of space, time commitment and smell – were all myths.
I was looking for an eco friendly composter, one that was not made of plastic, at-least not new plastic. I did a story about Christopher Pereira and his Compost Stations for Dna a few years ago, they are changing the way some schools and societies treat garbage. In his gorgeous bungalow at Reclamation, Bandra he for years practiced composting such that the BMC truck always went away empty handed from his home. When his neighbours saw this and asked how come he doesn’t generate any garbage, he showed them his composters. Many forward thinking neighbours and schools in the area have adopted the system since. And today Christopher has converted a room in his bungalow into The Dirt Store. It is a mecca in Bandra for composting, gardening and up cycling tips.
When it all finally Began
But at that time back in 2014, The Dirt Store had plastic (recycled) composters and I was keen to use non plastic methods. I did find Daily Dump (based in Bangalore) but they did not then have a representative in Bombay. Then finally this year when I got back in touch with Christopher, he shared with me leads that finally helped me kickstart this 30 Day Compost Challenge
But before I put all my Google gifted knowledge about composting to good use I needed practical, hands on reference. Christopher directed me to Green Souls, a community that conducts workshops on gardening and composting in Bombay. They have a day-long workshop which I attended, in which Julius Rego, Sabita and team explain the secrets of the forest ecosystem, why composting is so easy and simple DIY methods of terrace gardening and farming.
Christopher helped me finally source a terracotta composter in Bombay, and on the 14th of September, with knowledge from the workshop, I was finally on for this challenge.
In a few days, I will share with you Part 2 of the compost challenge. Until then, go out, get fit, Let’s Be Outdoorsy.