Two unassuming bins sit in a corner without any posters, scary timetables or paraphernalia around them. No muttering of a shredder. No hustle and bustle of an army of workers either. A few perforated plastic crates filled with the compost taken out of these bins have earthworms going about their business without giving two hoots to what the city is getting all worked up about.
If you visit Renaissance Regalia located in Malleswaram where a pair of Byobins is working in seemingly eternal harmony, you may perhaps come back home relieved that composting wet waste is eminently doable after all!
Each community composting solution has its own strengths and weaknesses. What suits one is a put-off for another. But if you ever decide to go for Pelrich Byobin, a brainchild of Dr C N Manoj of Pelican Biotech & Chemicals Labs Pvt. Ltd., you would agree with me on this point: It takes a lot of learning and unlearning to see through the complexities to dish out a simple solution. In short, sustainability lies in simplicity. And, Dr Manoj has not only understood it, but also executed it equally well.
Further, what lent this case study more depth is the customer who endorsed the product: Seasoned eco activist and composting expert Vani Murthy, a resident of this apartment which has pioneered various green initiatives.
Each Byobin comes with a capacity of 600 litres and can accommodate a maximum of 15kgs of waste per day. It is sun- and rain-proof. Four perforated pipes run around the inner circumference to aerate the pile and also pump out the excess hot air that gets accumulated during the process. A net separates the bottom from the rest of the bin and this is where the leachate collects. It needs to be taken out through an outlet fitted at the bottom once in 2-3 days to increase air circulation.
A maximum of 15kgs of waste (both vegetarian and non-vegetarian) should be spread uniformly in the bin and a thick layer of Pelrich Composorb—a cocopeat-based inoculant—should be laid on top of it. Please note that no more than 15kgs can go in per day. If you put more, it will compact the decomposing mass and create anaerobic conditions. If you have dry leaves, put them on top of the Composorb layer to avoid insect-related issues.
At Regalia, one pair was enough to compost all the wet waste generated by 20 units. Once the bin is filled up, it is left undisturbed for 15 days. On the 16th day, the top dry layer (around 10-12 inches) is removed into another container or a bag.
Says Manoj: “Repeat this every alternate day. Further composting of wet waste will go on in the bag. In the next 10-15 days, all the compost can be taken out and the bin will be ready for the next cycle.”
When Vani opened the first bin, it looked like a tiny ecosystem teeming with all kinds of beneficial microbes and yet, the fresh waste wasn’t emitting any bad odour. The volume in the second one was reduced to almost 1/3rd of its original quantity.
At Regalia, thanks to Vani’s immense expertise in handling earthworms, this compost undergoes further and ultimate breakdown in another container or crates using a handful of wigglers.
If you don’t use a shredder, the compost will not have a uniformly crumbly texture. However, as Dr Manoj makes it clear, “the appearance of compost is not significant”. “What matters is the C:N (carbon:nitrogen ratio) and EC (electrical conductivity)”.
If you want to speed up the process and increase the saleability of the surplus compost, a shredder would be a good addition to the entire apparatus.
Every composting enthusiast must remember that composting is a science and getting a hang of the basics is not difficult. In fact, digging deeper will only make you love this activity even more. First and foremost, please remember that the character of the waste that goes in decides the output. If you pay attention to the details of spreading Pelrich-Composorb and dry leaves on the food waste, you might come up with a load of well-balanced and nutritious compost. Dr Manoj has seen it happening amongst many of his customers. (You can also get your home-made compost tested at any good laboratory in the city).
After subjecting the samples—collected at various customer locations—to scientific analyses, Dr Manoj says that the following parameters were found to be almost consistent:
- Electrical conductivity: Less than 5 milli mhos/cm, (normal compost will be more than 20 units which creates heat in the vector of the plant). This permits you to use the compost directly as a growth medium for your plants.
- Lignin/polyphenol content: Less than 25%. This will be more than 40% in regular compost that creates acidic environment.
- C:N (carbon : nitrogen ratio): 30:1 which complies with the international standards.
Other unique features:
The compost will double up as a soil-less planting media.
- It will keep degrading continuously and keeps on adding nutrients to the plants.
Each Byobin needs 1 meter square in a well-aerated open area like garden, garage or roof. Dr Manoj says that “it can even be placed indoors but even in minute quantities, fresh waste will emit strong smell in a closed environment. So we prefer outdoors.”
He has seen some of his customers hanging pots around it to make it aesthetically appealing. “It will not even appear to be a composting bin,” he adds.
Capital investment (as on November 2014):
The cost of Byobin: Rs 16,500, (approximately, Rs 1,000/house).
The cost of Composorb: Rs 1,200/100 litre bag, 0.75 bag/bin/month = Rs 900 (recurring cost/month, approximately Rs 60/house).
“This is a little more than what we have to pay if we were to buy compost from outside. But we send a lot less wet waste out!” says Vani, who has created a self-sustaining living space for herself and takes incredible proud in leading hordes of others on this leafy lane.
Dr C N Manoj, Chief Executive, Pelican Biotech & Chemical Labs Pvt. Ltd., 1/77, NC John Estate, Kuthiathode, Cherthala, Alappuzha, Kerala-688 533. Ph: 91-478 – 2560206, 3212999; Mobile: 91 – 9447365542. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.pelicanbiotech.com.