Would you ever believe that all the problems surrounding your wet and garden waste can be solved using steel mesh rings, a few cement slabs and some gunny sacks and also bring out loads of nice-smelling compost?
The answer is a resounding yes!
When Rainbow Residents’ Association President K P Singh wrote to me about their composting method describing its “simplicity and low cost”, I took it for just another method. But during my visit yesterday morning to this beautiful layout located on Sarjapur Road, it took seconds to realise what exactly he meant.
As simple as it gets
All simple and efficient things evolve with time and effort. Rainbow has tried various experiments but settled for this one for its two key features, the ones that KP mentioned.
It’s neither vendor-driven, nor machine-driven. This method exploits the traditional method of composting to the hilt but customises it perfectly to suit individual needs. While the infrastructure comes at a few thousand rupees, a few hundred rupees is all you spend each month to keep it running.
You can construct the portable structures yourself without the help of any expert.
Put together a square-shaped platform using a few cement slabs. Leave some gap between each slab so that leachate, if any, drips down easily. Place a steel mesh plate on top of the slabs to prevent entry to the rodents from the bottom. Now, make a steel mesh ring or a pen of 3 ft diameter and 2.5 ft height. Both ends should be left uncovered. Place this ring on the platform. Wrap the pen with gunny sack to avoid the contents from spilling out and messing up the surroundings. This also prevents rodents from digging into the piles. Please note that there wasn’t any leachate leak at Rainbow. The dry leaves layers were absorbing all the moisture quite well.
I doubt if anyone can go wrong with this. But still, if you need more info, feel free to talk to K P Singh (contacts given below).
A cluster of four such pens needs 8ftx8ft space. Four sets—a total 16 mesh ring containers—will need 20ftx20ft. This does not include space for curing. This set-up can easily serve 250-275 homes.
Suits large layouts
Rainbow Drive is a gated community built on a 34-acre landstrip dotted with 370 plots. Over 250 homes have already been occupied generating around 200 kgs of kitchen waste per day. It has a number of trees producing truckloads of dry leaves.
Segregated kitchen waste is collected at the doorstep by a housekeeper in a pushcart. He carries a sack of sawdust in the cart and sprinkles a handful of it on the kitchen waste right at the pickup spot. This cuts down the moisture problem significantly. This half-processed waste reaches a roofed compost yard located in a corner. The worker spreads a thick layer of (at least 8-10 inches) dry leaves at the bottom and puts kitchen waste on top of it. This absorbs all the moisture content seeping down from the top layers efficiently. The top portion is always filled with dry leaves to ward off fruit flies, odour, mosquitoes and of course, rodents.
Likewise, the layering goes on simultaneously in four containers. They can handle one week’s waste—almost 1.5 tonnes of segregated kitchen waste and a generous amount of dry leaves. There are four clusters of these mesh ring composters, each having four containers. In all, 16 mesh rings are enough to turn wet waste coming from 250-260 homes into compost. On the fifth week, the first set of containers is emptied out and the semi-compost is left to mature in the open ground. Those lacking space may simply let it lie in an airy, roofed corner for 2-3 weeks more before using it as manure. Constructing similar but larger mesh rings to store compost for curing is a good idea.
Why use sawdust
In any layering process, it is advisable to stick to equal measures of kitchen waste and dry leaves by weight, not volume. That means the voluminous dry leaves will take up a lot of space. You would need many more mesh rings to accommodate equal measures of both types of waste. Adding sawdust solves this problem with one shot. The consumption is low, but quite essential to the process.
No shredder used
KP, a Gandhian at heart, doesn’t believe in spending big on wet waste management but instead utilises natural elements to do the job. “We are a residential community. We cannot afford to spend lakhs on these processes. Although we bought a small shredder, we soon realised that the process can go on without it.”
Simply put, you don’t have to invest in a shredder. However, those bogged down by space constraints may use one to speed up the process.
What actually happens here
As you can see, there is no moistening or turning of the pile happening here. The moisture content comes from the kitchen waste alone. This seeps down to the lower level and kicks up microbial activity. Since the waste is not shredded, you will get some big chunks of semi-done compost after a month. At Rainbow, after sieving, the finer compost is given to the residents and coarser one is used for the common area gardens.
Dry leaves is an important ingredient
You will need loads of dry leaves for this process, or any method using open containers. Any apartment or layout with sufficient green cover can adopt this method without thinking twice.
Given how little is spent on the infrastructure and the entire process, this method may not score high on aesthetics. But large layouts can easily afford to mark off a small roofed corner and cover it with a shade net or a cluster of plants. Aesthetics begin to matter less if the process is easy, cost-effective and hassle-free. Whichever maybe the method, if the area is clean and hygienic, it will look neat.
The process is easy
No shredding needed, no turning of the piles either. Adding sawdust to the fresh wet waste and then layering it with dry leaves is all there is to be done.
No water or power consumption
You don’t have to sprinkle extra water on the piles. You don’t need power for shredding.
Capex & opex
A few thousand rupees of capital expenditure to set up the entire system for 250-260 houses. Sawdust is the only recurring cost. Rainbow buys a few sacks of sawdust at Rs 30 each from a nearby timber yard.
Quite a few. Low spending, easy process, quality compost and what not. You don’t have to spend on a contractor to load up the precious kitchen waste and dump it in a landfill. No waiting for him on days when strikes, vehicle breakdowns happen. And, you will get compost for your own gardens.
Contact details: K P Singh, 9845177160, Rainbow Drive Layout, opposite Wipro Corporate Office, Sarjapur Road, Bangalore – 560035.
Home-made compost for kitchen gardens
M P Gopinath is one of the pioneers and team-mate of KP Singh at Rainbow Drive who didn’t draw the line between personal and community work. In the last 3-4 years, I have visited quite a few communities. Almost without exception, I have seen each community blessed with at least a few such individuals who take the collective green quotient to a new high.
At home, Gopinath has a small garden dotted with pumpkin creepers, pepper, salad greens and some ornamentals growing on the compost produced in the community. While the resplendent green home garden stands testimony to the quality of the compost, the duo’s smiles and their no-holds-barred exchanges on what to achieve next speak volumes for their exuberant inner ecology.
For it’s always a rich inner ecology that helps a beautiful outer ecology take shape.