When it comes to designing composting systems, one thing is certain: Never trust an innovator/designer who has not struggled with at least one badly designed composting method previously.
In other words, how well you design a product has a lot to do with how well you have understood the need for designing it in the first place, how painstakingly you take the details gathered by your experience and observation to the drawing table and finally, how well you weave your understanding into the design elements. Ultimately, it’s these details that become design. So that when it’s rolled out, the product blends so seamlessly with the surroundings that it becomes somewhat invisible.
It’s all about design
Orbin (Solo), a composting system meant for individual users and small communities, institutes and offices, is a brainchild of Anjana Iyer, Director and Co-Founder of One Hop Organics Pvt. Ltd. An eco activist-turned-entrepreneur, she had a tough time running a certain badly designed large-scale composting system a few years ago. When she thought of designing one of her own, she knew what not to include in the design. “No matter how enthusiastic we are about composting, we should not ask our maids or housekeepers to touch the waste or force them turn it upside down on a daily basis. It’s just inhuman.”
With this precondition set in her mind, she began adding many other features to Orbin. She teamed up Mrinal D Rao, Director and Co-Founder of One Hop Organics, who is equally passionate about all things green. Together, they worked out every minute detail by gleaning insights from their own composting experience both at individual and large-scale levels.
A tryst with earthworms
Orbin was initially designed as a vermicomposting unit. It took no time for the Orbin team to realise the fact that dealing with earthworms doesn’t come easy to everyone, including those who do not like to trash their precious biodegradable waste but want to see it composted.
The churn started here when Anjana had to let go of her passion to involve earthworms to compost kitchen waste and garden clippings. “We have customers from all over India and it was difficult to transport the worms. Worms are sensitive and if the moisture levels are not properly maintained, they perish in no time.”
Orbin is built with fibre-reinforced plastic, which can last at least eight years, claims the Orbin team. It’s a sturdy, non-corrosive container that tapers off at the bottom and makes use of vertical space efficiently. It’s fitted with wheels and a lid on top with enough air vents. The vents are meshed and prevent any insects from entering the bin. There is an inbuilt compartment to store ready-to-use Bioclean. The bottom part includes a hatch and once you open it, you will find two trays that collect leachate and compost separately. Both these trays can be pulled out to harvest the output. A long-handled spatula helps you to scoop out the manure efficiently. Once you place the hatch back, Orbin is ready to receive more kitchen rejects. There are enough holes in the bottom half which are not visible from outside. These holes supply ample air upwards and keep the process going.
Orbin doesn’t take up more than 3ftx3ft in a corner when used for home composting purpose. It’s 90 cm high and 60 cm wide. Since it is portable, you could move it around according to your convenience. For community level, this feature is discussed below.
The total capacity of Orbin (Solo) is 80 kgs or 110 liters. When a regular household uses it, they can add up to 1.5-2 kgs of fresh kitchen waste per day. If it’s used to treat a larger quantity of waste, like 7-10 kgs, we suggest multiple units, explains Mrinal.
Power & water consumption
Anjana and Mrinal do not recommend a shredder to work in tandem with Orbin. “If you can chop any large rejects like watermelon skin into smaller pieces, then composting goes on without any hassle. So far, we haven’t come across any customer who opted for a shredder.”
That means, no power is required to ride the routine. Water is needed only to moisten the dry Bioclean block.
Once you get the Bioclean moistened as mentioned on its bio-degradable paper cover, the crumbly substance gets you going. While you have to wait for close to three weeks to harvest the first batch of compost, the process goes on unhindered subsequently. You can harvest it once or twice a month. But the frequency depends on the quantity and also the nature of the input. If you find any semi-processed chunks in the compost tray, you can throw them back in the bin and they will be composted most probably by the end of the next cycle.
“Nothing goes waste. The nutritious leachate can be used directly for the plants or diluted, if you prefer. It is an odourless liquid and my plants love it,” says Anjana.
Bad odour & rodent issues
Neither. Bioclean is an efficient accelerator infused with essential microbes and doesn’t give out any bad odour when processed properly. It helps you compost both vegetarian and non-vegetarian rejects. Orbin doesn’t have any open vents large enough to let in even insects, let alone rodents.
Orbin offers you non-stop composting advantage. You can go on adding the kitchen rejects in advised quantities every day and harvest the compost when the tray at the bottom fills up.
Secondly, the separate leachate tray is a big plus as it will help you avoid any issues involving extra moisture. Any excess moisture from the top drips down and keeps the process going without any odour. When there’s excess or insufficient moisture and aeration, problems ensue. All these issues have been tackled quite effectively by the Orbin designers.
Thirdly, its portability is a value addition, especially for small communities who may not have a designated area for composting.
Aesthetics and convenience
Orbin (Solo) is a compact and portable white-and-blue container. It looks neat in your utility area or backyard. You don’t need more containers to store Bioclean as the compartments inside allow you to store Bioclean and place the spatula. All the accessories (spatula, compost and leachate trays) can be tucked in before you put the lid back on. You can wheel it around easily.
Scalability at a community level
For any community up to 50 households or an institution/office where kitchen rejects come out regularly, Orbin can be a good asset. If you ensure protection from rains, you can place it anywhere–be it parking lots, basements or even terraces. Instead of placing all the Orbins in one spot, you could scatter them around in small clusters. Since it doesn’t need a shredder, you can easily decentralise the composting process in your community and place a required number of Orbins in each block or alley of your villa community. You could move it around as and when needed to harvest the compost.
For my case study, I visited Silver Software Pvt Ltd, Whitefield, where office canteen leftovers were being composted in five Orbins lined up neatly close to the cafeteria. Although the firm stores ready-to-eat food items, the staff ends up with enough leftovers to be composted on a daily basis. It scatters nearly 7-10 kgs of rejects every day in all the five Orbins. Site Executive Srinivas says that it takes not more than half an hour for a staffer to finish the job. “We started using Orbins almost a year ago and we don’t depend on BBMP contractors to take away our wet waste. We have also started composting our garden waste recently in a leaf composter.”
Silver Software uses the same compost for its garden teeming with ornamental plants.
“We have close to 110 customers spread all over India since July 2016 when the product was launched. We get calls from abroad from people who want to gift Orbin to their elderly parents, inlaws. So far, we have not received any major complaint from our customers barring once when coconut shells got stuck and created odour issues. We advise our customers not to pour gravies, curries, juices, sambar, rasam, idli/dosa batter, etc., to the container as it may create odour issues triggered by excess moisture,” says Mrinal.
Chimes in Anjana who likes it when Orbin helps people of all ages transform their kitchen rejects into rich manure and use it for gardening.
Capex and opex
The cost of one unit (in Bangalore ) is Rs. 15,000, including taxes and home delivery. For community level, we suggest a ratio of two Orbin (Solo) units for five households. That would mean one Orbin unit for 2.5 households. For 50 households, the capex is Rs 3 lakhs. For the same, Opex would be around Rs 150 per household per month, explains Mrinal.
Next, Orbin Stax
The team is ready to roll out Orbin Stax, suitable to treat organic waste on a large-scale. “The above example of 50 kg waste generated everyday can be handled by Orbin Stax very well,” says Anjana.
To place order for Orbin (Solo) and Bioclean, visit http://www.orbin.in. Address: One Hop Organics Pvt. Ltd., #701, Brigade Rubix, 20, HMT Main Road, Yeshwanthpur, Bangalore – 560 013, India. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Ph: +91 72594 04888.