The so-called 24-hr ‘compost’ harms the soil and all its produce, warns noted ecologist Dr Sultan Ahmed Ismail

Soil biologist and ecologist Dr Sultan Ahmed Ismail

If one were to sum up the entire body of work of this renowned soil biologist and ecologist in one word, it would be earthworms. Dr Sultan Ahmed Ismail’s lifework is centred on the techniques for recycling biodegradable waste into fertilizer using local varieties of earthworms and soil bioremediation. Dr Ismail, MD of Ecoscience Research Foundation, Chennai, has conducted extensive awareness sessions especially among schoolchildren to promote vermicomposting and environmental awareness. For him, the two are inseparable.

Here’s his statement—reproduced verbatim—on 24-hour or automatic composters being manufactured and sold all over India by various firms claiming that their machines produce ‘compost’ in just 24 hours or sometimes, 48-72 hours. Continue reading

24-hr composters: There’s no microbe in this universe that can colonise in 24 hrs, says scientist Dr Manoj

Dr C N Manoj, Pelican Biotech.

Quite often, I find myself involved in long-winding email/social media conversations or phone calls with green volunteers of large communities discussing automatic or 24-hour composters to deal with huge quantities of kitchen rejects and garden clippings generated in their communities. It so happens that the individuals who care to discuss this issue threadbare are invariably those souls who believe in Nature’s perfection and are ready to live by its rules, patiently.

The following nuggets of wisdom pouring light on this topic are from scientist Dr C N Manoj, Founder-Director of Pelican Biotech. I have collated all the information he has shared with me through emails and phone calls here. This should help you bust any myth about these menacing machines of various brands that have carved out a sinuous trail through urban concrete jungles all over India and arm yourself with scientific facts to put forth your argument in favour of sustainable composting methods. Continue reading

This 24-hour composter was on fire, literally!

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A simple human error resulted in this machine catching fire and damaging the roof of DSR Woodwinds apartment’s compost room six months ago. It seems beyond repair now and has been dumped in the parking lot. (Pics: SH)

This is an incident that unfolded at DSR Woodwinds apartment, Sarjapur Road. An automatic 24-hour machine given by the builder to compost kitchen waste caught fire when a staff member mistakenly switched on the machine after sundown. Within hours, the machine was spewing out flames and the roof got damaged. The smoke spread. The staff somehow managed to sneak into the compost room and put out the fire. Since then the machine, which comes loaded with promises of turning precious green waste into valuable compost, has been gathering dust in the community’s parking lot. (For more technical details on these machines, please read this post.) Continue reading

Community composting: If it’s costlier & fancier, does it get better?

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One of my Solid Waste Round Table Management (SWMRT) colleagues told me about an apartment which is getting ready to spend up to Rs 45 lakhs on a certain method for its in situ wet waste composting. In other cases, some companies which have succeeded in installing their 24-hour composting machines in some apartments at the cost of up to Rs 20 lakhs or more are laughing all the way to the bank.

Should a residential community invest so much in composting alone? Continue reading

Fully automatic composting machines: Let the buyer beware

Just Google “fully automatic composting machines”, a number of companies making out-of-the-world claims pop up instantly. Among them, “composting in 24 hours” is the most common.

I have been approached by a few vendors in Bengaluru to write about their products as a community composting method. When I met them, each vendor made different claims although all of them ran on similar technology. Continue reading