DISPOSING TO COMPOSTING
WHY WE NEED TO COMPOST
India, being one of the fastest urbanising countries in the world, is facing a major urban waste management issue. Every year, more than 62 million tonnes of garbage is produced. Surprisingly only 11.9 million tonnes are treated while the remaining 50.1 million tonnes is piled up in a landfill due to lack of proper waste management. More than 60% of this garbage is biodegradable waste. What could have been a fabulous source of life is turned into a major emitter of methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than CO2 and can trap 25 times more heat. But, how can we possibly stop our organic waste from ending up in landfills?
Today, in a world where composting could be democratized, the fate of our organic waste would be totally different. Composting is defined as a natural biological process, carried out under controlled aerobic conditions (requires oxygen). In this process, various microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi, break down organic matter into simpler substances. This is an example of a very simple process that anyone can do in their own homes and it will help reduce the amount of waste in India’s landfills. Not only this but it is a way to turn our trash into something useful.
OTHER COMPOSTING TECHNIQUES
There are a few different techniques of composting including vermicomposting, composting toilets, and black soldier fly larvae. Vermicomposting involves the use of different species of worms for organic material degradation. Similarly, black soldier fly larvae are able to rapidly consume large amounts of organic material. They can reduce the dry matter of the organic waste by 73%. On the other hand, composting toilets collect human excreta. Sawdust and straw or other carbon-rich materials are usually added as well.
What we are focussing on, however, is composting organic solid green waste. Indeed, composting food waste relieves pressure on landfills while producing an inexpensive, nutrient-rich soil amendment that farmers and citizens can use to improve soil fertility. While at the same time, the humus produced benefits the soil biology by adding organic matter, increasing the water-holding capacity of its structure, facilitating root penetration and making nutrients available to crops over time. In addition, composting reduces methane emissions from landfills and lowers your carbon footprint. “Composting is a good way to recycle your yard and kitchen waste and it reduces the volume of garbage sent to landfills.” – Gregg Kulma, Environmental Engineer
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WHAT OCCURS IN YOUR BACKYARD COMPOST
Composting needs to take place under optimal conditions such as in the presence of air, water, carbon, and nitrogen, but additionally under a certain temperature range. This is so the microorganisms can break down the biodegradable materials. There are four phases that take place in composting: the mesophilic phase, the thermophilic phase, the cooling phase, and the curing phase.
First, is the mesophilic phase (mesophilic = growing best at moderate temperatures). The mesophilic bacteria raise the temperature of the compost material up to 44℃. As the temperature increases more, the mesophilic bacteria become inhibited and the thermophilic bacteria take over.
Then, the second phase begins. These microorganisms can produce a lot of heat, increasing temperatures to up to 70℃. This phase can last for a few days, weeks or months.
Once this finishes, the cooling phase will take place. During this phase, temperatures begin to drop again so other microorganisms can migrate back into the compost and continue to break down organic material. It can take many months to break down some of the more resistant organic material such as wood.
The last phase, the curing phase, is long but important. Allowing for a long curing phase can create a safety net for pathogen destruction. This is because the longer they are subjected to microbiological competition, they will eventually die off. It is important to allow for this as uncured compost can produce toxins for plants. Additionally, any pathogens left in the compost can take oxygen and nitrogen away from the plants. Therefore, waiting for your compost to mature is a necessary step in creating healthy soil for gardening.
WHAT EARTH5R HAS DONE
Earth5R, with its Zero Waste program, has become a major factor in spreading this method across Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Varanasi, Gandhinagar, and Ahmedabad. In order to do so, the team of Earth5R has given live demonstrations through workshops and installed composting units in multiple buildings. The project is now extending with the launch of the Green Powai program in Mumbai, an area comprising of 70,000 households to convert to composting.
As buildings start composting their wet waste, they are able to significantly reduce the amount of food waste going to landfills. At the end of the process, buildings also have fresh and high-quality compost that they can either use themselves for gardening or give to local farmers through our donation program. Through the Green Citizen Program, farmers are also trained on how to produce and use compost. They can, therefore, enjoy better and healthier crops without using chemicals fertilizers.
This community-oriented program is a step towards addressing Sustainable Development Goals defined by United Nations. Earth5R is doing so by promoting Composting as part of its Zero Waste program addresses Sustainable Development Goal no. 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities, Goal no. 13 – Climate Action and Goal no. 15 – Life on Land.