The Key to Sustainable Urban Waste Management is Segregation and Home Composting

By Sujata C

Among the five metros, Hyderabad enjoys the dubious reputation of being the highest generator of daily garbage. The twin-cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad generate 5000 metric tonnes of solid waste daily, according to a GHMC survey. Much higher than other cities like Bengaluru, Pune and Kolkota.

This garbage is carried to the 300-acre Jawahar Nagar dump yard, a landfill located 60 kilometres from the city. Already bursting at the seams, with mounds of solid waste that is smouldering and rotting, the landfill has recently been capped with soil to reduce air pollution in the region. Leachate from the landfill has already polluted waters in three lakes in the vicinity.

The twin-cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad generate 5000 metric tonnes of solid waste daily, according to a GHMC survey.

Dy Commissioner, Secunderabad, K Ravi Kumar says citizens can help to avoid many more such Jawahar Nagars-like mounds in the city by adopting simple methods like waste segregation and home composting and better managing urban waste management in general. He was speaking at a local community meet in Nagarjuna Nagar earlier this week.

Why Waste Segregation: Separating dry waste and wet waste is important because when organic, biodegradable waste is mixed up with other non-organic, recyclable waste like glass, paper and plastic; it breaks down to release methane which is a lot worse for the environment than CO2. Methane (CH4) is a massive contributor to global warming. By composting the organic waste you are actually capturing all that carbon and turning it into a product that is hugely beneficial to the environment.

Why Composting: It is one of the simplest ways of making a big difference to the conservation of the environment. The other big reason for composting is that we are losing a lot of our topsoil due to the modern farming practices that are being adopted. This is a huge issue because it is only the top few inches of the soil which has all the goodness needed to grow a plant and the food that we eat. The mass farming that takes place degrades the quality of the topsoil making it hard to grow food.  We add chemical fertilisers to the soil and worsen the situation.

Home composting serves many purposes:

  • It prevents the build-up of waste and helps recover nutrients from food scraps for a healthy, rich, chemical free environment.
  • It reduces landfills in the city.
  • By composting the organic waste you are actually capturing all that carbon that would get converted to methane, a greenhouse gas
  • It turns waste into manure – a product that enriches the soil and bring back soil fertility.

How to Home Compost:

Take two large earthen pots. Make pinholes at the bottom for drainage. Make holes in the side and lid of the pots as well for aeration. Place the pots on a stand or old tyre. Place a container/cup below the hole in the pot to collect leachate. Fill the pot with kitchen waste and discards on a daily basis. You can add paper shreds, wood shavings, grass clippings, plant waste. Add some dry leaves as it will help dry up the green waste from the kitchen.

If you have some sour curds simply dump it into the pot as it will hasten the decomposition and fermentation process. One large pot will get filled by a small family of four in two months’ time. When the first pot is full start feeding the second pot. Cover and leave the first pot to sleep for two months.  Once in two days you can turn/churn the scraps in the pots with a wooden stick. After two months the first pot is ready for use. The compost particles will remain the same size as the kitchen waste and can be applied directly in the garden beds. To get the powdered form of compost, you can introduce earthworms in the pot.

Compost is like food for the soil. The nutrients present in the vegetable/fruit peels and food scraps are recovered and returned to the soil that has been depleted.