As he picks up a fist full, you get a sweet smelling whiff that reminds you of fresh monsoon breeze. Will you believe then that just 20 days ago this was a load of vegetable peals and kitchen waste? Meet Christopher Pereira and Denzil Rego, the men behind many a compost stations in the city. The Chairman of HELM (Head of ALMs (Advanced Locality Management) initiative), an organisation actively involved in Bandra’s civic issues, Pereira has developed aerobic bio-digester systems, a set of tumblers devised for effective composting of daily wet waste.
“In ALMs meetings, where everyone complains about garbage issues in their neighbourhood, I say I do not have any problems. When they ask me why, I tell them about the compost system. I do not need to wait every day for the BMC truck to take away my garbage. You come and see, I tell them,” says Pereira.
When asked about the science of the system, he explains, “It takes two to four weeks for the magic to unfold–the transition from garbage to compost. Wet waste like fruit peels take about 10 days to turn into compost, whereas bones, egg shells, and coconut shells take a while longer.
The process is activated with micro-organisms that multiply in an environment that is a correct balance of wet and dry bio-waste and oxygen. The micro-organisms heat up the waste and kill all harmful bacteria. As you add more waste, the micro-organisms eat and multiply in proportion to the food available. Once the sources of food they thrive on no longer exist, they disappear as fast as they appeared.”
A simple practice of segregating wet and dry garbage in homes, schools, and workplaces is the first step towards a cleaner city. Kitchen waste or wet garbage is easily converted to compost or manure for your potted plants at home too. Maria D’Souza, a resident of Mount Carmel road, says, “We have appointed a helper to collect wet garbage from all the flats in the building and deposit it in the tumblers installed in the garden. He gives me updates of residents, who do not segregate it and I personally meet them and request them to. Everyone sees that the system works, so no one poses any objections.”
As we pass by buildings and societies practising composting, Denzil Rego, an active member of ALMs across Bandra and Pereira’s old schoolmate, proudly points towards a compost station board pinned at the entrance of each building. He says, “These boards are important to spread awareness about the cause. When members of non-practising societies see it, they want to find out more and approach us. We constantly monitor societies and buildings that follow composting as a regular practice. There are a few who put up the board, but do not practice composting. In such cases we cannot mollycoddle them, they have to be equally involved in the process.”
Shama Kulkarni, an activist and trustee of AGNI, says, “The BMC has set up a rule where they will fine buildings that do not segregate their garbage. I think it is time they take this seriously; it is the only way people will take garbage separation and composting seriously.” When asked about the BMC’s role in solid waste management, she adds, “They spend a big chunk of money in transporting waste to landfills. This system of composting will take the load off them, if everyone follows a two-bin policy, segregating their wet and dry waste. In the past year, a few households, societies, schools, and institutions in Bandra have not had the need to use the daily BMC garbage trucks. This is a good sign.”
Environmentalist Rishi Aggarwal says, “There are a variety of compost systems, but the tumblers are by far the best. Open pits often get waterlogged, thereby causing stench and attracting scavengers and rodents, leading to hygiene issues. Since these weatherproof tumblers are sealed, they eliminate these issues.”
As Pereira shows us around his experiments with new, compact systems for various green purposes, he ends the tour at his little vegetable garden, where he grows chilli, lemon grass, brinjals, and bitter gourd. He says, “I enjoy gardening using this compost. It makes me happy that I can create my own chemical-free fertilizers and in a way complete the circle.