Waste is one of the biggest problems our country faces. We generate it and yet we refuse to do anything about it. The world is slowly waking up to the dangers single-use plastics pose. But very few of us are aware of the dangers of throwing our kitchen waste into landfills. While we might think kitchen waste is biodegradable and hence should not be a problem, in reality, organic waste dumped in a landfill continues to produce CO2 and methane for approximately 5-7 years. The debris will continue to pollute the air for at least 50 more years! Most studies estimate that metros in India would potentially run out of landfill space by 2035. Composting our own kitchen waste is the simplest step we can all take to begin to manage India’s and even the world’s tremendous waste management problem.
Diverting organic waste materials from landfills is “arguably even more important” than recycling, according to the South Bayside Waste Management Authority. For example, composting 1 ton of organic waste can reduce emissions as much as taking one car off the road for two months. If you’re impressed, you’ll want to learn more about the environmental impact of composting.
So what is compost? Compost is aerobically decomposed organic material that can be added to soil to help nourish the soil. Food scraps and yard waste together currently make up more than 30 per cent of what we throw away and could be composted instead.
How to compost? – Get a small home composting kit – a bin, a compost starter culture and you are set. Add a healthy mix of your kitchen uncooked waste, dried leaves, hair, eggshells, paper etc. Layer your waste and compost starter culture one above the other. Ensure the pile gets airflow and voila you have started on your composting journey!
This seemingly inane product has multifold benefits:
- Reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions
Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
- Upgrading common household waste
In addition to reducing land, water and air pollution, reducing methane emissions from landfills and lowering your carbon footprint, composting has the benefit of making manure from kitchen and yard waste. Composting makes literally common household waste into an incredibly valuable resource, one that will generate more food and revenue. By completing the food cycle, garbage becomes black gold. From Garbage to Garden!
- Soil Improvement and nourishment
Franklin D Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States famously said “The nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself”. The soil literally feeds us. We need to look at composting as merely returning the favour and nourishing the soil! Compost is used to improve soil structure through the addition of carbon and provides plant nutrients. In addition to being a source of plant nutrients such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), it improves the Physico-chemical and biological properties of the soil.
Compost acts as a food source, a probiotic, and a sponge for the soil underneath it. Adding compost enriches the soil, helping retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests. This in turn reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. Composting encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material.
- Reducing Soil Erosion and replenishing groundwater
Compost can hold up to 5-20 times its weight of water. This means compost enables increased penetration of water into the soil. In addition to replenishing the water table, this property of compost can also help reduce soil erosion. By acting like a sponge and allowing more water to seep into the soil, compost actually helps retain topsoil and reduce soil erosion.
- Reducing waste disposal costs
From INR 15,287 billion a year in 2010 to a projected INR 27,964 billion by 2025, global costs of waste disposal are increasing. Backyard composting is the simplest way to decrease landfill costs as well as waste storage and transportation costs.
- Lowering food production costs
Using compost reduces the need for chemical fertilizers which means a dramatic decrease in production costs. Also, some studies indicate usage of compost increases yields which translates to increased revenues for the farmer
- Building a Circular Economy
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – Composting checks every one of these boxes. Composting is part of a whole circular economy that changes how we interact with our world and the environment. Nothing is wasted in nature—everything returns back into the soil to nurture new life.
Composting is in reality a very simple and manageable process that can have a huge environmental, economic and social impact. Most home composting systems do not need more than 2-3 minutes of your time daily. All you need is a composting bin, greens and browns and a heart to save the planet!
Sujatha Krishnamurthy, Co-Founder, Ekobarn