Tuesday, July 28, 2015

MUSINGS FROM PRIYADARSHINI KARVE: Dealing with organic waste

One of the services we offer at Samuchit Enviro Tech is to provide solutions to deal with organic waste at household level. People are often surprised that we do not offer composting in our range of solutions. The two solutions that we offer are: Garden waste to charcoal and Kitchen waste to biogas (http://www.samuchit.com/waste-disposal-technologies). Both the solutions are focused on converting organic waste into energy, although charcoal can be used in a variety of other ways too. We are now working on adding another solution to this - using kitchen waste as non-composted green manure for the kitchen/terrace garden. 

Why have we taken a path different from what most people recommend for in house organic waste management? That is because we do not think of the organic matter as waste - something to be 'dealt' with in whatever way that is most economical, and be grateful for what little benefit it delivers as a bonus. We think of the organic matter as a resource, and have focused on getting the maximum benefit out of it for the user. Organic 'waste' is a typical urban problem - in rural areas, the organic 'waste' of humans becomes the resource for other animals and creatures, who live in close proximity of the humans. So, if it is urban families that are generating the organic 'waste', the output of the 'waste management' process should be something that is useful to them directly. We believe that energy is a more universal need for urban families than fertilizer. The evidence can be seen from the fact that there are many housing complexes that are composting but struggling to sell the extra compost after utilising whatever they need for their own gardens. 

However, both biogas generation and charcoal making are processes that require investment - either of money, or time, or both. What if one is not willing to do so?

Even in that case, it makes more sense to put the organic matter in a non-composted form in potted plants in one's own balcony, than to go for composting. When organic material is composted, nearly all the carbon in it goes off in the atmosphere uselessly. What is left behind is the little bit of minerals from the organic matter and lignin which is nothing but nature's plastic - a mostly non-biodegradable material. Therefore the mass of the organic matter is greatly reduced, and the concentration of minerals slightly enhanced, but it is at the cost of the carbon that soil bacteria would have relished, and thrived on! As a result, the compost only helps replace chemical fertilizer. Its contribution to improving the inherent soil fertility is low and slow. On the other hand non-composted biomass directly mixed into the soil, will provide the necessary nutrition to the bacteria, improving the soil fertility and thus giving a much greater impact in terms of vigour of plant growth per gram of material put in the soil. 

This approach has already been proven in agriculture. Many farmers are taking away organic waste (NOT compost) from garbage dumps to directly put in the farms. Our own experiments in the past have shown us good results. We are currently experimenting on this approach for an urban terrace garden. Have you tried something on these lines? Please do share your experiences! 

Priyadarshini Karve
Samuchit Enviro Tech


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