India is one of the most water stressed countries in the world. Irresponsible water behaviour and the collective mismanagement of our finite water resources is responsible for our nation’s water crisis. If you use a Reverse Osmosis (RO) water filter in your home or institution or office or you are planning to buy one; this blog is a must read.
HIGH WASTAGE OF WATER FROM RO FILTERS
Reverse Osmosis (RO) is a water treatment process that wastes 3 times water for every one unit of water it purifies. So for every 1 litre of water purified, 3 litres of water goes waste. This high water wastage is the reason the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in May 2019 banned the use of RO filters where the Total Dissolved Solids (essential minerals like Calcium, Magnesium, Fluoride etc) in the water are less than 500 milligram/litre (mg/l). In these water stressed times where most Indian cities are racing towards day zero scenario when water will stop coming from our taps, this kind of insane water wastage from RO filters is criminal when many other smarter water purifying technologies are available.
MISINFORMATION SPREAD BY RO MANUFACTURERS
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) order is based on the reasoning that Reverse Osmosis (RO) as a technology is only meant to treat very high levels of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) in drinking water. According to the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) specification, drinking water is considered below par only if the TDS level of the water is above 500 milligram/litre (mg/l). National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and IIT-Delhi submitted a joint report to the NGT. This report has come down heavily on the ‘misinformation campaign’ run by RO manufacturers in India. The report trashes claims by leading RO manufacturers in India about RO technology being able to treat water having high arsenic and fluoride contamination. It states that in areas where water source has heavy metal contamination, appropriate contaminant specific technologies should be used so to bring down concentration of these contaminants.“Application of RO in developed countries is limited to desalination i.e. producing drinking water from sea water which is very saline and has an extremely high level of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). RO companies in India have created a lot of fear and myths among the masses because of which the growing use of RO technology in treating low TDS water has been the new normal when the application of RO should only be ‘limited’ to removal of high TDS water,” the report says.
Dr. K. Vijaya Lakshmi, Water Quality Scientist and Vice President, Development Alternatives Group recommends:
Before deciding on which filter to buy for your home or institution, always get the TDS level of the tap water and other essential parameters such as bacterial contamination, iron, arsenic, fluoride, heavy metals etc tested from a reliable lab in your town.
If the test done on your tap water shows presence of any pathogenic bacteria or traces of one or more heavy metals, there are water purifying technologies available in the market to deal with this depending on what pollutants are present in the water.
There is no need of using RO unless your source water is highly saline and the TDS exceeds 500 mg/l.
As a consumer, do not be gullible and keep in mind that sales folks from the water purifying companies try their best to convince you to buy RO purifiers as these cost a lot more than the non RO filters both in terms of capital and recurring costs (of changing RO filter membranes from time to time).
After researching on different water treatment technologies available in the urban market, I personally think that for dealing with biological contamination in water where the TDS level of your tap water is less than 500 mg/l, a water filter with Ultra Filtration (UF) or Ultra Violet Rays (UV) and a carbon block pre filter (that removes chlorine, volatile organic compounds, odours and unpleasant tastes from water) is an effective option. Unlike RO filters, UF or UV filters do not waste water, retain essential minerals in the water (as they do not reduce the TDS level of the water) but filter out bacteria, viruses and parasites efficiently.
You can check out the following blogs, sites for more information on different kinds of water filtration technologies available for urban and rural areas:
TARA, the social enterprise wing of the Development Alternatives Group has a highly reliable, economical and simple to use product called TARA Aquacheck that can be used by any home owner or institution to test the presence of pathogenic bacteria in water which cause common water borne diseases like diarrhoea, dysentery, gastroenteritis etc. This product has been prepared as per the quality control guidelines of UNICEF, New Delhi. You can visit the following website for more details on this product and other kinds of water testing kits sold by TARA (to test Dissolved Oxygen, Alkalinity, Hardness, Sulphates, Iron, Fluoride, Arsenic & other water related parameters): http://www.taraenviro.com/products.aspx
CHANGING EXISTING RO FILTER TO A NON RO UNIT
If the TDS level of your tap water is less than 500 and you have a RO water filter installed in your home or institution, you can get your RO water purifying servicing engineer to help convert your existing RO filter into a normal filter unit.
You should first get the water quality of your tap water checked for bacteria and traces of heavy metal from any reputed lab in your city.
If your tap water has any bacteria present in it, you should get your RO water purifying servicing engineer to check if your existing RO system has UV and UF filters (which help to remove bacterial contamination) installed in the unit. If not, these filters can be easily added to your existing unit.
The water purifying servicing engineer will take out the RO membrane from your existing RO filter and then your RO can work as a normal water filter which purifies your water without reducing the TDS level of the water and without wasting huge quantities of water in the purification process.
“In October 2019, I had the RO mechanic come to my house for a regular servicing visit and I was talking to him about buying a new non RO filter as the TDS of my tap water was under 250 milligram/litre (mg/l) and I was feeling guilty about wasting so much water in my household as a result of using the RO and giving nearly dead water devoid of essential minerals to my family. He suggested to me that he could just take out the RO membrane from my existing RO system that made it function as a RO unit such that it would then just function as a normal non-RO type of water filter. He told me that my filter unit had a pre existing UV filter so I did not have to worry about bacterial contamination. I agreed.It took my family members 2-3 days to adjust to the new taste of the water which now had more total dissolved solids in it as the RO membrane which was reducing the TDS level to a ridiculously low level (below 100 mg/l) was not present in the water purifier anymore. I am so glad I did this. Every family who has a RO filter should get this done immediately if the TDS of your tap water is less than 500 mg/l,” says Supriya Mohan, a resident of Gurgaon city in India’s water starved National Capital Region.
Dr. K. Vijaya Lakshmi, Water Quality Scientist and Vice President, Development Alternatives Group cautions, “It is extremely critical to keep getting your water filter serviced regularly to ensure efficacy of the filtration process. If you ever see muddy water coming from your kitchen tap, you must immediately switch to boiling of water till you get a technician to come and sort the problem. Boiling water is one of the easiest ways to deal with bacterial contamination in drinking water at home. Ensure that you keep the flame on for 15 minutes after the water starts boiling.”
REUSING RO REJECT WATER
If you do need to use the RO filter in case the TDS of your tap water is above 500 mg/l, please ensure that you collect the RO waste water in a drum and reuse it for any or all of the following purposes:
Mopping the floors
Flushing toilets instead of using fresh water
Diluting with normal tap water and using for watering plants
This film talks about how home makers reuse the reject waterfrom their RO water purifiers and other ways in which families can save water.
Reducing water wastage and respecting every drop of water is the key to solving India’s water crisis and avoid day zero scenarios when our taps will run dry.
For any comments, feedback or clarifications on this blog, please write to the author Neelam Ahluwalia at this email: firstname.lastname@example.org
India is one of the most water stressed countries in the world. With global warming, the Himalayan glaciers are melting fast which is resulting in many perennial streams that feed our rivers to run dry. Demand for water is huge but our limited resources are highly polluted and mismanaged. We have extracted so much water from the ground without putting anything back that more than 70% of our nation’s groundwater aquifers have dried up. The result of our collective mismanagement is that more than 600 million Indians face acute water shortage. Water crisis in Cape Town in South Africa and Chennai in South India are warning signs of day zero scenarios unless each and every family learns to respect water and becomes water wise.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BLOG
This blog showcases 4 short films that highlight the different Rs of water conservation at the home level based on tried and tested solutions: reducing wastage & consumption, reusing water by giving it extra life, naturally purifying grey water & redirecting it back into the earth and storing rain water & recharging ground water.
This film presents more than 12 practical solutions that individuals and families can easily implement in their homes to prevent day zero conditions when our taps will run dry.
SAVING WATER BY REDUCING WASTAGE OF WATER
Installing Water Aerators in Taps
This film shows a live experiment which shows that putting a water aerator reduces water use by at least 60 percent from the tap.
Key attributes of water aerators
Size: They mostly come in 3 sizes (16 mm, 20 mm, 24 mm).
Shape: They mostly come in round shape but some designer faucets are rectangular and square too.
Type: They help dispense water in 3 forms (mist, spray, foam).
Flow rate: They have varied flow rates ranging from 2 litres per minute to 30 litres per minute.
How does a home owner decide & know which type of aerator to buy?
Sunil Pachar, Sustainability Consultant who supplies water aerators to individuals, residential communities, corporates and institutions says that aerators must be chosen on the basis of the purpose for which the tap is used. Aerators for wash basins, kitchen sinks, showers are all different. Size of the aerator can be measured by measuring the dimension of the outlet of the tap which your local plumber can help you with. The most common size in case of the wash basin and kitchen sink is 24 mm.
People can easily save 20-25% of fresh water in their homes just by using aerators as per the below recommended specifications:
Wash basins: Spray type aerator with flow rate of 1-4 litres per minute (lpm) as we can comfortably wash hands at this speed.
Dish washing: Foam type aerator with flow rate of 5-10 litres per minute as washing utensils needs more water than washing hands.
Bath showers: Spray type aerator with flow rate of 9-10 lpm.
Jet sprays: Spray type aerator with flow rate of 2-5 lpm.
Gardening: Spray type aerator with flow rate of 2-5 lpm.
Sunil Pachar can be reached at email@example.com for help in buying the right size and model of water aerators. I personally bought Neoperl water aerators (German based leading global brand) for all the taps in my home from Mr. Pachar and they are working much better than the ones I had bought online earlier. “Neoperl (www.neoperl.net) is the market leader with about 70% of the market share. The other players are too small and do not offer the diversity of water aerators that Neoperl provides. Moreover, the quality of Neoperl aerators is far superior as compared to other brands”, says Sunil Pachar.
Changing Your Existing RO Filter to a Non RO Unit
Reverse Osmosis (RO) is a water treatment process that wastes 3 times water for every one unit of water it purifies. This high water wastage is the reason the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in May 2019 banned the use of RO filters where the Total Dissolved Solids (essential minerals like Calcium, Magnesium, Fluoride etc) in the water are less than 500 mg/l.
If the TDS level of your tap water is less than 500 mg/l and you have a RO water filter installed in your home, you can get your RO water purifying servicing engineer to help convert your existing RO filter into a normal filter unit so you stop wasting precious water.
You should first get the water quality of your tap water checked for bacteria and traces of heavy metal from any reputed lab in your city.
If your tap water has any bacteria present in it, you should get your RO water purifying servicing engineer to check if your existing RO system has UV and UF filters (which help to remove bacterial contamination) installed in the unit. If not, these filters can be easily added to your existing unit.
The water purifying servicing engineer will take out the RO membrane from your existing filter and then your RO can work as a normal water filter which purifies your water without reducing the TDS level of the water and without wasting huge quantities of water in the purification process.
In my home, everyone drinks water directly from his or her own water bottle so no water is wasted while sipping from the glass and leaving some water in the glass each time which is eventually thrown down the drain while washing the glass.
Running Washing Machine & Dishwasher only when Full
Don’t waste water by running loads that are not full. This will save water, time and electricity by cutting down on the number of loads you do in a week.
SAVING WATER BY REDUCING WATER CONSUMPTION
Regularly Checking Your Water Meter Readings
National average of water consumption in urban Indiafor a family of 2 adults and 2 children is 500 litres of water per day i.e. 15000 litres per month. It is important to keep your water consumption less than the national average and try to figure ways of reducing your household water footprint every month. The monthly readings on your water meter should be your guide.
Putting a Weighted Bottle in your Toilet Tank
This helps to reduce the amount of water being flushed each time. We have 4 toilets in my home. I have put a 1 litre bottle full of water in each of the toilet flush tanks. The capacity of each toilet flush is 7 litres. Thanks to the 1 litre bottle of water, each time the toilet flush is used, instead of 7 litres going down, only 6 litres of water is flushed down. On an average each toilet in our home is used about 5 times a day. This easy to implement zero cost solution helps to save at least 20 litres of water everyday in my bathrooms!
Taking Bucket Bath instead of Using a Shower
This saves a lot of water as you know exactly how much water you are using. My daughter and me have disciplined ourselves to use only 3/4 th of a bucket everyday for bathing.
Adjusting the Settings in your Washing Machine
By running your washing machine on manual setting instead of automatic, you can reduce the number of rinse cycles. This helps reduce water use significantly.
Using a Sprinkler to Water your Garden Plants
This saves 50% water as compared to using a hose pipe or watering directly from a can.
Using Mulching to Retain Moisture in the Soil
You can put dry leaves in all your pots and plant beds in your home garden as they form a natural barrier to prevent the soil from losing moisture as a result of exposure to the wind and the sun. This will help reduce water use in your garden by 50%.
Buying Products that Use Less Water to be Made
While working with farmers in the drought prone Bundelkhand region in Central India in 2012 and helping them shift to growing less water intensive crops, I learnt that barley as a grain uses half the water to be produced as compared to wheat. So in my household, we shifted to eating barley rotis for dinner everyday. They are made just like normal Wheat rotis and are actually lighter for the stomach and more easily digestible. Including more ofbarley and other millets like jwar, ragi, bajra, makki in your family’s daily eating habits will help reduce your family’s water footprint as millets use less water to be grown as compared to wheat and rice. Millets are also nutritionally more healthier grains!As consumers, we need to be water wise in the choices we make vis-a-vis the products we buy and the services we use.
When you send your car for servicing, ensure that the company /garage does not wash the car using gallons of fresh water.As consumers, we need to be water wise in the choices we make vis-a-vis the products we buy and the services we use.
SAVING WATER BY REUSING TO GIVE IT EXTRA LIFE
Collecting and Reusing Water Dripping from Air Conditioners
The water dripping from the ACs can be collected in a pot in your balconies and used for feeding birds or watering plants.
Reusing Reject Water from your RO Filter
If you do need to need to use the RO filter in case the TDS of your tap water is above 500 mg/l, please ensure that you collect the RO waste water in a drum and reuse it for any or all of the following purposes:
Mopping the floors
Flushing toilets instead of using fresh water
Diluting with normal tap water and using for watering plants
Collecting and Reusing Water Used in the Kitchen
Reusing the water for watering plants
I have personally kept a small bucket in my kitchen which is used to collect the extra water that is drained after cooking rice or pasta, left over water after grains, pulses, green leafy vegetables are washed and any water that is left in glasses or water bottles before they are washed. This is nutrient rich water. I use it to water my home plants.
Reusing the water for mopping the house
Rolly Jain, a homemaker from Gurgaon washes fruits and vegetables using a home made natural cleanser made by mixing bio enzyme, soda and a little salt. Since this water contains soda and salt, it cannot be used for watering the plants. Rolly reuses the left-over water for mopping her home floors.
To learn how to make bio enzyme at home and understand the importance of using non chemical based cleansers at home, see this Facebook post of Monika Khanna Gulati, co-founder of NCR Waste Matters, a citizen’s awareness and action group in the National Capital Region:
This is simple. Just put the drain pipe of the washing machine in a big size bucket to collect the water. If you are using a market based detergent, then you can reuse this water coming out of the washing machine for mopping the floors in your house.
Giving this water more than one life and not letting it go into the drain
Rolly Jain, home maker from Gurgaon says, “Earlier I used to use normal detergent in my washing machine. But as my level of eco-consciousness increased, I decided not to contribute to the horrible state of pollution of our groundwater and water bodies by using chemical based washing detergents. I started making an eco-friendly natural liquid detergent at home.”
Process of making natural environment friendly cleanser to wash clothes:
Make reetha liquid – Soak about 25 pieces of reetha in 1 litre of water for 24 hours. Then boil this mix for 30 minutes. Let it cool down. Strain the liquid from the reetha balls. The leftover reetha balls are biodegradable and can be easily composted so put them in your food waste bin.
Make homemade natural liquid laundry detergent –Mix 1/3 rd portion of bio enzyme and 2/3 rd of the reetha liquid and store in a bottle.
“This liquid detergent lasts for about 20 days. After I started washing clothes using this natural detergent, I stopped using the rinse cycle in my washing machine. So the water required to wash clothes everyday has reduced by 50%. My son used to have a skin allergy which improved after I switched to using this eco friendly detergent for washing clothes as it forms a protective layer on the clothes. Water collected from the washing machine is first used for moppingmy house floors and then put in a bucket in my balcony. I reuse this micro nutrient (reetha and bioenzyme) rich water for watering my plantswhich is very good for their health,” says Rolly. For any clarifications, you can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
This is how Rolly is able to save 80 litres of fresh water from going down into the drain every single day:
From the washing machine everyday, about 25 litres of water is collected in the bucket.
Since Rolly does not rinse the clothes as she is using a natural detergent, 15 litres of fresh water is saved everyday which would otherwise have been used in the rinsing process.
Another 15 litres of fresh water is saved that would be used for mopping the floors if Rolly had not reused the washing machine water for cleaning the floor.
Additionally, 25 litres of fresh water is saved that would have been used for watering Rolly’s roof top garden plants if she had not reused the water used for mopping the floor.
“It is a very satisfying feeling to give extra life to every drop of water that we use in our home,” says Rolly proudly.
REUSING TREATED GREY WATER IN HOMES FOR GROUND WATER RECHARGE
Grey water is water from the bathroom and kitchen sinks, bathing area and washing machines. While greywater may look ‘dirty’, it is a safe source of water (after natural purification) to use for cleaning cars and watering your home garden.
Reusing Grey Water is being Extremely Water Wise
According to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), more than 70% of water supplied per household per day in India is consumed in the kitchen, in the bathing area and for washing clothes. Treating this grey water, reusing the purified grey water for watering your home garden and then channelising it into the ground will result in:
Huge saving of water and reduction in your water bill.
Keeping the grey water out of the sewer system, thereby not allowing it to pollute the local water bodies.
Improving the ground water table in your neighbourhood.
With 70% of India’s water aquifers having dried up and India facing a huge water crisis, every urban and rural family having an independent house can contribute towards improving our nation’s rapidly depleting ground water levels by implementing grey water management in their homes. This video explains how grey water can be treated and purified naturally in a simple and cost effective way and be directed into the ground to recharge the ground water table where you live.
Steps for Treating Grey Water & Directing it into the Ground
Re-route grey water from the house to the garden
The first step is to re-route the pipes from your bathroom (carrying the water from the washbasins and the bathing area), area where the clothes are washed and the kitchen sink in your house to your garden area such that they do not mix with the pipe carrying the sewage water from the toilet flushes. This would require some plumbing work but is easily doable in an individual house either at the stage where the house is being constructed or even later. Mrs Savargaonkar did some plumbing work in her house much after it was built in such a way that the 3 pipes carrying water from her rooftop garden, washing machine area and kitchen sink drain at 3 different places in the garden patch outside her house.
Make pits to treat and purify grey water in a natural way
Mrs Savargaonkar has got 3 pits dug in her garden for treating the grey water coming out of the 3 pipes. Size of each pit is 1 metre by 1 metre by 1 metre. Each pit has been given a 4 to 6 inch slope at the bottom in the direction of the natural flow of water on the road next to the garden. At the bottom of each pit, gravel has been put for about 6 inches. Above that sand has been put for 12 inches. Whatever place was left at the top, dry leaves were put. Dry leaves act as natural carbon material which is a very important part of the grey water purification process.
“When I started doing the grey water filtering process, I realised that with water going into the pits, the dry leaves would get compacted. I simply put more dry leaves on the top of the pits. In addition to dry leaves, you can also use wood husk, dry tree branches, tree barks, crop husk, plant residues (any of these or in combination) as carbon material in the grey water purification pits,” says Poornima Savargaonkar.
Put naturally water purifying plants around the grey water pits
After 3 months, Mrs Savargaonkar planted naturally water purifying plants such as Kaina, Banana, Syngonium, Umbrella Palm and Spider Lily around the 3 grey water pits in her garden.
“I do not use non-chemical based natural detergents for washing utensils and clothes in my home but use commercially available soaps and detergents. This soapy grey water is filtered through the layers of carbon rich dry leaves, sand and gravel in the pits before it reaches the ground. These water purifying plants do the job of soaking the leftover chemicals in the grey water. This ensures that the water going down into the ground is pure, chemical free water. Banana plant has been specifically put next to the water outlet pipe from the kitchen which has only the non-soapy water that drains out after washing vegetables, grains and pulses. This nutrient rich water helps in getting good quality bananas for consumption by my family members,” says Mrs Savargaonkar.
Use natural insecticide to keep mosquitoes & bugs away from the grey water pits
Twice a year and specifically once before or after the monsoon rains, Mrs Savargaonkar puts a handful of Rakh (powder obtained from burning of wood) or Choona (lime used in construction of houses) in the grey water pits as this acts as a very effective natural insecticide to keep mosquitoes and bugs away.
I personally found no smell or saw any stagnation or any mosquitoes or bugs around Poornima Savargaonkar’s grey water pits and can personally vouch for how happy the plants in her garden looked! If every family who has an independent house in India (in every village, every town and every big city) implements grey water management like Mrs. Savargaonkar, we as citizens can make a huge difference in improving the depleting ground water levels of our country and avoiding day zero scenarios when our taps will run dry.
For any clarifications on grey water treatment talked about above, reach out to email@example.com
STORING RAIN WATER & RECHARGING GROUND WATER
Every year, India gets monsoon rains but we capture less than 10% of it. This is one of the main reasons why more than 70% of our country’s groundwater aquifers have run dry as we are only extracting water from the ground but not putting anything back. Environment problems are best sorted if they are tackled at source. We need to respect the rain that falls on our roof top and not let it flow into the gutter.
This film shows how an independent house can save lakhs of litres of water during the rainy season every year by a very simple way of storing the rain water in an underground tank and redirecting the overflow into a groundwater recharge pit.
Steps for Rain Water Storage and Ground Water Recharge in an Independent House:
Slope of the rooftop in your house should be towards the drain outlet on the roof so the rain water falling on the roof easily flows to this outlet.
There should be a steel wire mesh put on this outlet which provides the first level of filtration before this rain water goes into the pipe.
Rooftop surface must be kept relatively clean so the water does not collect too many impurities.
A filter should ideally be put to clean this rain water before storing it. You might have to break the wall a little to trace the pipe carrying the roof top rain water down.
Make an underground tank to store the rain water. After the storage tank gets full, the excess rain water can be re-routed to the ground water recharge pit in your house.
Recharge pit can be made by using sand, gravel, pebbles as filtration media.
“We installed the rainy filter in our house and got a 10,000 litre tank constructed to store the rainwater. With the kind of rains we get in Jaipur (in the desert state of Rajasthan), we are able to collect 1,00,000 plus litres of rain water every monsoon which we use for all our household chores during the rainy season (for our drinking water needs after filtering it in the kitchen, cooking, washing, mopping, gardening etc) instead of using municipal piped water or the ground water. This helps to reduce our water footprint in a big way and improve the ground water levels in our neighbourhood,” says Sunil Pachar. Mr Pachar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
For more information on rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge, please visit the following links:
India is one of the most water stressed countries in the world. This water crisis is impacting more than 60 crore people across the country. In this scenario, disrespecting water by not using rain water which is a free gift from nature that we get year after year and allowing it to flow into the drain is criminal. Doing both rain water harvesting (collecting and storing rainwater) and groundwater recharge in every house in India will ensure that our country’s ground water levels go up and we do not see day zero conditionswhen our taps will run dry.
For any comments, feedback or clarifications on this blog, please write to the author Neelam Ahluwalia at this email id: email@example.com
India is one of the most water stressed countries in the world. Niti Aayog (a prominent Government of India think tank) report of 2018 states that 21 major cities in India (Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and others) are racing towards reaching zero groundwater levels affecting access of water for more than 100 million urban Indians. The reportalso states that by 2030, India’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for millions of people. If we want to prevent the water crisis that Cape Town in South Africa witnessed, a decentralised collective approach to water management is the key.
Watch this film to see 15+ practical solutions that different residential communities in Gurgaon city in the water starved National Capital Region have implemented to conserve water. These water saving measures can be adopted by any residential condominium, township, office complex or institution anywhere in India.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BLOG
How to be Water Rich:
Respecting water by following the 4 Rs of water conservation is the only way forward if we do not want to experience day zero conditions when our taps will run dry. This blog details some water smart solutions that residential communities / office complexes / institutions can adopt under each of the below heads:
Case Study showing how a community reduced its water use by 20%
Recycle Grey Water & Sewage Water
Recharge Ground Water (a short video where a water expert talks about how to design community level ground water recharge structures efficiently and a detailed write up on implementation of Swales, a permaculture based ground water recharge technique)
SAVING WATER BY REDUCING CONSUMPTION
Water Meters – “What cannot be measured, cannot be improved.” It is critical to install water meters to determine the amount of water being used on a daily, monthly and yearly basis.
Waterless Urinals – As shown in the Water Rich Communities film, Richmond Park residential complex in Gurgaon has been using waterless urinals in their high usage public areas – club house and common area toilets for the past few years.
See these links below and explore using waterless urinals for the men’s common area toilets in your residential community and office complex.
Sprinklers and Shower Handles –Horticulture uses a lot of water. Using sprinklers and shower handles attached to pipes to water green spaces reduces water use by 50%.
Mulching –Putting dry leaves in plant beds and around trees significantly reduces amount of water used for horticulture as dry leaves act as a natural barrier preventing the soil from losing moisture as a result of exposure to the wind and the sun.
Planting Native Species – Planting has to be thought through very well keeping in mind the ecology of the region. In a semi arid or arid landscape, if you plant species which are water thirsty i.e those belonging to a moisture rich climate ecology, then these plants will require more waterwhich is criminal in these water stressed times. For example, in Gurgaon city, it is not water wise to plant Bengali Kadam which is a tree species from the moisture rich Bengal area and thus will require more water. This short film presents the views of Vijay Dhasmana, an ecologist and rewilder who talks about why planting native species of the right ecology is critical from the water availability point of view and how native plantation helps to create more biodiversity rich habitats in urban areas.
SAVING WATER BY REDUCING WASTAGE
Water Audit – This is an essential tool which helps to determine where all the water is being used in the complex, points of water wastage etc. Conducting periodic water audits and addressing the following questions helps in reducing wastage of water:
What is the kind of water wastage happening in our residential / office complex?
Are there any leaking taps, pipes and toilet cisterns?
Do our water tanks overflow at any time?
What mechanisms can we put in place to prevent different kinds of water wastage?
Installing Water Aerators in all the Taps – This simple solution helps to reduce water use by more than 60% per tap. Sunil Pachar, Sustainability Consultant who supplies water aerators to individuals, residential communities, corporates and institutions says that aerators must be chosen on the basis of the purpose for which the tap is used. Mr. Pachar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
20-25% of fresh water can be saved in homes / offices just by using aerators as per the below recommended specifications:
Bath showers: Spray type aerator with flow rate of 9-10 litres per minute.
Jet sprays: Spray type aerator with flow rate of 2-5 litres per minute.
Gardening: Spray type aerator with flow rate of 2-5 litres per minute.
Dish washing: Foam type aerator with flow rate of 5-10 litres per minute.
Wash basins: Spray type aerator with flow rate of 1-4 litres per minute.
Fixing Sensors in Overhead Water Tanks – Veena Padmanabhan, RWA member, Richmond Park complex in Gurgaon shares, “Earlier, there used to be a lot of water wastage in our condominium from overflowing water tanks on the roof tops. Now, after we have installed sensors, when the water tanks are getting full, the indication comes on a panel kept in our maintenance room. Even if the plumbers are busy, any staff member goes and shuts the valve which avoids any water from overflowing in the overhead tanks.”
Reducing Number of Common Area Taps and Switching to Push Taps – “Regulating water use is the key to reducing wastage of water. We figured that there were a lot of non-monitored taps in our condominium which could be opened by anyone (RWA staff members, drivers, part time helpers) at any point of time. We realised that quite often a lot of water would overflow because of some tap being left open by someone, somewhere by mistake. To address this problem of water wastage, we closed 3-4 of the common area taps. In the 2 existing common area taps, we have changed the system to ‘push taps’ to avoid water overflowing from buckets while people get busy chatting with each other,” shares Veena Padmanabhan, RWA member, Richmond Park complex in Gurgaon.
Prompt Fixing of Leaks – Leaking pipes, taps, toilet flushes are a big source of water wastage. System should be put into place to fix these immediately.
Mandating Designated Time for Car Cleaning – Instead of drivers and car cleaners having access to water taps all day long to clean cars, fixing car cleaning time for 2-3 hours in the morning helps to regulate water use.
Re-routing Water Dripping from Air Conditioners –Water dripping from the air conditioners in buildings is a big source of water wastage. This water can be easily rerouted to the water recharge pits using pipes.
Case Study: Water Management at Ireo Grand Arch Condo, Gurgaon
Water Use Reduced by 20% by following 2 Rs of Water Conservation
Raman Chawla, RWA President, Ireo Grand Arch, Gurgaon shares, “The builder handed over our residential complex to us without there being any piped water supply from HUDA – Haryana Urban Development Authority. The Grand Arch, located off Golf Course Extension Road in Gurgaon houses around 700 families and we have been dependent on getting water from tankers every day. HUDA water lines were connected to our condominium in June 2019 but they just meet about 10-40 percent of our total water needs as supply is very erratic. As a result, our dependence on water tankers remains high. At current consumption levels, residents pay a sum of INR 0.52 per sq ft for water use which works out to about INR 1200 per month for an average size 3 bedroom apartment.”
A Water Conservation Committee comprising of residents and RWA members was set up to study all possible aspects to reduce the huge water expenses being incurred by the residents. A detailed audit was carried out by the RWA and it was decided to monitor consumption patterns and plug-in wastages. Grand Arch has been helped by a Sustainability Consultant – Sunil Pachar, who helps RWAs, Corporates and Institutions to carry out water audits, suggests measures for water conservation and helps with the implementation of the same. Mr. Pachar can be reached at email@example.com
Following water conservation measures based on reducing water wastage and consumption were implemented by Grand Arch RWA:
Water aerators have been installed in all the sinks in the bathrooms and kitchens in all the flats using RWA funds. According to Sunil Pachar, Sustainability Consultant who supplied the water aerators to Grand Arch, “Every RWA should adopt this extremely effective water saving approach. This simple step of installing water aerators has helped to bring down overall water use per household by 20-25% in Grand Arch. Buying in bulk reduces the price of the aerators significantly. The RWA ended up paying INR 80-85 per water aerator for a leading German brand called NeoPerl. Neoperl (www.neoperl.net) is the market leader with about 70% of the market share. The other players are too small and do not offer the diversity of water aerators that Neoperl provides. Moreover, the quality of Neoperl aerators is far superior as compared to other brands,”
The water audit pointed out that leakages in the basement were major contributors to water being wasted in the complex. Steps were taken to plug in all the leakage points.
All the gardeners in the complex have been trained to (a) use showers/sprinklers while watering the green spaces (b) stagger watering timing in summer to early morning/late evening to avoid wastage through evaporation.
All defective garden sprinklers have been repaired or replaced.
Members of the Water Conservation Committee have been sensitising the residents by sending e-mails/whatsapp messages, putting up posters on notice boards in different towers and the club house and by involving children who have been doing ‘Nukkad Nataks’ during cultural events and painting competitions on the critical importance of reducing wastage and consumption of water.
House-maids have been trained to save water since they participate in all the cleaning chores like washing utensils, clothes, mopping floors etc.
Measures were also taken to rectify the sewage treatment plant (STP) which was not working at the desired level of performance.
According to Raman Chawla, RWA President, Ireo Grand Arch, Gurgaon, “All these measures have translated to a tangible 20% i.e. 30 lakh litres of water saving within our condominium. There is however a definite scope of further improvement. Our RWA is currently in the process of exploring all available options to reduce water usage by installing smart metering systems which will help our residents to monitor and reduce water consumption at their home level. Another critical thing that we need to look into is ground water recharge.”
SAVING WATER BY REUSING AND RECYCLING
Can this water be given one more life?Can it be used one more time before it is finally drained out? These are powerful questions that help to flip our approach to the way we look at water management. All you need is some investment in piping or plumbing to reroute the water to reuse the same.
Reusing Swimming Pool Water for Horticulture – “We do not let any drop of water go waste in our complex. Even the swimming pool water is re-routed every year at the end of the season to the community garden using a pump. This water is used by the gardeners for watering the green spaces instead of just being drained. Our plants have survived the chlorinated water without any problem!”, shares Veena Padmanabhan, RWA member, Richmond Park complex in Gurgaon.
Using Recycled Grey Water and Treated Sewage Waterfor Horticultureare 2 extremely water smart solutions as the water saving on an everyday basis is huge as your community or office complex or institution is not using thousands of litres of fresh water for this purpose. As water availability in Indian cities goes down over the next few years, using treated grey water (waste water from baths, sinks, washing machines) and black water (sewage water from toilet flushes) is the only way, residential and office complexes would be able to maintain their green spaces. According to Sunil Pachar, Sustainability Consultant, “Water recycling is very cost effective as the cost of water recycling works out to around 4-5 paisa per litre as compared to the huge cost of withdrawing water from the ground which is depleting at alarming levels in most Indian cities.”
Grey water recycling is really easy to implement as it just requires a tank to be built below the building to collect the water coming from the bathroom wash basins, shower areas and washing machines. This tank needs to be cleaned once in 15 days. A simple pre chamber can be built using small pebbles, carbon blocks and alum which helps in avoiding any smell issues.
Surbhi Iyer, Eco Team Member from Silver Oaks shares, “Total cost of setting up 9 grey water recycling tanks with a capacity of 5000 litres per tank came to approximately INR 3,60,000 (INR 40,000 per tank x 9 tanks). We built 9 tanks over a period of 5 years so it was not a drain on the RWAs financial resources.”
Researchers from Bangalore have shown that recycling and reusing grey water for gardening, flushing, cleaning cars etc in a residential complexreduces almost 70% of the total fresh water requirement. The study was carried out at ‘T-Zed Homes’ residential complex which saved almost Rs 10 lakh per annum in fresh water bills and reduced its groundwater withdrawal.
Grey water recycling is an eco-friendly, economical and effective way of providing water security to every residential and office complex in India. Countries such as Japan are using grey water recycling extensively to overcome their water deficit. Using small treatment plants and closed-loop water supply system at the building level, Japan reuses more than 53 million litres of water every single day.
“While using STP water, an important precaution that needs to be taken is to use the treated water within 24 hours. If it is stored for longer, issues of smell can come in. In such a situation, it is best to re-filter the water before using it for horticulture,” shares Keshav Jaini, Eco Team Member from Garden Estate.
SAVING WATER BY RECHARGING GROUND WATER
‘Will our children and future generations get water to drink’ is the thought that should motivate every community, office complex and institution to invest in constructing rain water recharge structures. Currently in India, we barely recharge 10% of the rain water. In urban areas, rain water recharge is negligible. With so much concretisation in our cities, there is hardly any place for the rain water to sink in and it leads to water logging in all our streets across urban India every monsoon. This needs to change. Groundwater recharge needs to be taken up on war footing in all our towns and cities if we do not want to face ground zero situation when our taps will run dry.
Ground Water Recharge Structures – From a community / office / institution perspective, what are the things to keep in mind while designing an efficient rain water recharge structure that will allow maximum percolation of rain water into the ground? This video presents the views of Sunil Pachar, a Sustainability Expert working in the area of providing water management solutions to RWAs, corporates and institutions. Mr. Pachar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Swales as shown in the Water Rich Communities film are trenches dug on gently sloping land / natural drains / storm water drains (nallahs) to capture rain water so that it is absorbed in the ground rather than let it flow out of the area which would then be lost in drainage.
The permaculture principles at work in swales are called the 3S: Slow it, Spread it and Sink it. The swale is blocked at every 10 feet or so using wooden logs or sand filled bags to further slow and collect the rain water thereby allowing only the overflow to go to the next trench. Soil holding, filtration plants can be planted in the swale to help more water to sink in. Organic brown material in the form of dry leaves and wooden branches from the horticulture waste can be added to make the soil more porous. The worms and microbes start acting on this carbon material. As it decomposes and becomes mulch in the ground, it helps to open the soil below, thereby making it easier for the water to seep into the ground.
Typically, the site where you want to dig the swale has to be assessed and studied for soil, slope, erosion, porosity and the flow, volume and speed of water. It is important to study the water coming in. If the water is too polluted, a natural filtration process using plants or filtration media (stones, pebbles) should be created. Please note that soil is a natural filter and will clean the water as it gets absorbed.
Keshav Jaini, Eco Team Member, Garden Estate, Gurgaon shares, “In our residential complex, we already had several rain water recharge structures made in 2002. We implemented the swales project to capture the rain water flowing out of our estate in the storm water drain. We have created individual trenches of 2ft X 2ft over a length of 150 feet. The total holding capacity of the entire swale is 600 cubic feet which can hold about 17000 litres of water. Initially, when it starts raining, the soil is dry and so the rain water seeps in very quickly. Once the soil absorbs the initial rush of water, the absorption rate becomes slower. In one normal 30 minutes rain, we collect and sink about 25000 litres of water in the complete swale. Time taken for the water to sink in ranges from 1 hour to 3 hours. If it rains again after 3 or 4 hours, the swale is again ready to absorb another 25000 litres. We calculated that in the month of August 2019, when we had 12 rounds of monsoon rains, our swale helped us recharge about 300,000 litres of water (25000 litres x 12 rains) into the ground. This is a very economical, ground water recharge solution. All we spent was INR 5000 as labour cost for digging the swale. The whole project is completely natural helping to regenerate mother earth in multiple ways.”
For queries and guidance on implementation of swales techniqueas a ground water recharge solution,please contact: Mr. Keshav Jaini, Garden Estate, Gurgaon at this email: email@example.com
For any comments, feedback or clarifications on this blog, please write to the author Neelam Ahluwalia at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In-House, Do-It-Yourself Waste Management Model in a Large Spread Out Residential Colony
3 Way Segregation of Household Waste following the 2 Bin 1 Bag System
Semi-Mechanised, Community Composting Solution using Rotary Drums and Metal Composting Bins
Watch this short film to see how the Nirvana Country residential community in Gurgaon has taken responsibility for the waste it generates.
Nirvana Country is a large township in Gurgaon city in Haryana. It is spread over 135 acres with 900 homes and 16 community parks. This detailed case study discusses the following aspects:
Waste Segregation System in Nirvana Country
3-way segregation of household waste plus e-waste management
Pilot for waste segregation and learnings thereof
Challenges faced during the awareness campaign and learnings thereof
Community Level Composting System in Nirvana Country
Process of aerobic composting using rotary drums and metal bins
Standard operating procedures followed
Size and dimensions of the rotary drums and the metal composting bins
One time set-up cost & monthly maintenance cost for this Do-It-Yourself system
Impacts of Nirvana Country’s Waste Management Initiative
Huge quantum of waste kept away from the landfill
Nourishment of the soil by the rich compost created from the food and horticulture waste that the community was throwing away earlier
Better recovery of recyclables
Responsible recycling of toxic electronic waste
Cost reduction in horticulture spend
Nirvana Country Waste Champion’s Advise to other Communities
Awards and Recognition received for its Waste Management System
DETAILS ABOUT THE COMMUNITY
Number of households: 900
Flats or independent houses: Independent homes with private gardens
Location and address: Sector 50, Gurgaon – 122018, Haryana, India
Contact name and email id of waste champion in the community: Ms. Monika Khanna Gulati, email@example.com
HOW DID THE IDEA GROW?
Monika Khanna Gulati, Waste Champion from Nirvana Country says, “I think the motivations were many. We had so much waste that was being dumped and burnt outside Nirvana causing ill-health to the elderly and the children. A few residents left our township and city because their children and family members were suffering from severe bronchitis and other health issues as a result of rampant burning of waste. We realised that as a large community consisting of 900 families, we needed to take responsibility for managing the organic waste (food waste and horticulture waste) generated within our township.
Also, a few of us in the community who had starting composting our kitchen and garden waste at home felt strongly that we did not want to see our community waste this precious resource which makes such lovely compost to nourish our soil.
Our Resident Welfare Association (RWA) was very supportive and decided to fund the community level waste management initiative. The brief from the RWA was very clear. They wanted a waste management system for our community that would besimple to operate, economically viable and sustainable in the long run. They also needed a system which if required to be moved due to some unforeseen reasons, should be easy to relocate.”
WASTE SEGREGATION SYSTEM IN NIRVANA
Nirvana Country follows the popular 2 bin 1 bag system (http://www.2bin1bag.in) for 3-way segregation of household waste. In August 2016, all the residents were given 2 small bins for kitchen waste (green in colour) & reject waste (red in colour), 1 additional bigger size green bin for the garden waste and 1 reusable bag for the recyclable waste from the homes. The bins and bags were funded through CSR support organised by the Nirvana Country RWA President. From November 2016, segregated waste began to be collected from most homes in Nirvana Country.
How the Segregation System Works in Nirvana Country?
Small green bin is used for the compostable kitchen waste –All the food waste from the kitchen (vegetable & fruit peels, egg shells, meat bones, tea leaves, coffee grounds, left-over cooked food items like rice, roti, bread, biscuits, vegetables) is put into the small green bin, ideally without a plastic bin liner. This food waste is used as a resource to make high quality compost.
Red bin is used for the reject waste – All the rejects such as household sweepings; chocolate and toffee wrappers; chips packets; sanitary waste in the form of baby and adult diapers and women’s menstrual pads; bio-medical waste in the form of bandages, soiled cotton; dog fur, bird droppings etc. go into the red bin. This waste which forms about 10-20% of the total waste generated cannot be recycled or composted and so has to be sent to the landfill.
Bigger green bin is for the garden waste like leaves and twigs generated from the home gardens of the residents.
Use of plastic liners in dustbins is strongly discouraged – Monika Khanna Gulati, Waste Champion from Nirvana Country says, “Regular messages are sent out to the residents through the community google group to remind them of the ill effects of using plastic bags to collect their segregated waste. Many residents have come on board and have completely discarded the environmentally unfriendly practice of lining dustbins with plastic bin liners. But many residents still find it difficult to let go of this habit. As eco-team members, we continuously make people aware about the hazards of plastic bin liners to our environment.”
Reusable bag is used for the recyclable waste –Everything that can be recycled such as paper & cardboard (newspapers, magazines, paper bills, pizza boxes, cardboard boxes, egg boxes etc), metal (aluminium cans, cheese tins etc), plastic (shampoo and liquid soap bottles, oil containers, milk pouches, all plastic jars and packets, take away food containers etc) and glass bottles are collected in a reusable bag by the residents and given to the waste pickers everyday or as and when they have a sizeable collection. This recyclable waste collected by the waste pickers is sold by them to add to their meagre income. Some residents choose to sell their recyclable waste to the kabadiwallas directly.
Residents are advisedto wash and dry the recyclable items that contain liquid or solid food such as plastic milk pouches, cooking oil containers, cheese tins, take away food containers and then store in the recyclables bag so they do not smell or attract bugs. This also increases the recycling value of these waste items.
Electronic wastelike old batteries, bulbs, wires, mobile phones, chargers, laptops, televisions, microwaves, geysers, air conditioners etc which contain toxic materials such as mercury, lead that are very harmful for human health and the health of the environment, are stored separately in each home. This toxic e-waste is given to an authorised, government approved e-waste recycler once every two to three months. Residents are informed about the e-waste collection drive over the community google group and through whatsapp messages.
Drop box for e-waste has been placed near the RWA officein case somebody wishes to drop their electronic waste especially bulbs between the collection drives. The drop box is also used by the Nirvana Country in-house staff to dispose of the spoilt bulbs and electrical parts.
Plastic Bottle Crusher (Reverse Vending Machine)has been placed near the RWA office. It was placed free of cost by a NGO Earth Initiative. The crushed plastic waste is taken by the waste workers to Gem Recycling to be recycled. The waste workers sell this waste and earn some money out of it.
Pilot for Waste Segregation and Learnings Thereof
There are 5 residential blocks in Nirvana Country. A pilot for segregation was carried out in October 2016 over a period of one month from the waste collected from one of the blocks having 155 homes. After one month, segregation was announced pan Nirvana in November 2016 and then segregated waste was picked up from all the residential blocks.
Monika Khanna Gulati, Waste Champion from Nirvana Country says, “The initial one month of pilot testing helped us understand the challenges faced in waste collection, routing process and drop-off at the community composting site. It helped us to understand how the waste pickers would keep different streams of segregated waste in their cart and whether it would take longer for them to pick up the segregated waste from each home. Initially, the waste pickers spent a few extra seconds to load the segregated waste outside each home but over a period of a few weeks, they became more efficient and faster with the collection process. Though the design of the cart was not very conducive to carry segregated waste, the waste pickers rose to the occasion and did small ‘jugaads’ on their carts to ensure that they were able to carry the waste without mixing it up. Extra bags were added to the existing carts to carry the segregated kitchen waste and dry recyclable waste. The reject waste was loaded at the back of the cart.
For the garden waste kept in the big green bins outside every home, it was decided that it would be collected by a tractor trolley which went around the colony everyday to collect horticulture waste from the streets and the community parks.
We are really glad that we did the pilot as it gave us insights to figure out the solutions to all the issues before we scaled up our operations. Time management, system management and control of processes came after studying each of the problems and working around them.”
Awareness Campaign for Waste Segregation
Target Audience – Residents
No outside agency’s help was taken to run the awareness campaign for waste segregation. It was mostly carried out by the resident volunteers. Most of the eco-team volunteers were members of the Nirvana Green Hands Group – an eco-conscious residents group focussed on home composting and organic gardening.
A google group connecting the residents in Nirvana Country played a very important role in the awareness campaign. The eco-team volunteers had started the sensitisation process of the residents a year before by sharing examples of best waste management practices and the disadvantages of mixed waste going into the environment through whatsapp messages and emails. As a result, by the time the segregation drive was launched in November 2016, 70% of the residents were already quite aware of the need for waste management and segregation at source.
The RWA office also sent out notices to bring the residents on board.
For over two months, the housekeeping supervisor walked along with the waste pickers during the collection time to talk to each and every home about the 3-way segregation process.
Segregation messages were printed on invoices, Diwali tickets and other such things to serve as constant reminders.
The residents were free to connect on email or whatsapp or phone to understand the process if in doubt.
Target Audience – Horticulture and Housekeeping Staff
Orientations were held for the horticulture and housekeeping staff in order to sensitise them on the subject of waste segregation and to the problem of waste mismanagement in the city. The estate manager, housekeeping supervisor, waste pickers and all the housekeeping staff were briefed continuously to ensure that they understood the processes correctly. They were encouraged to ask questions and clear any doubts during their briefing sessions.
Target Audience – Domestic Help
Segregation posters were put on and still flank the grills of the guard huts at the seven entry gates and the waste pick-up carts as a daily reminder to the house-helps. Domestic help orientations are held periodically to ensure 100% compliance of the 3-way segregation process.
Challenges Faced in Implementation of Waste Segregation and How They Have Been Overcome
Challenge 1 – Complexity of Size and Spread of the Residential Complex
Nirvana Country is a large community spread over 135 acres. So, initially monitoring and control over processes and systems especially collection and transportation of segregated waste was a challenge.
Addressal of Challenge 1 – Whatsapp group with various stakeholders was created consisting of eco-team resident monitors, RWA members, administration staff and housekeeping supervisors. Daily reporting on weight of kitchen waste collected from each residential block was shared. Issues needing attention were shared and resolved on a daily basis.
Challenge 2 –Ensuring 100% Segregation
Initially, many people failed to comply in giving out segregated waste. With no pressure from the RWA or the government, it was easy to get away with not having to segregate.
Addressal of Challenge 2
A Residents’ ‘Segregation Inspirers’ Team consisting of 8 resident volunteers was made. This team went in pairs to meet the residents of the defaulting homes which failed to segregate and engage with them. Most often the results of this one on one engagement process were positive and the residents changed their behaviour and started giving out segregated waste. As Nirvana Country is divided into 5 residential blocks, the resident block champions spread the word and ensured participation from their blocks.
In the first few months of launching the segregation drive, regular monthly reports were shared on the google group which mentioned the levels of segregation achieved, amount of compost generated and amount of waste kept away from the landfill to give the residents a sense of pride in what the combined efforts of the community was achieving.
The google group was also used to mention the homes giving out segregated waste and thank them for the same. This worked well to inspire those who were not segregating to start participating in the community initiative.
Nirvana Country Residents Eco-Team after 2 plus years of implementation of the waste management initiative has been suggesting to the RWA to put a ‘No Segregation, No Collection Policy’ in place whereby if the residents do not segregate their waste, their waste would not be collected from their homes and they would have to drop it on their own at a designated place. This would help in achieving better results.
Challenge 3 – Continued Use of Plastic Bin Liners in Dustbinsby Some Residents
Many people had an issue in ‘not using’ a plastic bag to line their bins for the kitchen waste and the reject waste. The challenge being to wash the bins on a daily basis.
Addressal of Challenge 3
Impact of using bin liners was shared with the community. 900 homes using 2 bin liners meant that 1800 plastic bags were being sent out on a daily basis contributing to the plastic menace in the city. Sharing numbers and impact made a huge difference and a lot of people stopped the use of bin liners.
Residents were and are continuously encouraged to use a smaller container for keeping their food waste as a smaller vessel is easier to wash and rinse.
Challenge 4 –Understanding Rejects
Addressal of Challenge 4 – Monika Khanna Gulati, Waste Champion from Nirvana Country says, “Everybody could understand wet waste and dry waste, but we wanted to urge them into the third line of segregation – that of ‘rejects’ – to uphold the dignity of the waste pickers, so that they do not have to rummage through the diaper and sanitary waste to salvage the recyclables. Communication with a special focus on items constituting reject waste was shared and is continuously shared with the residents through the community goggle group for the benefit of tenants who keep moving in and out of Nirvana.”
Challenge 5 – New Residents Coming and Going
Since tenants keep coming and going, sharing of knowledge and waste segregation system with new residents was a challenge.
Addressal of Challenge 5 – The supervisor and waste pickers have been empowered to ensure that new residents are informed about the three-way segregation practice. The waste picker carts also display the segregation leaflet on them prominently. All the entry gates in the township have the segregation leaflet displayed very prominently. There are large banners on each gate which talk about the waste segregation process and that Nirvana has no tolerance towards plastic bags.
Challenge 6 –Waste Picker Motivation
The waste pickers collecting segregated waste and the karamcharis / housekeeping boys working on the compost plant directly are very important links in the smooth operation of waste management. A high rate of attrition was noticed in this rank.
Addressal of Challenge 6 – To keep them motivated, a system of awarding the best waste picker / housekeeping staff for the month was introduced. This practice has helped in making them feel appreciated for the work they are doing. They have started taking pride in their work which has really helped in boosting morale. Usually a senior citizen or a prominent member of the community is invited to address them. Their names and photos are shared on the google group to give them an identity beyond that of a ‘waste picker’ or ‘karamchari’.
Learnings from the Awareness Campaign for Segregation
In the words of Nirvana Country Waste Champion Monika Khanna Gulati:
A unified system of communication like the google group and whatsapp group. It made dissemination of information and best practices really easy.
Thanking specific homes by mentioning the house numbers on the google group for giving segregated waste also helped in providing motivation and inspiration to others to participate.
Information dissemination on the gates with the help of banners also helped to spread awareness.
Getting resident eco-team champions from each block to talk to their neighbours worked very well too.
Formation of the Residents’ ‘Segregation Inspirers’ Team consisting of resident volunteers who went in pairs to meet the residents of the defaulting homes which failed to segregate helped to get these residents on board.
Collection Process of Segregated Waste from Homes
In the first two years of operation, the community did not have extra funds to buy new carts to keep segregated waste. The waste pickers however were extremely ‘jugadoo’ and streamlined their carts in a way to accommodate different streams of segregated waste. The management has now invested in new carts which have different bins for rejects, kitchen and recyclable waste.
COMMUNITY LEVEL COMPOSTING IN NIRVANA
Along with segregation, full scale composting operation for the entire community started in November 2016.
Semi-Mechanised Community Composting Solution Adopted Using Rotary Drums & Metal Bins
Nirvana Country is a large community of 900 homes with a huge amount of horticulture waste generated. After evaluating many semi-mechanised community composting options available for large communities throughout the country, the RWA with a core group of eco-team residents decided on a system using rotary drums and metal bins.
Nirvana Country RWA bought 5 rotary drums (each having a capacity of 2000 litres) and 12 metal composting bins to manage the kitchen waste from 900 homes along with the horticulture waste generated within the community.
The RWA also decided on using a food waste shredder and horticulture waste shredder to crush the large quantities of waste so as to fasten the composting process.
Rotary drums and the horticulture waste shredder were bought from a Pune based vendor, Myco-Compost.
The vendor got the 12 metal composting bins fabricated from Gurgaon.
The food waste shredder was given free of cost by the vendor.
Koustubh Yadre of Myco-Compost had many training sessions for the horticulture staff and the housekeeping staff. The housekeeping staff working on the compost plant along with the supervisor were trained by him for a period of 5-6 weeks. He continuously monitored the plant till the first round of compost was ready. Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) were set along with the residents’ core eco-team and shared with the supervisor and housekeeping staff.
The housekeeping supervisor overlooks the entire waste management operation in the community on a daily basis. A total of 4 workers are required to carry out the composting operationin Nirvana Country – two workers work on the community composting site and another two help with the handling of the horticulture waste which happens at a different site.
Rationale for Choosing the Community Composting Solution
Nirvana Country Waste Champion Monika Khanna Gulati says –“Our RWA wanted a composting solution which was affordable in its capital and recurring cost. Also, they wanted a system which was simple to operate and sustainable in the long run where our community would not be burdened with rising monthly payments to a vendor. This system of ‘drums and bins’ suited the community’s budget and space constraints and could be operated by the community’s own in-house staff. We also wanted a system which was as close to the natural process of composting so as to keep the carbon footprint and the cost minimal. As part of our research on sustainable community composting solutions for large communities, we came across Myco-Compost from Pune. Due diligence was done by a core team of residents who spoke to the vendor’s existing customers across the country. However, we did not get a chance to see any projects live as they had no clients who had bought from them in any of the cities in the National Capital Region.”
Process of Aerobic Composting using Rotary Drums & Metal Bins
Horticulture waste management
Nirvana Country is spread over 135 acres with 16 community parks and 900 homes each having a private garden, so the amount of horticulture waste generated is huge. Garden waste kept in the big green bins outside individual homes; leaves, flowers and twigs fallen from the bushes and trees on the streets and in the public parks across Nirvana are collected daily by a tractor trolley and taken to the horticulture waste management site where the dry leaves are first sorted from the branches. The leaves are left to dry and used when they turn brown. A huge quantum of the dry leaves are used in the community composting process along with the food waste from the homes. Then the leaves are shredded in the horticulture waste shredder, stored in large recycled sintex drums and transported to the waste composting site for regular use.
Leaves which are not used in the community composting process are left to compost in an empty area of the community, creating nutrient rich leaf mulch. Deep trenches are dug and all the horticulture waste is just buried. Over a period of a year, it gets composted on its own making the soil there extremely fertile. By composting all the horticulture waste, the community has ensured that it is not dumped outside and burnt somewhere adding to the air pollution problem in the city. The bare branches are left for the workers across Nirvana to collect and use for firewood in their homes.
Process of secondary segregation and shredding of food waste
Once the segregated kitchen waste from all the homes is brought to the composting site, a process of secondary segregation is carried out by the housekeeping staff to remove any foil, plastic or any other objects that might have been accidentally left in the food waste. Kitchen waste is then put through the food shredder to reduce the surface area of the food in order to fasten the composting process.
First stage of composting takes place in the rotary drums
In the words of Nirvana Country Waste Champion Monika Khanna Gulati, “The crushed food waste is put in the large rotary drums. Each rotary drum has a capacity of 2000 litres. On a daily basis, each rotary drum can take a maximum of 120 kg of kitchen and horticulture waste combined. Nirvana Country generates about 450 kg of kitchen waste everyday from its 900 homes. This is divided in all the 5 rotary drums. So roughly about 90 kg of kitchen waste is put into each rotary drum everyday. To balance the high nitrogen content in the food waste, carbon in the form of dried shredded leaves is added in equal or more proportion, according to volume. In the summer months, ratio of kitchen waste to horticulture waste is kept at 1:1 (in volume) – to every 1 bucket of kitchen waste, 1 bucket of horticulture waste is added in the rotary drum. However, in the winter months, this ratio of kitchen waste to horticulture waste is made as 1:2 (in volume) – for every one bucket of kitchen waste, 2 or more buckets of horticulture waste is added. This is done as the composting process slows down in the cold weather so more leachate is produced than in the summer. So in the winter, more leaves are added and that helps to resolve the issue. Irrespective of the season, it is important that once the waste is rotated in the drum, the mixture of food and horticulture waste looks dry and homogeneously mixed like ‘bhel puri’. The waste mix in the rotary drum should not be too watery or moist otherwise it could possibly create leachate and smell issues like in any other composter. If the waste mix seems too moist, then we just add more shredded leaves.”
I gm of bio enzyme powder is also added to each kg of the food and horticulture waste mix in the rotary drum to introduce more microbes and fasten the decomposition process.
Rotation feature in the rotary drums
The drums are rotated once or twice everyday for about 5 minutes for the air to be circulated inside. Rotation is important in aerobic composting, as it prevents the waste pile inside the drums from compacting, becoming anaerobic and smelly. The rotation feature in the drums also helps in the movement of waste from one end to the other. However, occasionally the housekeeping boys need to chip in to move the waste pile forward.
Second stage of composting takes place in the metal composting bins
Loading capacity of the metal composting bins
Each bin takes close to 2.5 tonnes of waste when full. It takes about 5 to 6 days for one metal bin to fill up. In one month, approximately 6 metal composting bins are filled up week after week. In the second month, the semi-composted waste taken out from the rotary drums is put in the remaining 6 metal bins. At the end of the second month, the compost is ready in the first few metal bins that had been loaded in the beginning and is taken out. And the process of loading the first set of bins is started again.
Time taken for the total composting process in different seasons
It takes about 5-6 weeks in the warmer months for the compost to be completely ready before it is given to the residents and used in the community parks and green areas. In the winter months, the composting process gets a bit slower and so the compost takes longer to get ready – about 7 to 8 weeks.
Advantages – Composting using Rotary Drums & Metal Bins
In the words of Nirvana Country Waste Champion, Monika Khanna Gulati:
Each rotary drum has a capacity of 2000 litres which means that it can hold a large amount of waste. It would be very difficult if the housekeeping staff had to rake such a huge quantity of waste manually to air it. So, the rotation feature in the drums makes the aeration easy and the process time and labour efficient as one housekeeping boy just has to rotate each drum for 5 minutes twice in a day.
This is a very neat, clean and odour free process of community composting as the rotary drums prevent any smell from going out and the waste pile attracting any flies. This is a huge advantage for Nirvana as the composting site is located in the playground where all the children come and play and multiple sports happen there. So, nobody is disturbed by the waste solution being there.
Minimal leachate issues – There isn’t a lot of leachate that comes out from the rotary drums. Only when the semi-compost is taken out from the other end of the rotary drums and transferred to the metal composting bins, there is leachate that comes out for 1 or 2 days which gets dried up quickly. There tends to be more leachate in the months of December and January as they are the coldest months of the year in North India and the moisture takes some time to dry.
Community composting using rotary drums and metal composting bins gives huge flexibility if there is need to move the location from one place to another. Since nothing is fixed to the ground, the equipment can easily be moved if required.
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
Regular training of housekeeping staff is done to ensure that they:
Carry out a proper secondary segregation process to take out any plastic, foil, glass pieces put into the kitchen waste by mistake.
Understand the importance of putting shredded leaves in equal or more proportion along with the food waste according to volume to maintain the proper Carbon:Nitrogen (Green:Brown) ratio.
Add the bio enzyme powder in the required quantity everyday to the food waste so as to add microbes and fasten the decomposition process.
Understand the loading and unloading process in the rotary drums and metal composting bins properly.
Rotate the rotary drums everyday once or twice a day for 5 minutes to ensure that the waste pile gets aerated so there are no smell issues because of compacting.
Follow the SOPs in terms of maintaining proper system of aeration, moisture level, raking the waste pile in the metal composting bins to ensure that the heat spreads uniformly etc.
Regular surprise checks and audits are done by the eco-team resident volunteers. The team is open to feedback and observations from the larger community. All concerns are addressed and progress proactively monitored.
Space Used for the Composting Operations
One rotary drum occupies roughly 5 feet by 10 feet of space for basic operation.
The total area where 5 rotary drums and 12 metal composting bins have been placed along with the area required for secondary segregation and food waste crushing is about 200 square yards. Nirvana Country has a lot of open space but if space was limited, the entire composting operation could easily be carried out in 120 square yards.
The total area where the dry leaves are stored, crushed and final compost is stored is about 240 square yards. In the case of Nirvana Country, space has not been an issue. The same operations can be done in much lesser space where space is limited.
Size and Material of the Rotary Drums
Dimension of each rotary drum: 1375 mm diameter, 1340 mm height, 5 mm thickness
Motor for vessel rotation: 5HP 3-Phase, Heavy duty geared motor
UV protected roto-moulded HDPE plastic vessel, with insulation foam material. Rested on rubber coated rollers with heavy duty fabricated frame.
Dimensions of the Metal Composting Bins
Nirvana Country Waste Champion Monika says, “The Pune based vendor Myco-Compost from whom we bought the rotary drums got 12 rectangular steel wire mesh bins of 10 feet long, 3 feet high and 3 feet wide (10 x 3 x 3 feet)fabricated for us from Gurgaon. Height of the bin was kept at 3 feet so that raking can be done easily. For handling large quantities of waste, bins with rectangular shape are better as they occupy less space as opposed to circular bins where there is loss of surface area on the sides. The powder coated MS fabricated bins are lined with shade net cloth” The cloth mesh allows aeration without exposing the pile too much to the natural elements and is cheap to replace if the rodents eat the same. But over time, we plan to move to metal wire mesh since there is an increasing rodent problem.”
Total Capital Cost i.e. one-time set up cost – Rs 10,50,000
Cost of 5 rotary drums, horticulture waste shredder and 12 composting bins – Rs 8, 50,000/- inclusive of taxes and transportation cost (Pune to Gurgaon). Cost break up: In 2016, the cost of each rotary drum was about Rs 1 lakh. The metal composting bins costed approximately Rs 12000/- per bin and the horticulture waste shredder costed about Rs 80,000/-
Cost of infrastructure at main composting site – Rs 2,00,000/- (concrete flooring for secondary segregation and food waste shredding area, tin shed covering rotary drums and food waste shredder, electricity connection for food waste shredder)
Note – Additional cost of infrastructure at horticulture site (electricity connection for waste shredding and storage room) – Rs 2,00,000 /- In case of Nirvana Country, space is not an issue and so the horticulture site is at a separate place. Otherwise the horticulture operations can easily be carried out at the main composting site where the kitchen waste is being processed.
Low Monthly Running Cost for the Community Composting Operations
No additional labour cost for managing the composting operations – As the community housekeeping boys are involved in running the composting operation, labour cost is already covered in their regular housekeeping payments.
Consumables (bio enzyme powder) – Rs 5000/- for 1000 kg of enzymes. I gm of enzyme is used per kg of waste.
Electricity cost is minimal (for running the horticulture waste shredder and food waste crusher).
There is no annual maintenance cost for rotary drums, horticulture waste shredder etc. Oiling of the rotary drums is done in-house on a weekly basis.
Feedback on the Vendor
Nirvana Country Waste Champion Monika Khanna Gulati says – “To take care of Nirvana Country community’s waste, initially the vendor recommended a 10,000-litre single drum. We went ahead and ordered in spite of this being the vendor’s first experiment with such a large size. Unfortunately, the single large drum did not work out as it cracked. The vendor said that they would replace the drum with smaller size ones. In the meanwhile, we kept composting our community’s waste using pits. After a few weeks, Myco-Compost gave us five 2000 litre drums at their own cost. Nirvana Country RWA had to incur no extra cost for this replacement. We have been using the five rotary drums since February 2017 and they are working well. The drums need to be be oiled regularly and gears checked for slipping. This is part of routine maintenance that is carried out at the composting site by the Nirvana Country in-house staff.
More details on the installation from the vendor’s side would have definitely helped but our in-house team of engineers pitched in to ensure that the new rotary drums were installed correctly. We continued to improvise and work on the system till it started giving us optimal results. We are happy that we brought in a community composting system in Gurgaon which had not been tried and tested in the National Capital Region before.”
Replication of this Community Composting Solution using Drums and Bins
This system can easily be adopted by any small (100-200 homes) or large community (maximum 2000 homes, provided they have the space to put the drums and the bins) or any organisation like a school or an institution wanting to process its food waste (cooked and uncooked) and horticulture waste. One rotary drum occupies roughly 5 feet by 10 feet of space. It can be used along with one or 2 metal composting bins in a small area for smaller communities (100-150 homes).
IMPACTS OF THE NIRVANA COUNTRY WASTE MANAGEMENT INITIATIVE
Huge Quantum of Waste Kept Away from the Landfill
Nirvana Country collects about 450 kg of segregated kitchen waste everyday from 900 homes, so the segregation efforts of the community saves more than 1,60,000 kg of kitchen waste from going to the landfill every year.
An equal amount of recyclable waste is sent out yearly for recycling.
Over 1 tonne of electronic waste is collected and given annually to government approved recyclers to ensure responsible e-waste recycling.
The huge quantum of the horticulture waste generated is composted in-house ensuring that the leaves are not thrown outside and burnt adding to the pollution woes of Gurgaon city.
Creating Wealth Out of Waste
Nirvana Country generates about 30 tonnes of compost a year. Most of the compost is used in the 16 public parks all over the township. The residents are also given 12 kg of compost free every year to use in their home gardens. If residents have a requirement over and above this, they buy it from the RWA office.
The community got the in-house compost tested from the government recognised Indian Agricultural Research Institute (PUSA lab) in Delhi. The normal parameters that have been checked for the compost sample are as follows: Ph, EC, Carbon, Nitrogen, C:N ratio, Moisture, Phosphorus and Potash. The report says that compost sample is normal. All the parameters are within range or close to range. The compost test report is as follows:
Environmental Benefits of the High-Quality In-House Compost
Nirvana Country Waste Champion Monika Khanna Gulati says – “In 2017 and 2018, the compost generated from the in-house composting process was used twice a year in all the 16 public parks and the common 24 metre road used as a thorough way in Nirvana Country. The high-quality compost has resulted in aerating and nourishing the deficient soil. Our soil has become more porous and we have noticed that it’s ability to retain moisture has increased. The plants look happier and green areas lusher as compared to earlier.”
Cost Reduction in Horticulture Spend
The 16 public parks in Nirvana have been getting a generous dose of the compost round the year and the in-house compost has also reduced the cost burden on the horticulture team to purchase compost from outside. This has given them more flexibility as they are no longer dependent on budgets and approvals from the RWA.
Waste Workers Earn Better While More Waste Gets Recycled
The waste pickers get to sell the dry waste and keep the proceeds. It adds to their meagre earnings. More importantly, three-way segregation process ensures that there is better resource recovery of different streams of dry waste such as paper, plastic, metal and glass which go back into the recycling stream.
Collective Social Responsibility
Most residents of Nirvana Country have risen to the occasion and participate whole heartedly in giving their segregated waste. Nirvana Country Waste Champion Monika Khanna Gulati says – “By taking responsibility of the waste around us and minimising it at source by ensuring that most of it gets composted and recycled, is a wonderful way for a community to show its commitment to the city and its environment. We have also been able to nourish the land which is public land outside Nirvana and turned it into green spots. The compost stops dust from flying around and this results in mitigation of air pollution due to dust. Compost helps to bind the soil, retain water and nourishes the plants. Over time, soil needs less water. This is helpful considering that Gurgaon’s water table is going down by 5 feet every year and we are sitting on the brink of acute water shortage in our city in the future. ”
Doing regular plantation drives inside the complex where the children and adults plant saplings using the compost made in-house has helped to increase awareness and a sense of pride amongst the community members for using their waste to create wealth in the form of compost.
Reduction in Black Spots around Nirvana
Monika Khanna Gulati, Waste Champion Nirvana Country says – “Our community has inspired other communities in the vicinity to also manage their waste responsibly. Moreover, as our mixed waste is no longer dumped outside, the ambience around Nirvana is clean and dumping and burning of waste has been hugely minimised.”
ADVISE TO OTHER COMMUNITIES
In the words of Monika Khanna Gulati, Waste Champion Nirvana Country:
I personally feel no matter what community composting solution you adopt, there has to be a keeper of that solution – somebody who is the guardian ensuring that the solution is working properly and the SOPs are being followed (it could be one person or a team). The champions can be RWA members or resident volunteers who ensure that all the Solid Waste Management Guidelines of the Government of India are being followed and consistently aspire to better their system, ensuring more and more waste gets composted and recycled rather than being sent to the landfill.
Sometimes it is not an easy task. Staff changes, residents change. Some residents will not cooperate or the RWA may not support you. It is important to keep equanimity against all odds and build a group of like-minded people which looks for positive solutions for all problems.
‘Celebrate Compost Days’ should be added to the calendar of activities for the community. It could be on Earth Day, World Environment Day or on Independence Day or any other day when people are invited to come and feel, touch and use the in-house compost in the common areas. A connection with the soil needs to be made especially in the hearts of the younger generation.
The waste workers need to be respected and acknowledged by all in the community as the essential link in the chain – making them feel proud and happy of the work they do. This could be done by honouring them on special occasions like Independence Day, Republic Day celebrations in the community.
Eco-consciousness should to be carried to all activities, get togethers and celebrations in the community with a complete ban on single use disposables.
Children should be encouraged to take part in all eco-conscious decisions and activities of the community with a special seat of vote resting with them. They are going to be the leaders of tomorrow.
Most importantly, respect for the waste champions should be maintained. They should not be pulled down and criticised for each and every action of theirs. The community should be encouraged to chip in with constructive criticism and active participation by the leaders in the RWA.
AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS
The Nirvana Country community has received many awards and recognition by various stakeholders for it’s well managed decentralised waste management system. Dr. Shyamala Mani (Professor, National Institute of Urban Affairs who holds solid waste management exposure workshops for urban local bodies across India) visited the Nirvana Country waste composting site and gave the composting process a big thumbs up.
For queries and guidance on implementation of 3-way segregation process and the community composting solution using rotary drums and metal bins detailed in this case study, please contact: Ms. Monika Khanna Gulati, Nirvana Country.
For any comments, feedback or clarifications on this case study, please write to the author – Neelam Ahluwalia at the email id mentioned below.
3 Way Segregation of Household Waste following 2 Bin 1 Bag System
Completely Natural, Do-It-Yourself, Low Cost Community Composting Solution using Steel Wire Mesh Bins
Watch this short film to see how the Garden Estate community has taken responsibility for the waste it generates.
Since February 2016, an efficient system of in-house waste management in Garden Estate has ensured cost savings financially along with many environmental benefits. This detailed case study discusses the following aspects:
Waste Segregation System in Garden Estate
3-way segregation of household waste plus e-waste management
Reduction in plastic pollution due to most homes not using dustbin liners
Challenges faced during the awareness campaign and learnings thereof
Community Level Composting System in Garden Estate
Waste audit and learnings from the composting pilot
Process of natural composting using steel wire mesh bins & SOPs followed
Leaf composting process
Dimensions and loading capacity of the composting bins
One time set-up cost & monthly maintenance cost for this Do-It-Yourself system
Impacts of Garden Estate’s Waste Management Initiative
80% reduction in the waste going to the landfill
Nourishment of the soil by the rich compost created from the food and garden waste that the community was throwing away earlier
Direct financial saving of Rs 50,000 every year that the community was spending earlier on buying compost from the market
Better recovery of recyclables
Responsible recycling of toxic electronic waste
Reduction in plastic pollution
Garden Estate Waste Champion’s Advise to other Communities
Replication of this Low-Cost, Natural Community Composting Solution
Advantages of this solution
Do-It-Yourself vs Vendor-based Model
Number of bins, shape of bins and space requirement in 3 different scenarios based on the Garden Estate Do-It-Yourself Model (kitchen waste of 100 homes, 200 homes & 370 homes) and 2 different scenarios based on a similar Vendor-based Natural Community Composting Model (kitchen waste of 500 & 1000 homes)
DETAILS ABOUT THE GARDEN ESTATE COMMUNITY
Number of households: 373
Flats or independent houses: Both
Location and address: M G Road, Opposite Guru Drona Charya metro station, Gurgaon – 122002
Contact name and email id of waste champion in the community: Mr. Keshav Jaini, firstname.lastname@example.org
HOW DID THE IDEA GROW?
Keshav Jaini, Waste Champion from Garden Estate says, “Our community had already implemented many eco-friendly initiatives over the years such as constructing rain water harvesting pits, sewage treatment plant, storm water drain recharge and rejuvenation of barren areas by planting native trees. What was disturbing us immensely was seeing the garbage mess all around the city. By sending out plastic bags full of mixed waste every day from the 373 homes in our community, we realised that we were being part of the problem. Instead of blaming the government, we realised that we should do our bit by taking responsibility for managing the waste generated in our own complex.
The President of our Resident Welfare Association (RWA) was very supportive and gave the go ahead for a waste segregation and composting pilot. The brief from the RWA was very clear. They wanted a waste management system which was economical in its set up cost & monthly maintenance cost and which would be simple to operate, cost effective and sustainable in the long run where our community would not be burdened with rising monthly payments to composting vendors or rising electricity costs or expensive annual maintenance contracts. This brief ruled out any semi-mechanised and mechanised composting systems as such solutions are all expensive in their capex and opex. As part of our research on sustainable low-cost community composting solutions, we came across a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) model implemented by Rainbow Drive residential complex in Bangalore(https://savitahiremath.com/category/community-composting). On one of my trips down South, I visited this condominium to understand the system better. The belief that ‘our waste is our responsibility’ guided theRainbow Drive Waste Champion, Mr. K.P. Singh and his team of eco-residents to implement the 2 bin 1 bag system of 3 way waste segregation in their community of 250 plus homes and compost their segregated kitchen waste. The compost is being used to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables in their complex. After seeing the set up at Rainbow Drive, I felt confident of replicating this DIY, low cost, completely natural solution of bin composting in my own complex. The idea was to follow a completely natural process of composting and let nature do the work without much interference on our part so as to keep our cost and the carbon footprint minimal.
At a meeting called for discussing this idea, the positive response of the residents was overwhelming. People agreed to contribute 1000 rupees per household to set up a community level composting system. Around 20 folks – young and old volunteered to get the waste management initiative off the ground. Finally, the RWA decided to fund this initiativeeliminating the need to take any financial contribution from the residents.”
WASTE SEGREGATION SYSTEM IN GARDEN ESTATE
3-Way Segregation of Household Waste plus E-Waste Management
Garden Estate has used the popular 2 bin, 1 bag system for 3-way segregation of household waste (www.2bin1bag.in). In January 2016, the RWA bought two-colour coded bins (red and green bins) and the white bag for the recyclables for each of the 373 homes from a local supplier at a total cost of Rs 80,000. The bins have lids on them so there are no issues of smell or insects or flies when they are kept inside the homes or outside the homes for collection of waste.
Green bin is used for kitchen waste – All the food waste from the kitchen (vegetable and fruit peels, egg shells, meat bones, tea leaves, coffee grounds, left-over cooked food items like rice, roti, bread, biscuits, vegetables) is put into the green bin. This food waste is used as a resource to make high quality compost.
Red bin is used for reject waste –All the rejects such as household sweepings; chocolate and toffee wrappers; chips packets; sanitary waste in the form of baby and adult diapers and women’s menstrual pads; bio-medical waste in the form of bandages, soiled cotton; dog fur, bird droppings etc. go into the red bin. This waste which forms about 10% of the total waste generated is what is sent to the landfill.
White reusable bag is used for recyclable waste – Everything that can be recycled such as paper and cardboard (newspapers, magazines, paper bills, pizza boxes, cardboard boxes, egg boxes etc), metal (aluminium cans, foil, cheese tins etc), plastic (shampoo and liquid soap bottles, oil containers, milk pouches, all plastic jars and packets, take away food containers etc) and glass bottles go into the white reusable bag.
It is very important to wash and dry the recyclable items that contain liquid or solid food such as plastic milk pouches, cooking oil containers, cheese tins, take away food containers and then store in the recyclables bag so they do not smell or attract bugs. This also increases the recycling value of these waste items.
Electronic waste –E waste items in the form of old batteries, bulbs, wires, mobile phones, chargers, laptops, televisions, microwaves, geysers, air conditioners etc which contain toxic materials such as mercury, lead that are very harmful for human health and the health of the environment; are stored separately. This e-waste is given to an authorised government approved e-waste recycler who comes into the complex once every 2 months.
Elimination of Plastic Liners in the Dustbins
Jyoti Punj, a lady resident of Garden Estate says, “With the awareness created amongst the residents regarding waste dumping and the toxic impacts of plastic bags on our land, water and air; most homes in Garden Estate have stopped using plastic bin liners. It barely takes a minute to rinse the bins, dry them in the sun and reuse them.”
If all the homes had continued using plastic bin liners, that would be 373 homes using 2 bin liners for their 2 bins per day. That would have resulted in a lot of plastic pollution. By consciously refusing to use plastic bin liners, the Garden Estate community prevents more than 2,00,000 plastic bin liners going into the landfill every year.
Awareness Campaign for Waste Segregation
Awareness campaign with residents was carried out over a period of 6 months using segregation posters put up in strategic places in the complex, word of mouth and showing films and presentationson 3-way segregation. Posters, presentations and films were downloaded from the website www.2bin1bag.in. A few home visits were also done primarily to the homes of the very elderly residents by a core group of resident volunteers.
Training sessions with the household helpers were done to train the helpers in how to keep the waste separately in the homes, to wash and dry the recyclables before storing them and not to use any plastic bin liners in the dustbins.
Workshops were also conducted with the Garden Estate housekeeping staffand the waste workers to train them in the process of 3-way collection of segregated waste from all the households.
No outside agency’s help was taken to run this awareness campaign. The resident eco-volunteers carried out the awareness campaign.
Challenges Faced in Implementation of Waste Segregation
Keshav Jaini, Waste Champion from Garden Estate says, “The main challenge was in getting the residents to change their attitude towards their own waste i.e. my waste is not my problem but that of the waste worker or the RWA or the municipality. I have already paid the society charges for maintenance so why should I get involved in segregating my own waste.”
Not all the residents came on board initially. Keshav Jaini and the team of eco-volunteers went ahead with the implementation process once they had 60% of the residents on board. They were confident that the rest would follow eventually.
Keshav says, “We had to be very patient. Every time people called with problems and issues, we would ask them to help out so they could help us figure out the solutions. Another challenge we faced was to keep the volunteers motivated. Initially, 20 people had volunteered to help out with the segregation drive but then people lost their enthusiasm. In the end, we were left with only a handful of volunteers. But now when I look back I feel that all we need are a few passionate, committed residents to get this off the ground.”
Learnings from the Pilot and Awareness Campaign for Segregation
In the words of Garden Estate Waste Champion Keshav Jaini:
It is not a one-time process. The awareness programme has to be continuous and ongoing as residents keep moving and household helpers and housekeeping staff also keep changing. Providing a standard note on 3-way segregation of waste for new residents moving in to the complex is helpful.
Doing a pilot project with 20 homes in 2 towers helped us to understand the kind of issues and problems coming up with segregation, the process of collection of segregated waste and how to resolve these issues. For example, Garden Estate complex has independent houses as well as apartments. Each building has 5 floors. There is no separate service lift so when we did the pilot study in two towers, we figured that it is best if thewaste picker carries one bin for the food waste and 2 bags (one for the rejects and the other for the recyclables) using the stairs to each of the 5 floors in the buildings to collect the segregated waste from each home.
Refusing to pick waste from homes unless it is properly segregated.
Single minded push by one resident with support from a small core group, the RWA President, horticulture and housekeeping staff.
What did not work?
The suggestion of Challans / Fines for not giving out segregated waste did not go down well with the residents. This line of thought was not pursued as it was leading to resentment amongst the residents.
Collection Process of Segregated Waste from Homes
The waste collected in 3 ways from each household by the waste pickers is brought down and emptied into a big drum kept for the kitchen waste and 2 different bags kept for the recyclables and the reject waste in the waste picker’s cart. None of the waste picker’s collection bins are lined with plastic bags. This cart is taken to the site allocated for waste management in the complex. At the waste management site, the kitchen waste is taken to the composting area and the recyclables are sorted separately.
Sale of Recyclables by Waste Workers
All the recyclables are sorted and taken by the waste workers free of cost to sell to the recyclers in the market. Waste Champion Keshav Jaini from Garden Estate says, “The RWA or Garden Estate residents do not profit from the sale of these recyclables. We are very happy for the waste workers to have this additional source of income.”
COMMUNITY LEVEL COMPOSTING IN GARDEN ESTATE
Full scale composting operation for the entire community started in February 2016. But before that, a waste audit and a pilot for segregation and composting was done.
Waste Audit and Composting Pilot
Household waste –Waste audit was carried out internally by the resident eco-team volunteers and the housekeeping staff when the segregation and composting pilot was done from October to December 2015 to assess the quantity of kitchen waste, recyclable waste, reject waste and plastic waste generated from 20 homes in two towers. The kitchen waste generated from 20 homes was then extrapolated to estimate the kitchen waste that would be generated by all the 373 homes in the complex. This helped in deciding how many total composting bins would be required.
Horticulture waste – Garden Estate complex is spread over 23 acres of land and has lots of trees, plants, bushes and flowers. Bulk of the dry leaves are collected in the shedding season from March to May every year. Smaller quantities are collected from time to time during the rest of the year. The dry leaves are stored in gunny sacks kept in the composting area. The horticulture waste generated is approximately 20-30 trailer loads by volume annually.
50 – 60% of the horticulture waste is used in the composting process along with the kitchen waste.
Leaf composting is done using the remaining dry leavesto make nutrient rich leaf mulch.
Branches from the trees are given to nearby villagers for their use free of cost.
Do-It-Yourself, Low Cost, Natural Community Composting Solution Adopted
After studying many natural and semi-mechanised composting options and carrying out a pilot project, Garden Estate adopted the Do-It-Yourself, Steel Wire Mesh Bin System of Aerobic, Natural Composting. This in-house, low cost and completely natural system of community level composting is being used in Bangalore and other Indian cities as well. It isbased on a simple to operate process with no use of machines, electricity or watermaking the carbon footprint of this composting solution extremely minimal. Occasionally, only a small shredder is used to manage the large volume of dry leaves in the shedding season and to speed up the composting process as dry leaves take longer to compost. This composting solution is based on the housekeeping staff managing the essential components of aerobic composting i.e. C:N ratio (Carbon:Nitrogen), Moisture and Air properly. The system requires proper monitoring by the housekeeping supervisor on a daily basis and the eco-team members on a weekly basis to ensure that the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are being adhered to so there are no issues of smell, compacting etc and the compost generated is of high quality.
Learnings from the Composting Pilot
Along with the waste segregation pilot, a composting pilot was done from October to December 2015. Kitchen waste from two towers i.e. about 20 households was collected and put in one steel wire mesh bin layered with dry leaves everyday over a period of a few weeks.
Garden Estate Waste Champion Keshav Jaini says – “Thepilot helped us to figure out what can go wrong when we try to compost the waste of so many homes together and what are the solutions we need to look at. Many specific issues were studied and resolved such as the waste pile compacting and turning anaerobic, smell issues, time taken in the bins for the first stage of the composting process, how to aerate the waste pile in a labour efficient manner etc. For example, we realised that the height of the composting bin should not increase more than 3 feet as it helps to minimise the need to physically turn the pile for aeration. Also, we realised that by putting 2-3 pipes (with holes) in the composting bins at a slanting angle helps to aerate the waste pile well and reduces the need for the housekeeping staff to manually turn the waste pile for aeration. So essentially, the pilot study helped us to figure out how to solve issues at low cost, using less labour and other resources.”
Process of Natural Composting using Steel Wire Mesh Bins
Two housekeeping boys have been trained to carry out the composting operation. On a daily basis, it takes them about 2 hours to do all the jobs at the composting site. When the segregated kitchen waste from the homes is brought to the composting site, the housekeeping boys first carry out a secondary process of segregation to ensure that any plastic or metal or glass put by mistake by the residents or the household helpers in the kitchen waste is removed. Items like coconut shells are removed as they take too long to compost. Meat bones are put in. After the secondary process of segregation is done, the housekeeping boys cut down the bigger and harder pieces of food waste like water melon peel, other fruit and vegetable peels using a knife.
Aerobic composting requires carbon, nitrogen, air and moisture. The nitrogen content is obtained from the food waste, primarily the fruit and vegetable peels. Food waste should be mostly fruit and vegetable peels and about 15 – 20% can be cooked food for this natural composting process to work efficiently. Dry leaves, saw dust and cocopeat are used to get the carbon content. Saw dust is mixed in the chopped food waste.
This mixture of food waste and saw dust is then put into the steel wire mesh composting bin and covered properly with dry leaves. This ensures that no flies or bugs are attracted to the bins and there are no issues of smell. Once the composting bin is full, the food waste and the horticulture waste is left in the bins for 5 weeks to compost naturally. 2 pipes have been put in each of the composting bins to allow for air to go in easily and aerate the pile. The waste is also turned once or twice every week using a rake to provide for better air circulation. Every bin has been given a jute cloth lining to cover the sides so that the waste does not fall out of the bin. It also helps to control the extreme temperatures, moisture levels and pests from entering inside.
To absorb the leachate that drains out during the composting process, sand or cocopeat is placed on top of the cement structures built under the bins. After 5 weeks, the compost which is about 70% done at this stage is taken out of the composting bin and taken to an open area where it is left to cure for another 5 weeks. In case any waste item like meat bones are not decomposed fully, they are just put back into the composting bin with the fresh waste. Total time taken for compost to be made using this natural aerobic system of bin composting is 10 weeks. About 5-6 kgs of the 70% done compost or the ready compost is put as an accelerator at the base of the composting bins to increase microbial activity at the time of restarting the process of loading the bins each time. Additionally, about 1 kg of the compost can also be put 2-3 times during the loading cycle.
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
Regular training of housekeeping staff is done to ensure that they:
Carry out a proper secondary segregation process to take out any plastic, foil, glass pieces put into the kitchen waste by mistake.
Cover the food waste with leaves properly so there are no flies and smell issues.
Understand that the dry leaves (source of carbon content) should be about 3 times in volume (or same quantity in weight) as compared to the kitchen waste (source of nitrogen content) to get a good Carbon:Nitrogen ratio.
Follow SOPs in terms of maintaining proper system of aeration, moisture levels, mixing saw dust (source of carbon content) in the chopped food waste, adding old compost to kick start the microbial activity at the time of loading fresh waste into the composting bins etc.
Dimensions of the Steel Wire Mesh Composting Bins
Garden Estate Waste Champion Keshav Jaini says, “We bought 4 rolls of steel wire mesh (1-inch square) and then our internal staff fabricated 12circular steel wire mesh bins of 4 feet diameter and 3 feet height to manage 225 kg of kitchen waste daily coming from 373 homes in Garden Estate.We kept the height of the composting bins at 3 feet to minimise the need to physically turn the pile for aeration.”
Loading Capacity of the Composting Bins
Each bin of size 4 feet diameter and 3 feet height takes about 110 kgs of kitchen waste daily and the same quantity in weight of the dry leavesi.e. about 110 kgs of dry leaves daily up to seven days. In Garden Estate as the total kitchen waste is about 225 kg daily, 2 bins are loaded simultaneously in the first cycle for a week till they are full. After five weeks when the compost is about 70% done, it is taken out of these bins for the curing process. Then the loading process of the fresh waste is restarted in these 2 bins.
Capital Cost i.e. one-time set up cost = Rs 1,85,000
Cost of composting bins – 12 steel wire mesh composting bins were made in-house in January 2016 at a total cost of Rs 50,000. This cost includes the cost of rolls of steel wire mesh bought to make the bins, cost of the jute cloth bought to line the bins and the labour cost to put all the bins together.
Cost of making the tin composting shed and brick flooring – Rs 1,35,000
Garden Estate Waste Champion Keshav Jaini says, “We got a shed made for our composting unit as thecomposting process needs protection from direct sun, rain, cold and wind. From the construction work happening inside Garden Estate at that point, we requested residents to give bricks, marble slabs etc for the flooring. This way we kept the set up cost minimal.”
Maintenance Cost i.e. monthly cost for running the composting operations = Rs 7,000
Labour cost for carrying out the secondary segregation process and loading of the composting bins comes to about Rs 5,000 per month (paid to the housekeeping boys involved in the composting operation over and above their monthly salary. As the society housekeeping boys are involved in running the composting operation, part of the labour cost is already covered in their regular housekeeping payments).
Consumables (saw dust and cocopeat) – About Rs 2,000 per month
Leaf Composting Process in Garden Estate
Garden estate has a huge green cover and a lot of garden waste is generated. The dry leaves that are not used in the waste composting process with the food waste are used to make nutrient rich leaf mulch. Leaf mulch helps to protect and aerate the soil and save water by retaining moisture in the soil.
Garden Estate has used steel wire mesh bins of about 3 to 4 feet in diameter and 4 to 5 feet in height for leaf composting. The bins have been placed in a shaded, flat and clean area near the nursery. The earth at the bottom is watered before adding the leaves and flowers waste. A handful of accelerator in the form of cow dung slurry (made by mixing dry cow dung with water) or some compost or sour butter milk is sprinkled on top occasionally to increase the microbial activity and speed up the decomposition process. Water is sprinkled on the pile to keep it moist. This process is repeated every day or as and when extra leaves are available. It can take 6 – 8 months for the decomposition process depending on factors such as size and type of leaves, weather (too hot or too cold), moisture levels etc. The bottom most layer in the bin starts decomposing first. An opening has been provided at the bottom to take out the ready leaf mulch. Leaf composting in steel wire mesh bins makes it a continuous composting process as leaf and flower waste is added from the top and leaf mulch is taken out from the bottom. When leaf mulch is taken out, any leaves that are not fully decomposed are put back on top with the fresh leaf waste.
Garden Estate has had a family of waste pickers working with them for many years. They are very happy with the community for implementing segregation as the sale of clean recyclables helps to fetch them more money. It has also given the waste workers more dignity of labour.Waste Worker Inda Dun says, “Earlier when we were collecting mixed, unsegregated waste from the homes, it took my family hours to sift through the garbage to recover the recyclables. A lot of precious time was wasted and many recyclable items would get spoiled as a result of the wet kitchen waste and the dirty sanitary waste all mixed up in the same bag.”
Reduction in Quantity of Single Use Plastic sent to the Landfill
Since the implementation of waste segregation in Garden Estate, majority of the households (about 75%) have stopped lining their dustbins with plastic bin liners. By consciously refusing to use plastic bin liners, the community is preventing plastic pollution that would have been caused by more than 2,00,000 bin liners going into the landfill every year.
Responsible Management of the Community’s Waste
Waste Champion Keshav Jaini says, “Segregation of waste at each home level, community level composting and recycling of dry waste and e-waste ensuresthat we are able toresponsibly manage almost 80% of the total waste generated by our community. About 60% of our total waste is kitchen waste which is converted to high quality compost. 20-25% of the waste from all the homes is paper, cardboard, plastic, metal, glass and electronic waste which is recycled. Only the remaining 15-20% that cannot be composted or recycled such as sanitary waste, household sweepings etc. goes to the landfill now.”
Minimal Carbon Footprint
Since the community composting model is in-house so no transportation cost is incurred in carrying the waste anywhere. Moreover, it is a completely natural system with no machinesso there are no electricity costs or any extra resources used.
Creating Wealth from Waste
Before the implementation of the segregation drive, Garden Estate was throwing away almost 225 kg of kitchen waste every single day. After the community has started segregating, Garden Estate saves almost 82000 kg of kitchen waste from going to the landfill every year. Instead wealth in the form of nutrient rich compost is created out of this waste. Annually, Garden Estate produces about 9 tonnes of compost. Most of this is used within the complex in the parks and green areas. Residents are sold the compost for use in their gardens. Some compost is gifted to NGOs.
Win-Win Situation for the Community and the Planet
Keshav Jaini says, “We are using all our horticulture waste effectively in making compost and leaf mulch so we arepreventing the pollution that could have been caused with these leaves going out of the complex and getting burnt somewhere, polluting the air we all breathe. There is also a direct financial saving of Rs 50,000 every year to the community which we were spending earlier on buying compost for our green areas from the market. The compost that we are producing is very high quality. We are now using twice the amount as it is freely available and we have been able to green many areas that were lying barren in our complex. Our plants and trees are very happy as this compost is very high in nutrients. So, the in-house waste management is a win-win for everyone – the residents, the waste workers, the RWA, the soil, the plants, the trees…”
ADVISE TO OTHER COMMUNITIES
In the words of Garden Estate Waste Champion Keshav Jaini:
Make a very strong core group of eco-conscious, dedicated and committed resident volunteers to help out in the awareness and implementation process.
Look at the waste management system for its long-term sustainability. Keep it simple. The process should be system driven, not person driven.
Do a pilot for segregation as well as composting as each community will have different sets of issues. The pilot helps to identify the problems and figure out solutions which then helps in the smooth scale up of operations.
Set up detailed SOPs and checklists. Have efficient reporting systems in place.
Do regular workshops (twice a year) for training of household, housekeeping and horticulture staff as people keep leaving and new staff joining.
Recognise good work. Honour the housekeeping, horticulture staff and the waste workers for their efforts to make them feel appreciated for their hard work to keep them motivated.
Use the eco-consciousness built in the community with the implementation of waste segregation and composting to take up other environment friendly initiatives such as building sewage treatment plants, implementing the saying no to single use plastic campaign, native tree planting, creating organic community vegetable gardens, building rain water harvesting structures in the community for recharging ground water levels, installing solar heating and lighting and other energy efficient measures, celebrating festivals in an eco-friendly manner etc.
REPLICATION OF THIS LOW-COST, NATURAL COMMUNITY COMPOSTING SOLUTION
This low-cost natural system of composting using steel wire mesh bins can easily be adopted by any residential community or an organisation like a school or an institution with enough open space for composting. For this natural composting process to work efficiently, food waste should be 80% fruit and vegetable peels and about 20% can be cooked left over food items. As the process is simple to operate, the in-house housekeeping staff of the RWA or the organisation can be trained to run the show without any problems. Care has to be taken that regular monitoring is done to ensure that standard operating procedures are adhered to.
As the quantity of waste to be handled goes up, the number of trained people to handle the composting operation will also need to be increased. For example, where the quantity of waste being handled is more, having a Supervisor to oversee the work of the staff handling the composting operations will be useful to ensure that SOP s are strictly followed.
Shape and Dimensions of the Composting and Curing Bins
The shape of the bins can be round, square or rectangular. Care has to be taken that height or width of the bins is not increased too much, otherwise it becomes difficult to aerate and manage the waste pile. Then issues such as the waste compacting, the waste pile becoming anaerobic and smelling can occur.
Rectangular bins will take less space but cost of making rectangular bins is higher as compared to circular bins. Also, rectangular bins cannot be made in-house. They will need to be made by an outside fabricator.
Advantages of this Do-It-Yourself, Natural Composting Solution
Highly modular and adaptable system –Depending on a community’s or organisation’s total space availability and requirement, the system can be designed and implemented.
Flexible – As the bins are not fixed to the ground, they can be easily moved to another location if required. Also depending on quantity of waste generated and space available for composting, shape of the composting and curing bins can be circular, square or rectangular. This composting solution offers flexibility in the curing process as well. Garden Estate complex has a lot of space so the 70% done compost is left in an open area to cure naturally. Where space is limited, this curing process can take place in specially designed steel wire mesh curing bins so as to optimise the space available.
Neat and clean system – As the kitchen waste is well covered with dry leaves, there are no flies and insects. The jute / green net lining on the sides of the bin ensures no spilling of the waste and helps to insulate the composting process from heat and cold.
Very low-cost community composting model – As no machines are used or any outside vendor is used for carrying out the natural composting operation, there is no electricity cost or expensive annual maintenance contracts for any machines or any monthly payments made to vendors. Both one-time set up cost and monthly running cost for this do-it-yourself solution are minimal which makes this a very economical model for a community or organisation which has open space for composting.
Provides for good aeration –2 inch diameter pipes with holes in them that are put in the bins help with the aeration. One or two 2 pipes should be put in each composting bin.
Facilitates a continuous process of composting – Every 5 weeks, the 70% done compost is taken out from the composting bins and the loading process is re-started.
Allows for easy maintenance of standard operating procedures –This system is very easy for any housekeeping staff to understand. Important factors for aerobic composting such as Carbon:Nitrogen Ratio, Aeration, Moisture and Temperature can be easily managed in bin composting.
Natural Community Composting Solution using Steel Wire Mesh Bins – Do-It-Yourself vs Vendor-Based Model
Learning from the experience of Garden Estate Community’s Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Waste Management System, Malibu Town residents in Gurgaon have set up their own Low Cost, DIY, Natural Composting Model using funds collected from the community. We will share their fascinating story in one of the subsequent blogs on this website.
Balancing Bits, a social enterprise based out of Gurgaon working in the area of providing waste management solutions to residential communities and organisations in Gurgaon, Delhi and other cities is also following this low cost, natural system of bin composting(http://balancingbits.com).
Communities or organisations who want to use this low cost, natural system of bin composting but do not have the human resources for setting up and implementing the system on their own, can get vendors like Balancing Bits to set up and run the natural composting operations for them. Please bear in mind that the set up and monthly maintenance cost in hiring the services of a vendor will go up as compared to the ‘Do It Yourself’ extremely low-cost model like the Garden Estate one as payments will need to be made on a monthly basis to the vendor for providing labour and expertise to run the composting operation.
Capital Cost to Set Up the Composting Bins
Each bin can cost anything between Rs 3000 to Rs 12,000 depending on the size, shape, do it yourself or outside vendor used. Shed cost and cost of flooring is extra.
Number of Bins and Space Requirement for this Natural Composting Solution
Space required for composting operations will depend on factors such as:
design of the composting bins,
whether the curing process is being done in the bins or in the open,
availability of space for composting in the complex
Number of bins used will depend on several factors such as:
area available for composting,
size and shape of the bins,
layout of the space available,
amount of kitchen and horticulture waste that needs to go in daily,
Number of Circular Composting Bins required based on Garden Estate Do-It-Yourself Model
Following are some calculations done by Waste Champion Keshav Jaini if the dimensions of the composting bins are kept the same as the ones used in the Garden Estate composting set up i.e. circular steel wire mesh bins of 4 feet diameter and 3 feet height.
4 circular bins can manage kitchen waste of 100 homes
100 families will approximately generate 50 – 60 kg of kitchen waste daily. Each circular bin of size 4 feet diameter and 3 feet height will take 50-60 kg of kitchen waste plus 50-60 kg of horticulture waste in weight daily and will take about 14 days to fill. The turn around time is 5 weeks for each bin. In 5 weeks, the compost which is 70% done will be taken out from the composting bin and left to cure in an open area for another 5 weeks. This is how the cycle works.
6 circular bins can manage kitchen waste of 200 homes
200 families will generate approximately 100 – 110 kg of kitchen waste daily. Each circular bin of size 4 feet diameter and 3 feet height takes 100-110 kg of kitchen waste plus 100-110 kg of horticulture waste (in weight) daily and will take 7 days to fill. The turn-around time will be 5 weeks. In 5 weeks, the compost which is 70% done will be taken out from the composting bin and left to cure in an open area for another 5 weeks. This is how the cycle works.
12 circular bins can manage kitchen waste of 370 homes
Garden Estate has 370 homes and about 225 kg of kitchen waste is generated daily. Each circular bin of size 4 feet diameter and 3 feet height takes 100-110 kg of kitchen waste plus 100-110 kg of horticulture waste (in weight) daily and takes 7 days to fill. In Garden Estate, 2 bins are loaded in the first cycle. The turn-around time is 5 weeks. After 5 weeks when the compost is about 70 percent done is taken out of these bins for the curing process, the loading process of the fresh waste is restarted in these 2 bins.
Space required for composting based on Garden Estate model
In Garden Estate where curing of the 70% done compost happens in the open, to compost kitchen waste of 225 kgs daily along with the same quantity in weight of dry leaves, 1500 square feet of total space is used. The composting area in Garden Estate where the 12 bins are kept is about 1000 square feet which includes storage space and the area where secondary segregation takes place. Garden Estate has a lot of open space but if space was limited, the entire composting operation could easily be carried out in two-thirds of this space (about 650 square feet).
In Garden Estate, the open area where curing of the 70% done compost takes place is 500 square feet. Since direct sunlight and rain are not good for the composting process, the curing area is protected from direct sun light by the natural shade of trees. A plastic sheet is kept over the compost that is being cured during the monsoon months and other times when it rains heavily.
If the 70% done compost is cured using bins, the space required for curing reduces.
As the quantity of waste increases, size of the bins will need to be changed to rectangular as they take less space and more waste as compared to circular bins.
Number of Rectangular Composting & Curing Bins and Space required based on Balancing Bits Vendor Based Model
16 rectangular composting bins & 5 curing bins can manage kitchen waste of 500 homes
“According to Rahul Khera of the social enterprise Balancing Bits (http://balancingbits.com), “For 300 kg of kitchen waste (from 500 homes) plus same quantity of horticulture waste in weight daily, approximately 16 composting bins and 5 curing bins will be required to complete 30 days of composting cycle plus about 10 days of curing. Rectangular bins of size 4 feet x 4 feet x 3 feet or 5 feet x 3 feet x 3 feet will occupy minimum 750 – 800 square feet of space. This is based on our experience of composting kitchen waste of 500 homes plus horticulture waste at Uniworld Garden 1 complex in Gurgaon.”
Rahul Khera at the community composting site in Uniworld Garden 1, Gurgaon that his firm Balancing Bits is operating
32 rectangular composting bins & 10 curing bins can manage kitchen waste of 1000 homes
According to Rahul Khera, “For 500 – 600 kg of kitchen waste (from 1000 homes), plus same quantity of horticulture waste in weight daily, approximately 32 composting bins and 10 curing bins will be required to complete 30 days of composting cycle plus about 10 days of curing. Rectangular bins of size 4 feet x 4 feet x 3 feet or 5 feet x 3 feet x 3 feet will occupy minimum 1500square feet of space.”
For queries and guidance on implementation of the 3-way segregation process and the Do-It-Yourself, natural community composting solution detailed in this case study, please contact: Mr. Keshav Jaini, Garden Estate, Gurgaon.
For any comments, feedback or clarifications on this case study, please write to the author – Neelam Ahluwalia at the email id mentioned.
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