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When your kachra turns into kamaai

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Garbage, junk, trash, rubbish, kachra… are some of the terms we use for the waste we produce. What if we told you, you could also call it money, treasure or even a goldmine? Yes! The organic waste in your dustbin is that dark horse which may seem worthless but can actually make profits. No kidding! Organic waste accounts for more than 50% of the total waste generated. On an average, an individual living in urban India produces 0.5 kg of organic waste every day. Every bit of this waste has the potential to be converted into a revenue generating stream. But we will come to that later.


What’s in my dustbin?


Let’s take a closer look at our garbage. Waste generated by households can be divided into:

 

  • Kitchen waste – vegetable peels, fruit peels, cooked leftovers or stale food
  • Garden waste – leaves, trimmings, wood
  • Dry waste - plastic bottles, metal cans
  • Sanitary waste - diapers, sanitary napkins, tampons

 

A large part of the waste generated in households is fully bio-degradable and can be recycled easily. However, handing it over to the garbage collector to be dumped into the landfill is no less criminal than chopping trees or polluting the air. It all adds up to the environmental crisis our planet is facing today.

 

As per rules laid down by authorities, garbage has to be treated near its origin as opposed to being taken to a common central location like the dumping ground. This is known as decentralized waste management.


The dumping ground dilemma


A surprisingly common argument to decentralized waste management is “But if it is naturally biodegradable, it should decompose even in the landfill”. Even well-informed, educated people believe that there is no harm in dumping organic waste in the landfill since it is naturally biodegradable. This practice, however, is more harmful to the environment than one can imagine. When organic waste gets mixed with non-biodegradable waste, it creates two main issues: Methane gas and leachate.

 

Organic waste that lies under piles of garbage in a landfill, decomposes in the absence of oxygen. It produces methane gas which is highly toxic and hazardous. Another problem is that a clean, renewable gas like methane which has the potential of being converted into energy- is allowed to disappear into thin air.

 

Leachate, another equally hazardous side effect of landfills is formed when organic waste comes in contact with water during decomposition. Leachate has the tendency to percolate into the ground and when that happens, it contaminates the groundwater. All flora and fauna in the area that are dependent on groundwater for survival face a major threat due to leachate problem.

 

Apart from these major issues, landfill is an ever-increasing pile of garbage that is not only an eyesore but also releases foul odours in the vicinity. This heap will only increase further if the waste is not managed and disposed at source.

 

From trash to treasure

Coming back to the fact that your kachra you generate can make you rich, here are some compelling reasons to recycle organic waste:

 

  • ·        Because rules and guidelines mandate you to do so
  • ·        You are responsible for the environment and the community you live in
  • ·        It SAVES a lot of money

 

Diverting organic waste from the landfill has plenty of cost benefits. A residential society can practice waste management by adopting any of the processes like composting, vermicomposting or biogas power plant. All three methods will pay back to you and to the environment, albeit in different proportions. Here’s a table explaining the methods and their outcomes:

 

Process

Description

Output

Cost benefits

Composting

Decompose organic waste naturally

Manure

Used for gardening or sold to third parties

Vermicomposting

Decompose organic waste using worms

Manure

Used for gardening or sold to third parties

Biogas Power Plant

Decompose organic waste by anaerobic digestion

Biogas

Can be converted to cooking fuel or electricity

 

 

The manure produced by composting and vermicomposting is used by residents for gardening or for the common green spaces. Some societies also sell excess manure commercially to farmhouse and nursery owners. This additional revenue often comes handy to cover maintenance costs that a society has to incur.

 

But if you’re really looking at getting significant cost benefits on the garbage you produce, biogas power plant is the best option. The energy produced by anaerobic digestion is very powerful in terms of reusability. It can be used as cooking fuel in kitchens or as electricity to light up common areas. It is undoubtedly the most eco-friendly and economical way to treat waste. Decentralized waste management process like a biogas power plant is a one-time investment that pays back as a resource for a lifetime.

 

Dual benefits

 

If you think about it, decentralized waste management has dual cost saving advantages. One – it generates revenue with the outcome it produces. Two- the cost of transportation of the waste from where it is generated to the landfill is invalidated. Often, societies are at the mercy of garbage collectors or agencies that carry out the transportation and have to tip them big sums for picking up garbage daily.

 

There is no denying that the sense of satisfaction that comes with every penny we save is unparalleled. If your waste is going to the landfill, then you are practically throwing money down the drain. But if it is recycled, then you are creating a positive impact on the environment and making the world a better place too. All while making some money out of it. Let's not forget that when you turn your kachra into kamaai, Mother Earth also makes sure you’re also getting some karma points!