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Turn Your Trash into Cash

Mangalore’s waste management expert Dr Hareesh Joshy believes the first step to tackling the garbage menace Bangalore is to use vermitechnology using earth worms to compost organic waste.

Published: 26th June 2014 07:31 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th June 2014 07:43 AM   |  A+A-

Waste

BANGALORE: Mangalore’s waste management expert Dr Hareesh Joshy believes the first step to tackling the garbage menace Bangalore is to use vermitechnology — using earth worms to compost organic waste. And this can start off at schools, apartment complexes and even in individual houses, says the retired professor of zoology, who is volunteering to train students, teachers and any other interested citizen in vermitechnology.

During his visit to Bangalore this week, Joshy even approached the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board with his suggestion to decentralise waste management.

“Accumulation is the chief problem we have to address here. When there is public cooperation—I’m assuming there is— to segregate waste, why do you need to dump excess in landfills in Mandur or anywhere else? If the system is decentralised, the garbage can be processed where it is generated,” he told City Express. So his solution is to have a vermicompost plant for every ward.

Joshy, who started a course in vermiculture at St Aloysius College, Mangalore where he taught till 2011, has come up with a dual-chambered mobile prototype, Vermibin, that can be used for vermicomposting in 45-day cycles.

He believes that public involvement is essential for a decentralised approach. “The waste generated by a thousand hands has to be dealt with by a thousand hands,” he explains.

However, he’s also aware that people, if the authorities seek their involvement, are likely to ask what’s in it for them.

“It’s natural, I’d do that too,” he says. And hence, his solution is to present this as an accessible investment and train citizens from different walks of life to become micro-entrepreneurs in the business.

How it should work

The number of units a ward requires depends on its population. After consulting experts, a ward can be identified and a working model can be constructed there. A year later, others could follow, suggests Joshy.

And these ward-level plants, if one were to go by the waste management guru’s plan, will have paurakarmikas operating them.

“The pourakarmikas could be trained to take the organic waste, which constitutes about 70 to 80 per cent of the waste typically produced by a household, and process it in the plants at the wards and take the compost to the municipality. This could include paper and kitchen waste since these can be digested by African night crawlers, the earthworms used in this unit,” says the man who has already trained a spectrum of people, from doctors to beggars back home in Mangalore. However, these worms can't digest citrus fruits and meat,

According to the retired professor and researcher, one kilo of vermicompost would fetch one `15 in the market. So, he states, as incentive, a pourakarmika should receive payment immediately on delivery from the Palike, which should in turn direct the compost to the Department of Agriculture. The department could make this accessible to farmers as non-chemical fertiliser. “There’s a fertiliser crisis too, which is contributing to farmer suicides. This would help bring suicides down,” he conjectures.

Demand for waste

Were this proposition to take off, he says, it would create a healthy competition among the pourakarmikas to process garbage.

“Then they will say, ‘Why should we dump garbage? We’ll keep it and use it’,” he says, adding that the notion that garbage is waste should be re-examined.

And with vermicomposting, he promises, there will be no stench. “Moreover, the worms you use double, so you can use the excess from one batch for the next,” he says, with a smile.

Catchy slogans of waste management such as ‘turn trash into cash’ or ‘garbage into gold’, he says, would soon catch on in individual households and apartment blocks as well.

“We’ve been talking about water conservation; soon, we’ll talk of garbage conservation in the same way,” he declares optimistically.

Time and cost issues

However, he admits even if the authorities chose to embrace this or a similar plan, it could take a few years and lakhs of rupees to implement.

 “You cannot expect it to fall into place overnight. Construction of a model will probably take a couple of months or more. A nuclear family of four produces about 2 kg of garbage a day, so for a population of 10,000, a plant with two units with a capacity of about 750 kg to a tonne is required. It could cost about Rs 3 lakh to 4 lakh,” he calculates. But this, he adds, is permanent infrastructure.

And after the system takes off in one ward, it could be used as a pilot for other wards in the city as well. Once demonstrated, the idea has a good chance of catching on.

Areas of focus

And while that could take another year, meanwhile, he hopes that individual homes, apartment complexes, offices, educational institutions will adopt it.

“I have trained teachers before and would be more than happy to do the same in Bangalore schools as well,” offers the crusader. He also perceives an added advantage in targetting schools — students, young minds, are far easier to convince than older people, he believes. And the concept is likely to spread faster: from school to school, from students to parents.

So what’s holding him back? “No schools have approached me yet,” he rues, adding that keeping in mind the attention span of the present generation, he has designed a half-hour demo using a flower pot. “I’ve noticed, if you simply talk of awareness, it goes in from one ear only to go out through the other,” he observes. He is looking to work with slum dwellers and convicts. “If you can show them a way to be productive, why wouldn’t the idea appeal to them?” he reasons.

To get in touch with Dr Hareesh Joshy, call 99000 94951 or email shjoshy@yahoo.co.in

More from Bengaluru.

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