S01Extra05: Composting and Justice – A 12-year olds’ Take

Interview with 12-year old Gautami, a segregation and compost enthusiast 

Deepika: Over the past month, as part of the Trash Talk series, I met and talked to 3 citizens in Bangalore and Gurgaon who’ve been composting and segregating their waste. One of them, Savita Hiremath, told me about her 12 year old daughter, Gautami, who has been segregating since she was 2!

I was immediately curious to meet her and to know: What makes a 12-year old compost? What does she love about it? Why does she do it? 

So in between her exam schedule, I got a chance to meet and talk to her. 

Gautami: My name is Gautami and I am 12 years old. I go to Vidya Niketan school and I’m in 6th grade, in C-section. I am the Vice Captain of our school. 

I remember segregating since I was two. My mom told me that. but composting happened only when I was in like Prep 2, first grade. I only understood a part of it that we put together the stuff we use every day and we’d get this like super nutritious soil which we could use for our plants. It seemed a particularly good way to conserve energy. Well, I only started composting when I was in first grade, but as I talked about it in schools and everything, I tried to get my friends under the same like, craze I hooked up on. Because it’s just crazy the stuff we use everyday and throw away is so valuable to the plants and everything around us.

If we take all our trash and keep it outside and when it can be used for making your own plants in your own garden thrive, it makes no sense because it’s kind of like throwing away food which like…assume a human person who’s hungry and you’re eating food but you threw away half of it. We have it think about how sad he would have felt because he could have eaten that food. Just like that, we are throwing away food which plants and other animals could have been using and also it’s like a incredible way to prevent waste from ending up in landfills and stuff. It’s the easiest way to do it. 

I’ve recently been reading a book called Trashonomics. Where they actually talk about how all our waste like in the entire India, gets dumped into this one landfill. Like it’s like a huge mountain of trash and most of it is organic waste which is the saddest thing. And plastic. Plastic we can’t avoid. So it’s just thrown there. But if organic waste can be converted into compost then it saves so much trouble and if it’s stuck in the landfills, it will cause poison because it’ll mix with other chemicals which will then seep into the earth.

when it seeps into the ground it can pollute underground water or it can also cause soil degradation, fertility goes down, then agriculture goes down. If agriculture goes down, who will eat?  We can’t help that can we? It all starts with our trash.

We do something called aerobic composting. We do both actually— aerobic and anaerobic. What we do is at night or whenever we finish a meal we throw our leftovers into a bin outside. It’s a drum so we put it in there and then we churn the wheel. Every day we keep adding it. We get a soil. It starts to decompose because of the microbes and because of the soil which was already present there. So as it decomposes we use that soil for our plants.

I remember this one incident where I was doing vermicomposting which involves the worms. So I picked up the worm in front of the entire class the teachers and students scrammed and ran out of the room. It’s just a little worm. I have a special connection with worms, I mean they’re so harmless but they do so much for us.

The thing I like the most is that it’s just amazing that even a small person a little kid can convert something which is his own like his own trash,  into something so beautiful and then give it to something else and it will thrive. So when I threw away my trash into the bin and churned it everyday and  I put it out to the plants, it was just amazing to see the difference. Like how it just thrived in a few days.

I have a friend in this apartment. Her name is Vishakha. So the both of us got really interested about climate change like we started watching videos on Greta, Greta Thunberg. So we got so interested in it, and we realized that most of it is not only because of air pollution but also because of our trash. If you can just fix the trash part of it, air pollution will take care of itself. So that’s where it got interesting and I got a lot of friends to support me for it. And then my mom also does community composting so this place is just basically green for us.

I know a few of my friends have actually started their own small composting plant and also after many talks, and also my mom also had come to our school. They started putting up this composting plant where they put our like…the school provides food. Like in a canteen. So they put the leftovers in there and also the mulch from the plants and that’s used.

The thing is that it’s just normal now. Because now we just have dry waste and wet waste bins. We just have taken that under our control so it doesn’t feel very special ever doing composting because it’s our everyday life now. So I mean even the Principals and everyone they just think it’s normal because earlier it seemed to be a huge deal. We had one trash bag, a black colour one, and everything went to it- food, glass, everything. Broken glass went into it. But then it started to hurt the helpers. So we took the idea of composting and we divided our waste and that helps them and also helps the environment.

All of this stuff actually began because when I think about it in this way—our generation does not have enough power to make a change now. But together, united we can so we decided, as a front, our entire School decided to pick up stuff which we can fix, like composting we can fix that. Segregation of waste we can fix that. Like we already know. 

All adults are not taking global warming as seriously as us kids. It’s because it will be our generation which will be living at that time. So if we can fix what we can at many different places, it’s like contributing to ourselves for our future.  So like that with my school we made many sessions. Actually, we even talked to the maids— how we segregated like which goes in where. After that we also had different sessions for the first graders and second graders. So we all segregate our waste now and if you’re not segregating your waste, there’s some sort of punishment or something, I don;t know. But it just makes us feel so bad that people, adults and everyone, they’re not taking everything as seriously as us and if they don’t take anything, seriously, we won’t have enough power to make a change. 

I want to make a difference because like if you take a look at what Greta did,  it affected places like the US. But I want Indian first because we are it’s not that we produce a lot of waste. It’s just because we’re much of a smaller country compared to US. So because of their size they’re producing more waste and we’re not. So if we can fix whatever we are producing which is not actually much compared to them. But our situation isn’t any better. But if we can fix what we’re doing, we could set like a, we could set an example for them. Because if we can change, they can change too. We all change together.

Deepika: Throughout the Trash Talk series, we’ve met with people from age 12 to 75 who are taking action, big and small, in their everyday life to manage their waste and also the city’s waste. Join them today by getting started on your own journey.