Composting – A Primer

As per Daily Dump’s research approximately 60% of our household waste is organic waste. As waste becomes a growing problem across large cities of the world, many are adopting composting as a way to reduce the burden on landfills and incenerators. As a city-dweller, you can help out by composting at home – it not only supports your city but also helps you re-build your connection with the natural world! Here, we present to you a primer on how to get started!

  • What is organic waste?

Examples of organic waste are food, kitchen and garden waste. These are all made of biodegradable matter that breaks down naturally with time into carbon dioxide, water, methane or simple organic molecules.

Composting is a natural biological process, carried out under controlled aerobic conditions (requires oxygen).   In this process, various microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi, break down organic matter into simpler substances.   The effectiveness of the composting process is dependent upon the environmental conditions present within the composting system i.e. oxygen, temperature, moisture, material disturbance, organic matter and the size and activity of microbial populations.
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  • What is composting?

Composting is a natural biological process that helps breakdown organic matter. In nature, it requires the presence of oxygen and the help of various microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi, that break down organic matter into simpler substances. The effectiveness of the composting process is dependent upon the various environmental conditions such as: presence of oxygen, temperature, moisture, organic matter and the size and activity of microbial populations. The result of this process is the conversion of waste into ‘compost’ which is a sweet-smelling dark crumbly mix of humus. Composting is relatively simple to manage and can be carried out on a wide range of scales in almost any indoor or outdoor environment and in almost any geographic location.

  • Why is compost useful?

There are many advantages to composting our waste. You not only reduce your own waste footprint on the city’s infrastructure but also help improve the soil in your garden and neighbourhood. Compost also helps the soil retain moisture. It improves the soil food web, which is made up of microscopic bacteria and fungi, along with earthworms, crickets, and many other life forms. Many fungi form symbiotic, or mutually rewarding, partnerships with plant roots, making it possible for vegetables to feed themselves more efficiently.

  • How do I compost at home?

If you are a beginner to home composting, start off with the most popular method: aerobic composting in a pot. The instructions below from the organisation Chintan can help you begin with a ‘do it yourself’ composting system.

  • Instructions for making a home composting system

Aerobic composting is done above-ground with the help of microorganisms that consume and decompose organic waste matter in an aerated environment. You can make the composting container yourself or buy one. Usually, three pots are used, stacked one on top of the other.

  1. Begin by segregating your waste and keeping your wet waste in a separate container.
  2. Once the wet waste container is full, put its contents into the first compost pot.
  3. Add dried leaves of the same quantity as the waste. Add semi-composted material, buttermilk or cow dung to start off the decomposition process.
  4. Turn the pile around every other day. The pile has to be kept at the right level of dampness. If it is too wet, add dried leaves and stir. If it is too dry, add water and stir.
  5. Once full, leave the pot open for 30–45 days for the composting to happen.
  6. Once the container is full, move the semi-composted matter into a larger container or bin. After two months, the waste will turn into rich compost that can be used or sold as manure.

Our friends at Daily Dump have perfected this model of pot composting further in the form of the ‘khamba’ which incorporates 3 pots stacked together. It is now seen as a widely adopted method for composting at home in cities. You can make a DIY version of this with your own 3 pots also.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Daily Dump is a friend of TCC. We do not get any revenue from the sale of their products. We recommend them because we think its the most easiest, efficient and eco-friendly model of composting at home and use it ourselves.

  • What if I face any problems of challenges?

Do not worry if you don’t get the composting process right immediately. Note the problem and look it up here for easy troubleshooting. We are sure, with some patience and love, you will get it right and have the chance to give back to your city!