Waste no more: A housing societies that grows organic food using manure

Garden bench made of recycled cartons
Amid these trying times when even stepping out of one’s home to buy food is a considerable health risk, residents of at least two housing societies in Mumbai have one thing less to worry about — their daily supply of vegetables.

Those living in Mahim’s Matoshree Pearl and Fortune Heights housing societies have been growing vegetables inside their respective compounds since 2018. The green space within a compound is tended by manure, which they produce themselves by recycling biodegradable wet waste with the help of bio-composting machines. They keep the dry and electronic wastes separately and send them for recycling. The society cultivates a variety of vegetables ranging from chillies and tomatoes to herbs. These Mumbai residents uphold the idea that one can be environment-conscious and cultivate a healthy lifestyle even while living in concrete jungles and urban spaces.

Compost made from bio-degradable waste
All thanks to the awareness campaigns on growing food on terrace or balconies by RUR — Are you reducing, reusing, recycling, a company run by Monisha Narke, a mother who just wants a clean environment for her two daughters.

An engineer by qualification, Narke was perturbed by the waste management system of Mumbai. According to the estimates by the Central Pollution Control Board, Mumbai generates 11,000 tonnes of waste every day on an average and 73 per cent of it is biodegradable food and fruit waste. She wanted to do something to bring about a change, working towards which she founded RUR in 2010.

Monisha Narke
Waste management system in Mumbai is extremely centralised. The waste is picked up from your home each day and it ends up in a landfill, polluting our soil, air, and water. To create an effective system, I realised we needed to decentralise this and adopt a sustainable model where each household would be responsible for the waste they generate. Thus the problem of dumping and burning garbage gets fixed at home,” Narke tells Business Standard.

She started with learning about preparing compost from biodegradable waste. “Turns out, I could grow a muskmelon on my very own window grill from the first compost I made! This made me realise the massive benefits we could reap if several households adopted composting,” Narke says.

Stationery designed after compressing tetra paks
Now, waste management experts at RUR train and educate residents from several societies to grow their own organic produce.
Narke says with over 70 houses practising the community composting process in the Chembur society, the decentralised waste management movement is gaining pace gradually. “Residents of this society have mitigated close to 65 kg carbon dioxide generated annually by diesel vehicles transporting waste from source to dumping grounds.”

She, however, says most people do not want to go the extra mile and manage their waste. “They are satisfied with a centralised waste management system. Creating awareness and educating people about the benefits of composting waste is the only way for us to tackle this challenge,” Narke says.

Tetra packs after they are collected and cleaned
While working extensively on creating a sustainable waste management model, Narke also realised that people did not have access to a viable waste management model. To mitigate this challenge, RUR launched their first model of a bio-composter in 2016 that was certified by the Indian Green Building Council and the Confederation of Indian Industry. The Aerobic RUR Greengold Bio-composter, as it is known as, comes in S (small), M (medium), L (large) and XL (extra large) models. They compost biodegradable wet kitchen waste between 800 gm and 200 kg per day.

These machines can be installed in homes and housing societies and biodegradable waste can be recycled to make compost. Narke says while the world battles the deadly coronavirus pandemic, growing vegetables in one’s terrace or even balcony has gained more significance.

In these 10 years, RUR has conducted several workshops, seminars, awareness camps and has educated over three million people to adopt effective and environment-friendly modules of waste management. They raise awareness on issues like the importance of segregating waste, reusing, composting and recycling. RUR has also emerged as a social enterprise. It has been diverting over 650 tonnes of waste each year for recycling, thus mitigating over 70 kg carbon dioxide annually.

In 2010, RUR collaborated with Tetra Pak with a vision to maximise recycling. They launched a venture “Go green with Tetra Pak” in 2012, under which they started a campaign, “Cartons le aao, classroom banao”, where used Tetra Pak cartons were recycled to make benches. They donated such 250 benches to a government school in Mumbai’s Bandra.

RUR also launched “Bin se bench tak’ campaign. Composite sheets, made of recycled cartons, are used to make garden benches. This initiative has gained a lot of momentum and the collaboration has donated about 150 plus garden benches until now.

In Mumbai, the venture currently has 44 public collection centres at stores and 180 private collection centres.

RUR is now working on a composting mechanism, which can cater to bigger housing societies. “We are also working on a compacter, which helps in ergonomic handling of non-biodegradable dry waste,” Narke says.

RUR aims to set up over 200 composting projects across the country to mitigate waste from going to landfills.


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