Mumbai to Singapore Musings | Composting wet kitchen waste- Think you can’t compost in an apartment? It’s possible and it’s easier than you think! Click through to put your kitchen scraps to good useLiving for more than a decade in Mumbai, I often found myself overwhelmed by the sight of litter dumps, the stink and stench of household waste, the groaning weight of overflowing dump trucks. So once when I was expressing the same to a friend, I was amazed to hear about wet garbage/kitchen waste composting as a concept. I immediately started my online research and soon figured out what a blessing it was going to be to our planet if each one of us started composting. I decided to practise before preaching as also instead of criticising the filth within the city, it was time for action at a personal level. My friend from Mumbai Goes Green helped me purchase the traditional Indian compost with three tiered terracotta pots from Daily Dump through her organisation. In fact, as representative of Mumbai Goes Green she even organised a session to brief me, and I promptly took the opportunity to invite over few of my kids’ friends to ensure a greater reach of the “green message” especially to our generation next!

In the session, we learnt an interesting statistic that by composting our kitchen waste, one could save more than 60% of waste going out in trash cans per family, especially since an Indian kitchen is active through the day. Now that was an eye opener- so much unnecessary waste being dumped , thereby adding toxic gases to the environment to accelerate  further global warming!!

We started composting our wet garbage more than three years ago, and the family has since become a Green Warrior family to be conscious on saving our planet Earth. We were always conscious about not leaving any extra lights, fans and electrical equipment on if not in use, and further started making our own compost by recycling our kitchen waste. We reduce the garbage bags exiting our home each day, we make our own paper at home from all trash letters, leaflets, brochures, envelopes etc, even our kids’ birthday parties are organized around the theme of recycling, reducing waste and reusing and with very clear messages on them as part of return gifts. We are fairly vocal about it too [as you can see]! Ah well, perhaps you can call us Green Ninjas!

We relocated to Singapore about 12 months back. I was astounded to hear that in 2014, of the 7.5 million tonnes of total waste generated in Singapore, 788,600 tonnes was food waste. Of this food waste only 13% [101,400 tonnes] was recycled!* This is when I decided to pen down my experience on composting wet kitchen waste at home and share it on Secondsguru and my blog. Secondsguru’s perspectives on reducing waste, reusing and recycles resonate with my Green Ninja avatar well, hence the connection!

So how does one really compost?

– We use a three tiered composter comprising three perforated eco-friendly terracotta pots (to allow air to pass through). I purchased this set of three pots for $46 from Daily Dump in India. The lower-most pot had a solid base, while the middle pot and upper pots had a hollow base with ropes making a mesh. You can even make your own composter at home, just follow these pointers to see what fits your need and your house.

– Keep a newspaper over the hollow area of the topmost pot and add kitchen waste in this pot. The other two pots remain empty. Add a bit of compost accelerator and spray lemongrass oil to reduce smell and to keep unwanted pests away. Next, cover all this in the first pot with sawdust and few dried leaves to control the moisture. Remember to stir the waste with a ladle twice a week in the beginning.

– Once the upper pot is full and semi-dried [expect 2-3 weeks in Singapore climate], the top two pots need to be interchanged. Move them as follows: the upper to the middle; the middle to the top. The bottom one with solid base stays in its bottom-most position. Again, line the bottom of the topmost pot with a newspaper so as to avoid dripping into the lower pots and start adding your kitchen waste to it.

– After another 2 to 3 weeks, empty out contents of the middle pot into the lower most pot, get the topmost pot in the middle and get the emptied-out middle pot to the top and start adding fresh kitchen waste into it (with newspaper at the bottom).

– After 6-8 weeks, your bottom-most pot will have the compost ready to be used as a rich fertiliser for those gorgeous greens in your home !

– Finally, run the compost through a plastic sieve (in form of the regular large square holed plastic trays used as racks etc.) over old newspaper to collect it and get your lot of compost, smelling like fresh mud!!

This way, we started giving Earth back what we extracted from it!! As a warning, we did get maggots within these pots but very few if you keep it dried well. These maggots help in break in breaking the garbage to create the magic of compost. Within months, we started distributing the compost within the condominium to our neighbours, gardeners, etc. The children started coming over for a demo, to help sieve and to see the maggots inside the pots. Our wet garbage reduced the overall garbage by almost 70 to 80%.

For making the kids aware, we bought a book  called The Magic Gamla Pot which sent across the same message in simple text. I would highly recommend online purchase of this through ‘Daily dump’ to make them understand the importance of compost and have them grow with EQ towards the environment! Honestly, in addition to exposing kids to home composting, this book also made me more aware and confident about it.

After our hands on experience on composting, I sincerely suggest segregation of wet and dry waste to save the pile up of garbage dumps and prevent global warming in the long run!

Tips on what to put in and what not to put in the Compost POT: categorised as “Greens”, “Browns” and the  “No, No, Nos”. I have included some non-kitchen items too, as they are easy to compost.

Greens – Vegetable and fruit peels, rotting vegetable and fruit scraps , non infected plant cuttings, ground coffee remnants, used egg shells,  tea bags(we add tea leaves and used egg shells directly into plant pots at times), old flowers, bones of meats, cooked food

Browns – Dried leaves, small twigs, used paper in moderation, filter paper for coffee, cardboard, empty corn cobs, used kitchen paper

No, No, Nos – plastics of all kind, drink cartons, glass, porcelain, glossy paper, magazines, e-waste, wood, electrical items – bulbs, tube lights, batteries, aluminum foil, infected plants and leaves

Wouldn’t it would be great if composting was made compulsory in the food & beverage sector and if individual condominiums did composting as a community effort or if the street cleaning staff were trained for leaf composting (a thought that crops in my mind every time I walk through the pathways and see piles of leaves?

Perhaps I sound draconian! But if we’re going to save the planet – we need to be!

*Source: NEA

Related Articles from the Web: Composting in Singapore

-Shivani Malhotra with inputs from Lara Rath

Shivani is an architect by profession and is passionate about environmental issues since her college years. To merge her profession with passion, she recently became a LEED Green associate and is currently studying to become a LEED AP (LEED Accredited profession) to deal further with large scale environmental damage caused by the construction industry.  She is blessed to have a whole bunch of like-minded friends for interactions and discussions on environmental issues through their organisations, blogs, Facebook pages etc. She hopes to make that difference for a healthier earth through required action!!! 

Lara is the co-founder of Secondsguru. A former banker, a once again born blog writer and a passionate yogi, Lara loves to spend time with her family and travel the world!

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