Where nothing goes a waste

GREEN INITIATIVES

Where nothing goes a waste

Dr Vaman Acharya is not your typical doctor. He trained as a gynaecologist, served in the tribal areas of Maharashtra in the mid-Eighties and later returned to Bangalore to pursue his many other passions including the environment.

Apart from being an industrialist, Acharya is also a farmer. It was on his way to his farm in the early Nineties that Acharya would routinely pass trucks laden with garbage. Those days, plastic waste was much less and the trucks carrying mostly organic matter would be on their way to dump this in the outskirts. While most people wrinkle their noses and try to forget garbage, Acharya saw “food” in this waste. “My intention was not to clean the city but to see that this green food went back to the soil to nourish it. The bacteria, millipedes and other living organisms in the soil convert this waste organic matter into manure which can enrich the Earth.”

Fine organic-rich manure
It was with this intention that Sunrays Compost was started as a “socially useful private enterprise” in 1993 near Machohalli. Seventeen years down the line, it continues to handle five-ten tons of predominantly organic waste from which about four-eight tons of fine organic rich manure is produced every day. 

Manjunath Moli who oversees the entire process explains this conversion. “The garbage arrivals are kept in weekly rows. The rows are kept as it is for a while and then water is sprayed and the heap churned using earth movers.

Subsequently bacteria culture is sprayed and decomposition is hastened. There are separating machines which sieve the matter in two stages. The first stage refuse includes big stones and some plastic matter. The plastic is given away to be converted to diesel. The second stage of sieving yields fibrous and other large organic matter, which are taken by farmers to strengthen their bunds and what we get after the second stage sieving is the fine powder manure that we sell to a fertiliser company.”

Holding this fine black powder with no trace of smell in hand, one marvels at the natural process that converts garbage into manure, a process that is hastened and slightly modified here with the help of technology.

Acharya can thus be credited with actively addressing the colossal solid waste disposal programme of Bangalore, even if on a minuscule scale. With a shrug, he explains, “This solid waste as resource has been a passion of mine – more than my other ventures. I have invested a lot of time and money in this but can’t really call it a success story although it has the potential to become a highly profitable socio economic activity.”
Acharya continues, “the total amount of garbage generated by Bangalore every day is around 4500 tons out of which nearly 1500 tons is usable organic matter as our eating style thankfully still includes a lot of fresh and raw produce. An acre of land needs on an average five tons of manure/year, imagine how many acres of farmland can be made fertile with the garbage produced by Bangalore city alone.”

Waste segregation vital
Why is this not happening then? “Collection, segregation and transportation of waste are presently not being done systematically. Segregation of waste into dry and wet is the need of the hour. We need to continuously educate the public, the pourakarmikas, the contractors and transporters about separating waste.

“People are becoming aware but at-source segregation can happen only with continuous education, persuasion and incentives. There should be units in every locality where segregated waste can be collected and then sent for further processing. People don’t mind paying for waste management if they know it will be handled properly. With the organic manure thus produced we can make the soil very fertile and there will be no need for harmful chemical fertilisers at all,” says Acharya.

Sunrays Compost is presently getting most of its organic waste from big industries who pay a nominal amount to convert their organic waste into manure. Only some amount of Sunrays’ input is from municipal waste.

Acharya says that because the Pollution Control Board cracks its whip, many big industrial and commercial establishments are taking waste disposal seriously, but, for the city’s garbage it is a public private partnership that is required.
Sunrays Compost is now facing an uncertain future. The land on which the unit is located has been acquired by the BDA to be converted to a residential layout. Solid waste management is one of the important issues plaguing the city and models like the one envisaged by Vaman Acharya need to be further explored if Bangalore has to get rid of the tag ‘garbage city’.

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