Lockdown: Managing Kitchen & Food Waste at Home

The onging official lockdown might be frustating many as India’s 1.30 billion-plus population went into a three-week lockdown from 25th March. One third of the world as on date are also restricted to their homes.  As people will be  restricted to their homes for a long time now in India and surrounding nations including many European countries , the management of solid waste especially the kitchen waste will be another challenge in next few weeks .  In a place like Kashmir where COVID 19 lockdown is more strict and people even being taken into custody by police for roaming on streets, the managment of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) especially the food waste can be a problem for municipal authorities in Srinagar , Jammu and other towns as 
sufficient number of sanitation staff won’t be available to collect the household waste. I would infact suggest that waste collection by sanitation staff from individual households be avoided at least for two to three weeks to ensure safety from COVID 19. The sanitation workers and ragpickers are more suceptable to this viral infection and let us no overburden them. The lockdown period of two three or four weeks is the best time to learn the art of waste managment especially managing the food waste. From last several years i have been stressing upon in-house composting of organic waste (kitchen waste). I along with my friends from Environmental Policy Group (EPG) gave a presentation to state Chief Secretary Mr B V R Subramanhyam in December 2019 stressing upon him and his administrative secretaries to focus on management of kitchen waste within the premisis of house by digging a pit or using a plastic or steel drum to store this waste. I don’t know how many people have taken tips from my previous articles , but this lockdown is the best time to learn managing hosuehold waste especially the kitchen waste within the boundary walls of our house. This may be bit challenging for those famililies living in multistoried apartments and flats but for a place like Kashmir , Jammu and many other small towns and citizes where people have some space in front of their house can process the waste in a very scientific way. This would not only help us but it would be a great service to the society as well. 

  
Is Dustbin a Solution ?
While showing our concern for management of solid waste we have a very simple advise to people especially for our kids “Beta Dustbin use Karo” (use dustbin). Teachers stress on students, parents stress upon children, civic authorities request citizens to use trash-bins for disposing off solid waste. 
Have we ever thought for a while where shall the dustbin or trash-bin go ? Dustbin is not going to swallow the solid waste. It has to go somewhere? Let us assume that all the trash generated in colonies, towns and villages will be thrown in dustbins from April 1st 2020, where shall all this finally go?
When I ask people they say it will go to Dumping Site (landfill site). How many dumping sites we have? Do we have enough land availability to create new garbage dumps ? Only last week i wrote a detailed article on dumping of municipal waste near different rivers and lakes as there are no landfill sites availables in majority of the towns in J&K ? 

The lone landfill site in Srinagar at Saidpora Achan is almost overloaded with garbage. Every day around 350 to 450 metric tons of garbage is unloaded by vehicles of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) at Achan. For how many years we can afford to send such a huge quantity of waste to Achan or any other landfill site located in our major towns of Baramulla , Sopore , Anantnag , Pulwama etc ? I am of firm belief that after 2 years there will be no space left at Srinagar’s Achan to accommodate the solid waste. SMC has to identify at least 100 hectares of land to create a new landfill site. Do we have such a huge chunk of land available in Srinagar or in its neighbouring districts like Budgam or  Ganderbal ? No not at all. So this is the time we learn the art of waste managment and start disposing off at least food waste within the boundry walls of our house. This is not a difficult task but a very easy job once we get used to it.

How to go ahead ?
Food waste or Organic waste consists of 70 % of the total waste generated in Srinagar city or any other town of Kashmir valley. From last 5 to 6 years I have become very much conscious about waste management. My family does not even send 1 kg of kitchen waste outside our house. We put this in a pit instead which gets decomposed and is used as manure for our vegetable garden. Only plastic trash is taken away by a ragpicker who comes to my home once or twice a week. Kitchen waste management is not a rocket science. We need ensure to collect all the food waste in a separate bin that can be kept in the kitchen. Food waste like egg shells , bones , tea waste , fruit and vegetable waste , leftover rice , bread etc should not at all be mixed with plastic waste like chips packets , biscuit packets , milk pouches or diappers. This is the only challange and within one or two weeks or time we will learn the art of waste segregation. 
The segregated kitchen waste is to be put into a small pit outside around our house or to be thrown into a  70 to 80 litres plastic drum. Within a month or two the waste will get decomposed into Compost and we can use the same in our kitchen garden. During two to three months time we need to add some saw dust or dry soil to the waste at least twice or thrice. We also need to keep turning the waste after every week. Adding Jaggery (Gudd) with some hot water can stimulate the process of composting and this is also very useful. Lastly don’t forget to put a lid on this compost pit or bin in order to protect it from rain water. 

Conclusion 

To reduce the pressure on landfill sites and roadside trash collection points the in-house composting of kitchen waste is the only solution. The pungent smell emitting out of municipal waste dumps is mainly due to food and kitchen  waste that consists of approximately 70 % of the total solid waste generated in India. The non biodegradable waste like plastic and polythene does not emit any foul smell. If it is not mixed with food waste the same can be recycled and utilized in an efficient way. By mixing both bio degradable and non bio degradable waste we are doing a great dis-service to nation and infact complicating this whole process . Let us make our mind at least during this lock-down period and start composting kitchen waste in some bins or pits near our house as it will be impossible for sanitation staff or even citizens to carry the waste to the garbage collection points due to severe lock-down. Processing the kitchen waste is the best solution which is better for both environment and our health as well.