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Design-led approach to composting

Compost is homegrown and the only magic that can turn waste into gold. It nourishes the soil and cures it of all human mishandling. Poonam Bir Kasturi, Founder, Compostwali, Daily Dump speaks to Clean India Journal on Compost at Home, a home composting programme initiated in Bangalore.

Being a passionate and qualified designer, Poonam’s approach to composting is design centered. The process has been evolved through conversations and discussions she has had over the years with her students and peers. The first result of her research was the finding that terracotta could be the most suitable material to withstand the decomposition process. Later, it was also tied back to Daily Dump (DD) – her composting firm’s core principle of supporting the indigenous pottery industry and the labour that came along with it. Poonam wanted her design and choice of material to be recognized and adopted by a long user chain comprising municipality, contractors, experts and finally, direct customers. To her excitement, DD’s direct customers accepted it with open arms. With the initial connect established, Poonam went on to expand it.

She works on her take that waste is everyone’s responsibility not just the nation’s political or social stakeholders’. As she looks back on the founding, she says, “I did not find it; it found me.”

The positioning

More than 14 customised composters are part of the 225 apartments which produce 240kg of compost every 45 days. “The residents of these apartments in Bangalore are good and sensible. It was the association President who took a decision to approach Daily Dump. It is the attitude that matters,” says Poonam. With the installation done, training and monitoring continues for the next six months.

She addresses the moot turn off issue of smell and mess associated with composting assuring that if done right with the right additives, composting is not a dirty affair. The magic of compost happening will surprise the makers and make them proud, she adds with conviction.

Daily Dump collects some of the compost, matures it and sells it to farmers. Proto village in Andhra Pradesh is revitalizing dead land using this compost. Eight tonnes have been collected so far in a period of 10 -15 days. It is also bought by independent farmers who use it for their vegetables, trees, plants, etc.

The context of composting

Poonam opines that composting is the best route to waste management in congested urban centers. In rural centers, making bio mass to be converted to biogas is preferred. In larger institutions also, converting food and plate waste to biogas, could be the best choice.

Poonam points out the missing link in the co-ordinated learning and execution. “A lot of people are trying to spread awareness but not able to do so. It is because we are not thinking. We have to be more aware, teach our kids that taking less on the plate is not wrong. We have to sit around the dining table getting kids to get fascinated about being part of this amazing world. It is common sense.”

On the other hand, she drills more sense into eco friendliness by clarifying the line of demarcation between being a consumer of eco friendliness and adopting it as a lifestyle. “An eco product is still a product that has consumed the earth’s resources. We have to learn to live with less and manage greed and desire – that is eco-friendly.”

Poonam emphasizes on the need to improve our attitude towards natural resources. “If we continue to put too much chemicals into water, it is going to die.”

Going forward, she says, “Natural cleaning is the best. Water washes; we don’t know enough about how water cleans and resonates. Nature is very abundant. But it is not recycled. Regeneration will give you abundance; otherwise, we will be poor .”

The future of composting

Nine years in the business and having opened up the market for composting, DD has evolved to be a hybrid organization that identifies and recognizes some of the best attempts and products. But going ahead, Poonam wants to focus on changing behaviour. She wants waste to be something that can be discussed, with pride and ownership. She is also working on e-waste and how to make it change our culture; change perception. At the same time, understand the back end and who will take it. She researches on the barriers and designs around them. There is also a plan to focus on leaves composting and to make it architectural.

Having come a full circle, Poonam touches base with her core philosophy. “Compost is the basic material for soil. We are losing soil and this is the best way to regenerate and revitalize it.” And Daily Dump is all about both- regeneration and revitalization.

Being a passionate and qualified designer, Poonam’s approach to composting is design centered. The process has been evolved through conversations and discussions she has had over the years with her students and peers. The first result of her research was the finding that terracotta could be the most suitable material to…

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