25 years on, this institute continues to share waste management tips

By Times Of India on 09 Dec 2017
At a time when cities are struggling to deal with heaps of garbage, here is an organisation that is focusing on decentralization of waste.

City-based Institute Of Natural Organic Agriculture has been providing sustainable waste management solution for the past 25 years. Founded in 1992 by Late M R Bhidey and R T Joshi, the institute is currently run by three environmententhusiast entrepreneurs, Manjushree Tadvalkar, Nutan Bhajekar and Vrinda Panhalkar.

"We wanted to work towards decentralising waste management. As an institute that deals with garbage, we are convinced that decentralisation is the key for sustainable waste management. More than 70% of household waste is organic in nature and can be turned into compost. Imagine if 70 % of the waste was death with right at the source of generation, would garbage have been such a huge issue," says Tadvalkar. With the aim to encourage people and help them in composting organic waste, the institution's research and development wing designed a composter planter. "Science of composting was combined with technology of compositing, making it easier for people to use composting techniques," she says. However, just installing a composter is not enough. She feels that the major deterrent that stops people from accepting composting ate factors like odour or worms.

"The first three-four months are crucial when things could possibly go wrong. Composting is a biological process. If monitored properly, chances of odour or worms are less. We started training people who could help communities in setting up the compost pit. They ensure that the composting sector gets service providing backbone which was lacking," she says. Currently, the institute has 12 social entrepreneurs, of whom eight work for the city projects and four in the neighbouring villages. People stay in touch with the social entrepreneurs through WhatsApp groups. Due to the institute's easy way of decomposition, almost 450 housing societies have started composting their own wet waste, which amounts to 30 tonnes a day.

Their initiative is also spread among 11 villages surrounding Pune. "We surveyed these villages, spoke to the people and gram panchayats. Through these surveys and discussions we realised that there is very less planning that goes into waste management and the administration lacked vision," Tadvalkar says. With the help of several corporates under Corporate Social Responsibility activity, the institute presented each house with a composter planter. Now almost all houses in these villages manage their own wet waste. "This has brought down the waste management cost significantly. The garbage pick-up service that was offered almost three times a week has changed to once a week due to the reduced amount of garbage," she says.

Apart from waste management, the institute also strives to promote organic farming among farmers. For the past 20 years, the institute has persuaded several farmers to opt for organic farming and keep away pesticides and fertilizers. "We encourage them to use their own farm waste and animal dungs. This not only helps in waste management but also lowers external input in the farm," Tadvalkar says. The institute is currently associated with six villages and almost 150 farmers of which most are women farmers.