Backyard solution for composting

by PRINCE FREDERICK, The Hindu | May 26, 2012
ENVIRONMENT Septuagenarian Balakrishnan shows it takes just a little effort to convert kitchen waste into organic manure.GOING GREENV. Balakrishnan

V. Balakrishnan has shown that gargantuan global problems can be effectively tackled by dealing with them at home and in the neighbourhood. A retired mechanical engineer of Southern Railways, 76-year-old Balakrishnan has devised a simple instrument and an accompanying process that aerobically composts kitchen waste into organic manure. Besides churning out green fertilizer for the coconut trees encircling his house in Kalakshetra Colony, he speaks about his method at meetings of resident welfare associations in and around Adyar. Finding him through his website — — groups beyond his neighbourhood too occasionally invite him for a talk.

Cost-effective alternatives

He installed his invention on October 2, 2008 in the backyard of his house — where it still stands. Over the years, the device has shed certain features for sleeker and cost-effective alternatives. These modifications — explained with illustrations in a section of the website — were dictated by the logic that the instrument should be affordable for most people.

The one currently in use consists of three concrete borewell rings that give it the shape of a drum. A fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) sheet serves as a shutter for an oblong cut in the bottom-most ring that serves as the opening through which the manure is shovelled out. Jammed between the first and the second rings is a wide-gapped nylon mesh.

The three-ring concrete cylinder is covered with a circular FRP sheet, which has a hole in the centre through which is inserted a PVC pipe with an elbow. The two openings of the elbow are covered with soft, tiny-holed nylon nets to keep insects out. The hidden end of the PVC pipe has thin slits to facilitate easy air flow.

“Kitchen waste and dry leaves are mixed at the ratio of 1:4. As the mixture is dropped into the cylinder, it lands on the nylon mesh. The microbes are sustained by the carbon emitted by dry leaves. Where dry leaves are not available, shredded newspaper — not glazed ones — can be substituted. A measly addition of cottonseed oil cake powder serves as a catalyst for speeding up the composting process. To keep insects at bay, I spray a bit of lemon grass oil mixed with water. I keep loading the cylinder with the mixture daily, but it does not get filled up — which points to the fact that huge amounts of waste are required to make small quantities of manure. Every month, powdery manure is collected through the opening in the bottom-most ring,” explains Balakrishnan.

“Being aerobic, this composting method does not cause any foul odour.”

The septuagenarian has continually rejected suggestions that he commercialise the model and crank out instruments. “It takes only a plumber to create this simple device. I’ll stop at offering people technical advice.”

Like Balakrishnan, a handful of other people — including P.G. Ramanath in Nungambakkam and Shobha V. Manickam in Anna Nagar — are making a difference in their neighbourhoods by showing people how to put waste to good use.

Balakrishnan can be contacted on 93810-38369.

I keep loading the cylinder with the mixture daily, but it does not get filled up — which points to the fact that huge amounts of waste are required to make small quantities of manure


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