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Mumbai school dumps old ways, recycles 3,000-kg waste

Dhirubhai Ambani International School is recognised as the‘first platinum-rated school building’

mumbai Updated: Mar 16, 2017 12:35 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Students of Dhirubhai Ambani International School compost 15kg vegetable waste daily and convert it into manure.
Students of Dhirubhai Ambani International School compost 15kg vegetable waste daily and convert it into manure.(Pratik Chorge/HT )

An international school in Mumbai is doing its part to help the city reduce its waste. The school has recycled more than 3,000kg garbage on its campus in just six months, preventing it from being sent to overburdened landfills.

About 100 students and staff of Dhirubhai Ambani International School, Bandra Kurla Complex, are part of the drive to compost 15kg vegetable waste daily and convert it into manure. The efforts are spearheaded by 25 students of Prakruti, the school’s eco-club. About 80kg compost is generated a month, which is used to nurture the campus grounds.

The school’s efforts were recognised in August 2016 after it was awarded the title of ‘first platinum-rated school building’ by the Indian Green Building Council.

“The idea is to help the pioneers of tomorrow emerge as responsible citizens by making them energy-conscious, through recycling, conserving water or saving electricity,” said Abhimanyu Basu, deputy head of international curriculum.

At the school, composting is carried out in two containers called ‘agas’. Each has a capacity of 75kg. The process began in July last year, with the help of social enterprise Daily Dump.

The waste is mixed with sawdust and bioculture for speedy results, said teachers. “While sawdust helps churn the vegetable waste, the organic bioculture helps the waste degrade into manure quickly,” said Manisha Nanda, round square coordinator and supervisor of the eco-club. “The manure does not have a foul odour. We use compost water to nurture the grounds.”

Five years ago, the school tied up with NGO Acorn Foundation and began recycling paper. About 75kg paper is generated a month and about 50kg is sent to Acorn to be recycled. “Paper is segregated at each class. No paper is wasted. Paper that is not recycled is shredded and reused to make items or props from paper mâché. These are displayed at annual exhibitions,” said Basu.

Until four years ago, the school would use 65,000 litres of water a day. Through a number of homegrown initiatives, the faculty managed to reduce that by 53% — to 30,000 litres — through various water saving drives.

“We first diverted water using reverse osmosis (RO) – a filtration process. We used RO to turn off washroom taps when water was not required. Students were taught to adjust the flow so that only the required amount of water was used and the excess saved. The supply of water has been regulated and we ensured that there are no leakages,” said Yassir Choonawala, head of administration at the school. “Our students visited office complexes in BKC to spread awareness about conserving water.”

The school adopted two villages in Maharashtra — Hassachipatti in Matheran and Khumbarghar near Patalganga, both in Raigad. At Hassachipatti, solar lamps were set up in 60 households encompassing an entire village. Six years ago, a rainwater harvesting tank was installed at the village. In Kumbargarh, the school used ‘green bricks’ made of waste to convert 36 of 40 houses from kuccha to pucca.

What do the students do?

Apart from recycling waste and conserving water, the school prevents electricity wastage. All the school’s lights are LED, which saves energy. The administration has devised a way to keep tabs on the working hours of each classroom so power can be regulated. If a classroom is empty, power is automatically switched off. Once a year, the school recycles e-waste. “We decide on a day and collect e-waste. More than a 100 electronics — mostly comprising computers —were given to scrap dealers last year. They assured us that the functional machines would be reused. Those that are not operational will be recycled,” said Yassir Choonawala, head of administration at the school.

Authorities say

“One of the most important ways to protect the environment and improve the city’s air quality is to decentralise waste management and treat it at the source. Dhirubhai Ambani International School has set an example for schools across the city. Other schools can easily implement a basic model such as this,” said a senior official from the BMC’s solid waste management department.

Students say

“When we were first told about composting in a theoretical manner, it seemed difficult. However, when we experienced the process, we realised its benefits. We realised that this can be replicated at every household in the city. Some of the students made sure to create similar models at home,” said Prarthana Chabria, a Class 8 student.

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