Composting in Mumbai school: Waste not, turn it into manure instead

  • Badri Chatterjee, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Sep 09, 2015 12:24 IST

For the past three months, 13- year- old Zahra Rizwan Patha, a Class 7 student at Auxilium Convent School, Pali Hill, has been taking a weekly parcel of 1kg of kitchen waste from her home to her school.

The kitchen discards end up in composting pits in the school’s g arden, c reating organic manure for the trees and shrubs.

The girls-only school gets 150kg of kitchen waste in a week from 800 students from Classes 1 to 10. In June this year, a school community called Eco-club comprising 50 students, planted saplings of medicinal plants in a 20-by-50-ft plot, using the manure created.

"The girls make use of the manure generated in two large compost drums. The waste collected every week gets converted into 15kg of manure," said Yolanda Ferreira, teacher, Eco-club.|

Apart from composting, the girls have been learning of ideas such as urban farming, farmer’s market and recycling as part of their curriculum. Along the periphery of the patch that contains the medicinal plants, the girls have used PVC pipes filled with manure as planters. At the garden’s centre, six tyres have been used as substitutes for pots.

Sweety Murzello, another teacher said, "The Eco-club girls went from class to class collecting bottles, paper waste and garbage that are all reused at different parts of the school. Sometimes, the girls put in an extra effort by staying back after school to collect these items."

Murzello added that every class was taught how to segregate wet and dry waste.

Urban gardener Priyanka Amar, founder of iKheti, a platform for individuals and communities to grow food in cities, has been training girls from Classes 9 and 10 about the basics of branding and marketing vegetables from the school garden.

"The children are getting a hands-on-experience on how to build a sustainable model for the farmers market. The girls have been visiting nearby vendors to find out which vegetables will be ideal for the garden and how they can sell it to them," said Amar.

The girls also documented a video of their efforts at school and used social media to circulate the same.

"Our idea is to raise funds for further developments at the garden and school through crowdfunding in light of all the efforts put together by students from the school," said Natasha D’Costa from Dirt, who conducted workshops for the students and provided the compost drums to the school.

The school authorities have dedicated a period to environmental education, both theoretical and practical for all classes, as part of the curriculum.

"The students have been sharing their knowledge and experience with parents and neighbours from their respect ive societies. A f ew have started replicating our organic gardens on their terraces," said Sister Meena Fernandes, principal.

How every student contributes to the initiative

Class 1 to 4: Collect newspaper cuttings and paper waste daily. They add it to the dry waste used for composting

Class 5: Rotate the compost drums and add dry leaves to get a better quality of compost. This process also ensures that the mix does not smell

Class 6 and 7: Reuse waste material such as PVC pipes and tyres for beautification of the garden

Class 8: Layer the garden area for an even surface and plant, water saplings

Class 9 and 10: Publicise the work of the students by making videos of the work done at school

All students are involved in collecting waste and gardening on a rotational basis

OTHER VENTURES: Students have taken on the initiative to map more than 1,000 trees in Bandra (West) with help from their teachers. "We took the students around Bandra, identified uncommon trees and put labels on them with the scientific name," said Yolanda Ferreira, teacher.

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