I live in Pune, the second largest city in Maharashtra. Known as “The Oxford of the East”, it is a sprawling city also known for its cultural heritage (base of the Peshwas of the Maratha Empire) and is now set to become a Smart City. But are we even ready to become one? The garbage crisis that plagues the city today will render this ambitious dream project exactly that, a dream.

The protest in Pune

In May 2017: The villagers of Devachi Uruli and Phursungi held a protest demanding that the Pune Municipal Corporation find a place other than their backyard to dump Pune city’s waste. Since then, for two straight weeks, the garbage of Pune lay littered in the streets throughout the city. This time the villagers refused to allow the municipal corporation dump the city’s waste in their backyard which they did for the last 23 years.

Despite the villagers’ protest, the on-going negotiation and the media attention that it gathered, not many of us took serious cognizance of the impacts of this dumping on the lives of the villagers. 

Pune generated 1600- 1700 tonnes of solid waste per day in 2016 as per the Pune Municipal Corporation. This mainly comprised of commercial, household, market waste etc. And fifty percent of this waste is organic and biodegradable. According to a Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report, composting can potentially divert up to 150 kg of food waste per household, per year ,from local collection authorities. Herein lies the solution: Composting kitchen waste.

I had read numerous articles regarding the benefits of composting organic waste and also the various methods of composting which include vermicomposting, sheet composting, batch composting and pit composting. However, I wanted a simple DIY method, which would effectively take care of the waste generated at my place of work without its being time-consuming. I found a model called “Khamba Composting” that I tried recently. Here's an account of what I did.

I bought
Three pots that can be stacked one on top of the other,
Coconut coir (freely available in the local baniya’s dukaan)/ sawdust
Cow-dung (freely available on the streets!) and
Organic waste from my kitchen (fruit peels, strained tea leaves, raw vegetable cuttings and left-over rice)
I spent a total of Rs. 300/- ( for the three pots).

composting pots

My story:

Everyday I added 250 gm of organic kitchen waste into the pot, coated it with a layer of cow-dung and followed it up with sawdust and repeated the process till the pot was filled to three quarters of its capacity and then replaced it with the second pot and continued with the process.

We faced our minor share of hurdles. One day when I was away, my colleague decided to bring three days’ worth of waste after having fed a family of eight. To my horror,  I came back to pots that were filled to the brim and hordes of mosquitoes and other creepy insects, till a friend intervened with enough sawdust (alternative: coconut coir) and regular soil to suck out the excess moisture.

Phew! Lesson learnt. 

Note: Never overload the pots. If there’s excess waste than the pot can carry, be careful to shred it into smaller sized chunks and layer with enough sawdust. This will help keep insects and foul smell at bay (which is the most common problem that people face with composting).

All said and done, six weeks later we had our first batch of organic, healthy and nutrient-rich compost. It had the texture and light fragrance of the earth and I was able to scoop it into my hand. What was satisfying about the whole process is that it took just five minutes of my time everyday. For the rest, I watched as nature took over.


The final compost is a natural and rich fertilizer for plants (depending on materials used in composting, the composition of Nitrogen-Potassium-Phosphorus, which are the essential components of fertilizers, varies). Use of compost over a period improves the soil texture, its water-holding capacity and suppresses soil pests.

Us Vs them

The environmentalists and the municipal corporations are already dealing with the issue of waste management, right? Just as child labour wasn’t a problem till human rights turned it into one, likewise, garbage will not be a problem till citizens don’t turn it into one.

This is our city, our waste and our problem. With a population of fifty five lakh and growing waste issues, the answer is simple. We must begin to segregate, recycle and compost organics. All we need to do is stop procrastinating. Composting will solve one of the most pressing issues of our times. Not only would it generate employment in terms of the people engaged with recycling, composting and its logistics, but also play a part in contributing to sustainability.

Greenpeace India’s Waste to Food campaign was launched with a view to urge citizens to get composting. Let’s join hands and make our city a truly beautiful and healthy city!

Watch this composting video

Payal Gunaki is a Training Officer at Direct Dialogue Inititative.