The recurring fires at Deonar dump yards restricted students and teachers at Vivekanand Education Society (VES) in Chembur from attending lectures. When the smoke lifted, people at VES knew that the problem was not just in Deonar, but also in their vicinity. Over the span of a year, they have managed to become a zero waste campus by composting and recycling over a 100 kilograms of waste every day. Earlier this year, BMC declared the two 4 acre campuses zero waste producing facilities.
The credit for making VES the shining beacon of waste management has been given to the Department of Microbiology that teamed up with the NGO Stree Mukti Sanghatana (SMS). In an interview with the Mumbai Mirror, the Principal of the college, Dr Jayashree Phadnis said, “Every day the tonnes of garbage dumped in the Deonar is a mixture of plastic, electronics, vegetable waste, paper and so on. Each has to be treated separately. In the absence of any such segregation mechanism by the corporation, we decided to do our bit to save the environment.”
The campuses began their efforts by creating two composting pits that were 6 feet wide, 4 feet long and 2 feet deep. The pits are filled with segregated wet waste from the canteen and the college and are treated to not give out foul smell.
VES has nine higher educational institutes, a school, a junior college and a sports academy that produces 100 kilograms of wet and dry waste every day. Most of this waste comes from the canteen. 70 - 80 kilograms of the biodegradable waste is used for compost and the remaining dry waste is collected by SMS for recycling.
Three tons of organic manure has been generated since 2014 with the whole exercise costing INR 18,000 to the college. “The waste fed into each of the two compost pits (6ftx4ft) per month is 1,800 kg. The quantity of compost produced every month is close to 130 kg that is used at football fields, gardens and potted plants,” said Sunita Patil, coordinator, Stree Mukhti Sanghatna to Hindustan Times.
On their website, VES mentions that “E-waste, which is one of the hazardous wastes, can be sent for scientific recycling. If e-waste (such as battery cells and other electronic & electrical devices) goes to the dumping ground, it releases poisonous gases. The people (rag pickers) who are working in collection of this waste, have to work in very unhealthy conditions. Since people don’t segregate their waste, rag pickers have to manually do it with bare hands and separate the dry waste for recycling. If we send segregated waste, it will be easier for them to pick it and send it for recycling. We can keep the wet waste and compost it in our premises by constructing compost pits.”
Today, the money generated by selling scrap is used to maintain the compost pits and the campus ground. BMC has recognised these two campuses as the first educational institutions in the city to recycle wet, dry and electronic waste.