Laburnum Society, Gurgaon composts 250 kgs of waste a day

Laburnum Society in Gurgaon has much to celebrate. To achieve significant milestones in their journey to clean and green living, the residents have embraced the concept of mindful waste management and now champion the cause to anyone who wishes to learn and adopt best practices.

This condominium complex in sector 28 of Gurgaon houses 250 units and has an amalgam of multicultural influences. Their conscious waste planning supports a sprawling garden with a steady supply of compost from a well-organised composting system.

Pre-composting scenario in Laburnum Society

Prior to the launch of the waste management project, the garbage was disposed of through a vendor. However, there was no segregation since this was before the introduction of Solid Waste Management Rules 2016.

Turning motivation into solutions

It was the personal motivation that inspired a group of residents to take the first step. They reached out to influencers within the community to seek support and alliance. The group was able to enlist 11 volunteers to form an official waste management team. Everyone was on the same page and put in the work to create a strategy that would not only solve their waste management problem but also guarantee successful results.

The team put their brains together and came up with a plan. They visited 4-5 societies that had already been doing community composting. They also researched several composting models,  recorded all the findings from society visits, and made a comparative analysis of every society’s composting system. 

Finally, they chose Daily Dump’s Aaga which is an aerobic ‘hot pile’ de-centralised composter. The team found this solution to be ideal because it was an organic way to compost without using water and electricity. Aaga composters come in pairs – one pair is needed for every 18-20 homes or 18 kgs of wet waste per day.

The composting set-up at Laburnum society

The team made sure that the residents were involved at every stage. Residents were sent emails a few times, keeping them informed of the composting initiative and their support was requested with gentle persuasion. At the same time, the Board Members were kept in the loop at every step of the way and nothing was executed without their approval. Pilot projects were taken up in some apartment blocks.

Gathering funds was also done with the standard procedure of the society. A budget was proposed to the Committee which was approved in the next AGM.

Building awareness was the next part of the project that the Waste Management team set out to do. The intention was to visit each household in the complex and clearly instruct the members on how to identify and segregate the different categories of waste. Since this was a lengthy and complex procedure in terms of the sheer amount of households and the fact that everyone had to be present to understand best practices first hand, a prior appointment was taken with each house and training was imparted in 10-15 minutes. The responsibility of residents to ensure adequate segregation, but the housekeeping staff and domestic help had to be trained for the rest of the endeavour. The domestic staff of residents were trained thoroughly in four batches in one day so that they could understand how to segregate correctly. The housekeeping staff received hands-on training on how to use Aaga composters correctly to begin the operations.

The system doesn’t require too much manual labour. The composters are rodent proof and the waste doesn’t need to be mixed or turned. Another benefit is that the composters is that they have an inbuilt tower that regulates the air so the society could ensure that no foul odour is produced.

Successes and challenges

Initially, it was difficult to ensure 100% segregation. A few households kept mixing dry waste like foil and paper into the wet waste. To remedy the problem, email reminders are sent from time to time to residents to ensure that new domestic staff is briefed on segregation.

Even though Laburnum society doesn’t measure output, they do compost around 250 kgs of waste daily and the process functions quite smoothly at present. Compost is distributed to residents for free. Every four months, each household can pick up 5 kgs of compost. There is a scheduled slot system for distribution and members have to bring their own bags to take home the compost. The compost is also used for gardening in the common areas. The society intends to not only continue composting wet waste but also has plans to further segregate dry waste and adopt best practices for recycling. The residents have been  helpful and receptive throughout the entire journey. 

Lessons for other societies

The team is able to give useful inputs to other societies based on their experience. They say:

  • Do not go to war with either residents or the RWA. Their support and cooperation are essential. 
  • Be very sensitive, listen to everyone, reach out to the community with positive messages.
  • Choose a system that does not waste water or electricity and don’t use any system that burns the waste and promises ready compost in 2 days. Compost is formed through a process of degeneration so give it time.
  • Work very closely with the housekeeping team because they are the true waste warriors. Make them understand the ‘WHY’ of the initiative before you even get into the ‘how’.  Provide refreshments when you meet; give them an annual award; let them feel proud of the SWM project.”
  • Use epoxy paint for the waste management area and oil paint of a cheerful colour on the walls for good aesthetics. The area  should be well-lit and citronella oil vapourisers can be used to keep it smelling good.
  • Installing a couple of exhaust fans to ensure that there is no odour.
  • The area should be kept spotlessly clean to keep rodents and insects at bay.

Laburnum is yet another ‘lead by example’ story that should resonate with other societies who may have contemplated taking action towards in-house composting and segregation but may have not found enough motivation. Personal drive combined with clever planning is key to getting the job done right. Most of all, alignment of minds towards a greener community is the secret ingredient that ensures success amidst setbacks.

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