Ruminating on the compost heap


If we must clean up the sites of urban India, such as this beauty on the heavily trafficked Delhi Mehrauli road that leads to Gurgaon, then I suggest we worry more about how garbage disposal is handled in the cities that streetside stalls serving foods.

The key issue here is waste creation and disposal, not the cooking, serving or eating of food. Lets look at this from the value creation point of view. Street hawkers are small scale entreprenuers who make their living by providing cheap, hot, affordable food to bottom of the urban pyramid [the Boups?] such as daily wages laborers, auto drivers, delivery men, peons and others. Who hasn’t enjoyed a double egg omlette at half past two in the morning on the side of the road washed down with hot tea for all of Rs 3 or 5? Their removal by the authorities, bent on cleaning the roadsides, will do greater harm than good. Too many bellies are being fed by this one stream of folk.

Now lets look at the problem of waste disposal from a different perspective. The very familiar image above is the standard state of the art garbage disposal units in New Delhi. I also recall cows often enjoying a nap in the middle of Double Road in Bangalore sometimes, so I can guess this is a widespread ‘solution’. I am just rambling out aloud here, mind you, but I was thinking of the Daily Dump, Poonam Bir Kasturi’s open source design for a home composting unit which is designed to minimize the smell and maximize the aesthetics of rotting garbage.

Just dreaming out loud here, but what if all these urban garbage dumps were turned into compost heaps? All it needs is that for people to seperate their organic waste like foodstuffs and their inorganic waste like plastic, paper etc. Many people do this already, since the raddiwalla will buy much of what I’ve had to throw in the garbage in San Francisco. Like newspapers for example. But food waste shouldn’t contain plastic bags. That is the biggest problem with waste, look at the photograph above, and it kills the cows also. I mean, they belong to somebody no? Someone who probably doesn’t have cow insurance to cover the cost of a new one if his cow dies of unnatural causes? We have car insurance to help the car owner if there’s an accident, right I’m rambling too much now 😛


I can see how much nicer garbage dumps like this would look around delhi, and we can keep one near all the hawker areas instead of getting rid of the hawkers. What would Singapore be without street food?


This entry was posted in Business, Design, India/China/Asia, Rural Innovation, Strategy. Bookmark the permalink.

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