By Ashok Rajendran

Nochi Nagar is our model slum board colony of total 640 households where we worked relentlessly for almost a year to make 250 families source segregate and divert 5 tonne waste every month from landfill to compost, recycling and plastic roads.


By the end of 2016 we had most of the self sustaining system in place at Nochi nagar to allow composting and recycling of all the waste generated without requiring any more of handholding except for the monthly salary payment to the workers for which too funding partner is being organized. We also had to help them sell off the compost.


But at Nochi nagar we were left with two tasks to wrap up:

  1. We had a huge backlog of bags of dry waste to be sorted. We accumulated it due to worker shortfall when we managed the waste collection with our own volunteers over a period of many weeks. We didn’t think it will be fair to load the new worker with the task of segregating.

  2. Again due to worker shortfall we had done suboptimal turning of wet waste at our community composting yard in Mylapore burial ground. As a result, our compost was not ready to use. It had to be sieved to remove larger materials unsuitable for directly adding to soil or growing plants.

These two pending “Green” tasks is where the role of hoards of CTC volunteers eager to do their might during the trek polama months came in. We had many sessions of composting and segregation supported by dozens of volunteers. We believe that apart from contributing their precious time and labour the volunteers also went away with lots of know-how on community composting and recycling - how easy and effective it is in managing waste. A detailed write-up on all the zero kuppai know hows follow.


Since Nochi Nagar is a low income place there is hardly any for profit vendor who would go through the further segregation of dry waste to take what he wants. So we need to sort the dry waste further into the following five categories for safe disposal.



Disposal mechanism

Easily Recyclable

Newspaper, thick plastics, brown cardboards

Every local recycler or the companies,,, earth recycler will collect these at your door step and pay you

Thin plastics / carry bags

Most menacing of dry waste and to be avoided as much using alternatives like cloth bags.

We send these to the shredders present in a number of Chennai corporation ward offices from where it goes for mixing with tar used during road laying.

If you have it in bulk sometimes corporation agrees t come and pick it up from you. Take to higher officials and demand it. Let it be a penalty for them for not enforcing the ban on under 40 micron plastic bags.

Glass bottles

Only few kinds of beer and whiskey glass bottles are sent for reuse easily

Rest need to be accumulated upto 10 tonne capacity for cost effective transport to crushers. Now you know why they are omnipresent in our beaches.

We are talking to corporation to allot space to store them or even run a program to buy them (seems the only way to stop them from getting littered and break in our beaches).

All provisionary boxes (often white inside)

Though made of paper, they often have plastic layers and not easily recyclable. Searching for suitable vendors still.


To be disposed with utmost care due to bad polluting effects.

To be accumulated as much and give to one of the registered e-Waste recyclers listed by Central Pollution Control Board


Fortunately or unfortunately most of Nochi Nagar waste is not easily recyclable. That would not be the case for a middle or upper income community. So recyclers would gladly take all you have and pay you something. But will they dispose not easily recyclable stuff properly is a big question mark. So we need to ask them to take just the regular easy recyclables and take care of the rest yourself or through corporation support.

Community Composting:

Two large cement tanks with perforations to allow oxygen supply (with optionally a drain to collect leachate which itself is a valuable soil additive), enough to store a month of wet waste is all that is needed for a community to compost. Entire wet waste of 250 families weighing 120 kgs per day or 3.6 tonnes a month required just 100 square feet of space for the twin cement tanks.


  1. Wet waste is filled along with crush dry leaves(to maintain ideal moisture levels) daily into the first tank.

  2. Dry leaves play a crucial role in ensuring faster composting, less odour. And it is available wherever there are trees. We are even considering buying leaves dropped at the yard for Rs.2 per kg. With compost fetching upwards of Rs.8 per kg it is not a bad proposition.

  3. The whole mass is turned twice a week to ensure there are no deoxygenated zones that compost anaerobically and may times slowly. Aeration is important too in aerobic composting.

  4. We have special aerator equipment that makes the turning job so much easier. It magically pulls out waste from bottom to the top.

  5. After a month when the first tank is full the same process is continued with the second tank while the first tank is turned once a week for next one month. Earthworms could be introduced to produce fine vermicompost once the hot compost pile (120 degree F) starts to cool down.

  6. At the end of the second month the black gold is ready for harvesting and used for growing your own saplings or veggies either directly or by mixing with soil.

  7. If we just take care of optimal browns and greens ratio C:N ratio 30:1 (carbon:nitrogen) achieved by roughly adding dry leaves twice the volume of wet waste and turning twice a week initially and once a week later on the whole process is timely and almost odour free.

Those are just the steps involved in community composting and recycling. Pretty straightforward, isn’t it?


Excitingly it was the same Nochi black gold that we kept in Trek Polama 8 stalls for participants to buy!! This compost was tested to be very effective in growing greens and other plants and we could sell all we had at the stalls.


Each of us can effect these waste management techniques in our own community to make them all zero kuppai. Remember the 5 tonne target we have set ourselves?? Lets got for it. Just the Srinivasapuram community which is were are currently working, with 4000 households provide for half the target and help save Adyar poonga backwater area for good, so join us there. Where there is no space, even a rooftop would suffice. My apartment of 15 households is composting in two large blue bins in a neighbour’s rooftop 😉 for instance.

Follow this and similar CTC community initiatives at or