Citizens of the Aburra Valley (Antioquia, Colombia) produce every day about 2,500 tons of waste, from which 1,200 are organic waste or biological residue produced by humans and animals.

Today only 14.7 percent of the inorganic waste is being recycled, but there are no recycling numbers, programs or integrated exploitation plans for the organic waste.

Giving this situation, the Sanitary Engineer Luis Anibal Sepulveda designed a composting system, with the purpose that his neighbors could bring the organic waste they produce and contribute to the environment.

“Composting is the aerobic degradation (meaning that there is oxygen present) of organic matter by the action of microorganisms, which transform degradable waste into compost or substrate that can return to the soil as nutrient” explains Sepulveda.

The system has been installed in his backyard, in the neighborhood Santa Lucia, at the slum No. 12 (The America). Several women, children, housewives and older adults get there and deposit their organic waste that has been generated through their daily cooking process.

For the last three months, Ruben Dario Pulgarin, green mango (or mango biche) with salt seller, goes every day at six pm up to the little metal window to throw the shells and other waste generated by his little business, located outside the neighbor school.

For him this is an easy way to make sure that this residues are going to be processed and converted into organic fertilizer. His conscience is peaceful because he knows for sure that his waste is not going to end into the Medellin River.

“(This initiative) has been well received in the neighbor; people has shown us that they separate organics and recyclables in a proper way, that today there is an environmental culture and that we are prepared to do it in a bigger scale. What’s important is to find the correct paths”, points Sepulveda.

At the moment, the organization receives 80 daily kilos of waste that, after 45 days, is being reused on the orchard, sold to particular individuals or donated to the neighbors and inhabitants of the sector, which utilize it on his home orchards.

“It is necessary to show that it is possible to compost in an easy way, without too much physical effort, without the generation of leachate nor the presence of plagues such as rodents. Also we thought about doing easy to operate by people of any age”, says Sepulveda.

Projects like this – assures the Sanitary Engineer – in addition to not causing negative impacts on the environment, are much more economic than to build huge landfills like the one in La Pradera.

Besides, pointed the expert, by having a high grade of involvement with the community, it allows for kids and young people to get awareness about the need to give a proper use to waste.

If you summarize the costs in recollection, transport, leached treatment, underground water pollution, proliferation of risk vectors and risks in the public health, it becomes much more expensive, along with the generation of GEI and bad odor”, mentioned Sepulveda.

This has been his concern for more than 25 years, in which he has research not only the benefits of transforming organic waste into compost, but also the design of affordable and easy to use structures, where the transformation procedure can be done by the community or by each household.

In 2012 and along with other environmentalists and experts on this topic, Sepulveda created Earth Green, enterprise from where prototypes of the composting system in real scale were design, developed and patented.

This prototypes can be used in apartments, houses, urbanizations, hospitals, schools and universities, as well as in Animal Treatment Centers, such as the one in La Perla, or municipalities up to 20.000 inhabitants.

In Medellin there are 100 urbanizations that already have the system and generate daily 4 tons of compost, which is used at the public green zones and gardens of the houses and apartments. The municipalities of El Santuario and El Peñol also have it already.

“We provide technical assistance to the municipalities, in addition to selling them the composters. What we have noticed is that, in those municipalities, problems with the communities near the landfills that suffered from having plagues is over” tells the engineer.

For him what’s important is that persons like Ruben and others, which take the waste into his home, realize that installing the system in their homes doesn’t require a big investment or effort, because no special infrastructure is needed.

“The procedure can be done in a garbage can, in small recipients or in buckets, either at home or inside an urbanization or residential complex. What’s important is that the citizens start to take actions that will benefit them, their community and the environment” aggregates.

Other projects of the Administration

The Environmental Agency is promoting, in four small towns of Medellin, another project that has been developed by the Municipal Administration and has the purpose to give use to organic waste.

In this places, 400 leaders, families and farm owners have been summoned to recollect organic and inorganic waste. Many of them have created composting systems, and others take their waste into cooperatives or community recycling points.

“Medellin doesn’t have the capacity for an operator to get to all this waste, the city would have to change the whole recollection system, which is overflowing. While at the small towns near the city we surely have accomplished it” says Santiago Sepulveda, from the Environmental Agency of Medellin.

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