Recycling Floral Waste in J&K

Dr. Banarsi Lal
Worship is the way of life in India and we all offer various offerings to the deities which mainly consist of flowers, leaves, fruits etc. out of which floral offerings are found in large quantity. Temples waste has a unique share of floral waste. After fulfilling the purpose, flowers are thrown in the garbage or discarded in the water bodies or left up on the open places causing various hazardous environmental problems. The waste flowers can be utilized in different ways to produce valuable products which can lead to a healthier and waste free environment. Every day we go in temples, churches, gurudwaras and mosques as they possess a characteristic of attracting positive and divine vibrations from the surroundings, they are believed to charge the atmosphere with heavenly vibes. We offer flowers, garlands, coconut and milk to the deities in the temples as they are considered as symbol of devotion and reverence.But every year about 80, 00,000 tons of temple waste are dumped into the rivers thus killing living creatures and thus cause enormous water pollution. Water pollution also affects the lives of human beings. So there is dire need to work on the waste flowers so that the water pollution can be minimized in the water bodies and faith towards the flowers can be preserved.The bulk of flowers, leaves of plants, coconut shells, milk and curd do not have a suitable means of disposal in many of the religious places and they are disposed randomly at several public places. In 2005, WHO deemed 36% of the chemicals used in the flower plantations as highly toxic, having an adverse effect of health leading to respiratory problems, skin rashes and eye problems. We hardly think for the floral waste after offerings. Instead of showing the ignorance to the damage caused to the environment, it is necessary to synthesize a solution applicable to all the religious centers in India.
Jammu is said to be the city of temples where numerous temples are situated. A number of temples and other religious spots reflect the spiritual value of Jammu region of J&K and the presence of numerous temples has yielded Jammu as the ‘City of Temples’.Bulk of flowers are available in these temples where they are used on daily basis and thus making them a regular source. After offering they are left as unused and become waste. Millions of devotees come from outside as well as from within the UT of J&K and offer flowers to Gods and Goddeses. After this tonnes of floral offerings generated daily is disposed in open dumps or released in water bodies generating foul odour as well as act as the breeding centres for disease causing organisms. Looking into the hazardous impact of the improper disposal of floral wastes on the environment, proper utilization is a demand of present time. These waste flowers can be used in different ways and we can get wealth from the waste flowers. Floral waste generation occur largely during worships, functions, ceremonies and festivals.Attractive floral products can be easily made from the waste flowers through a process. In Jammu mainly marigold (Tegetus erecta) flower is used in the offerings and its petals mainly consists of carotenoids-litein and flavonoid-patuletin and can be used in making different types of daily use products such as dhoop, incense sticks, organic lamps etc.Biological process such as composting followed by the vermicomposting to convert floral waste into organic manure can also be a benefit for the people.
In Jammu region of J&K huge amount of flowers are wasted after worship and these sacred flowers are thrown in water bodies such as the rivers and ponds which ultimately affect water quality as well as living organisms present in the water. Waste flowers can be utilized to make diversified floral products such as herbal incense sticks, dhoop, idols of Gods and Goddesses, havankunds, organic lamps etc. which can attract the buyers and rural women can gain income and employment. We offer fresh flowers to Gods daily or on festivals, but we hardly know what to do with them when they dry-up next day. KVK, Reasi is stressing on capacity building among the rural women on making the different types of products from floral waste by selling of which they can enhance their income and generate employment in the rural areas.
Every year tonnes of flowers are used in J&K to offer which are thrown in the rivers after their use. There is dire need to create awareness among the people on the management of waste flowers so as reduce the water pollution. There is need to impart skill among the rural women to boost the recycling of waste flowers so as to avoid the water pollution caused by the waste flowers and empower the rural women by creating income and employment opportunities for them. By using the waste flowers women Self Help Groups (SHGs) can make attractive products and can create entrepreneurship. There is need to focus on value addition in floriculture which can enable the farmers to earn more profit as compared to other crops. Waste flowers are thoroughly washed, dried and mixed with natural raisins to make dough which can be utilized to make herbal incense sticks, organic lamps, organic dhoop etc. There is also need to work on marketing, branding and packaging of floral products. In Reasi district of J&K there are many potential marigold growers who produce quintals of marigold flowers. During COVID-19 waves many farmers faced problem to sale their marigold produce and their flowers were wasted.
Reasi district of J&K is the hub of religious spots and visited by millions of devotees across the nation.Flowers from temples, gurudwaras, mosques and fields can be recycled to make useful products. There is ample scope for the recycling of waste flowers products as large quantity of waste flowers are available to make the products. Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine is visited by the millions of devotees every year and waste flowers products such as Gods/Goddesses idols, agarbatis, organic doop, organic flower lamps etc. can be marketed at Katra town. This innovative step of KVK can empower the rural women of the region and faith on flowers can also be preserved. There is a process to recycle the waste flowers and make different items from them. Flowers can be collected from the temples and are brought at a common place. Then they are segregated by hand and plastics and papers are weeded out. Petals of the flowers are broken, dried and grinded. After that they are used in making the different types of valuable products.The powdered flowers are mixed with natural raisins to make dough which leads to the generation of handmade roll-out herbal incense sticks,idols of Gods and Goddesses. Vermicomposting is an excellent and eco-friendly process for floral waste management. Floral waste can also serve as a sustainable source of raw material in handmade paper production.
These papers are 100% free from wood and other harmful chemicals thereby contributing to reduce, reuse and recycle concept. Marigold flower extract can be used as an additive in food industries and in veterinary feeds. Floral oils possess medicinal values.Many successful results on floral waste management have been obtained at many places across the nation where the flowers generated regularly are recycled with the technical assistance. This novel approach can additionally generate revenue and empower the rural women. The environment friendly units on recycling of waste flowers can prove a boon to the rural women. The waste flowers products making, packing, branding and marketing can create new avenues for the people of J&K. This innovative technology is simple, cheap, environmental and socially beneficial. More research and policies are needed on the waste flowers management.