A kid in his teen age providing "The Alternatives" to Plastic menace

February 10th , 2019 | Aditya Mukarji

Plastic Straws and its issue to environment 

I am studying in Class 9, at The Shri Ram School Aravali, Gurgaon. Once I was deeply moved by the video on you tube showing a turtle with a plastic straw stuck in his nostrils and doctors trying to take it out. I felt that it was so cruel to the animal and a thoughtless action by humans was causing so much pain, damage and death to marine life.

I, then discussed this and few other videos about the harm of plastic straws to animals with Ms Bharati Chaturvedi ( Founder and Director Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group ) who encouraged me to try make a difference by asking people not use plastic straws  as they are the most useless thing used by people.

Chintan is the leading NGO dealing in waste mangement working with rag-pickers. Having heard Ms Bharati Chaturvedi, talk about problems, we jointly decided to address the issue, in January 2018

I am greatly influenced by Ms. Bharati Chaturvedi who drafted me as a volunteer.  She helped me realize that my small effort and interventions could make a big difference. I researched on the harmful impact of single use plastics- especially plastic straws- on our planet. By end of March 2018, I chose plastic straws as my first point of intervention and began my journey to save the environment. I stromgly believe that plastic straws are the easiest form of plastic that the modern man can stop using. It hurts no one to drink straight from a glass or at best to use a paper/ bamboo/ metal straw. 

During my research I learnt that the life span of plastics is such that every piece of plastic ever made still exists on our planet and will do so long after we are gone.  By 2050 there would be more plastic than fish in our oceans. Plastic Straws actually never get sorted from the waste, and hence land up in the landfills and oceans; polluting our environment. 

 This is a scary thought and I felt I needed to address it.  

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Be the solution and not the problems

At this stage of my journey, I have picked hospitality establishments where hygiene issues are not a challenge so clean glassware is assured to customers. Soon I expanded my reach to corporate, cinema group etc

 I believe that Reducing plastic consumption is the only way. Recycling is good, but only 10-15% plastic gets recycled and most reach the oceans and landfill sites. Hence Recycling  cannot be the sole answer to the increasing problem of plastic pollution. To Refuse is one of the best solutions to drive the change needed.

Most establishments were willing to change once shown the alternatives and explained the benefits. Many people want to switch to eco-friendly alternatives but there is a lack of information which I am helping bridge through researching and then sharing details of suppliers that they can access if they commit to stop using plastic straws. 

My research has helped me advise these establishments and help them find alternatives to other single-use plastics also - like plastic stirrers, cutlery, take away food boxes, glasses, plates, etc.

In June 2018, I was invited by the UN to give a talk on my work as part of the World Environment day discussions. I was also the “Voice of the Youth” at the CII-FICCI seminar on 1st June 2018, at Vigyan Bhawan to celebrate World Environment Day.

Lets give up single use plastics

In June 2018, spearheaded a campaign with NDMC-Chintan to get all restaurants in Khan Market, New Delhi to give up single use plastics. Within 3 months, we had managed to convince and convert nearly 90% restaurants in the locality. The process for the balance is still on.

Approximately 6 Million plastic straws on an annual basis have been removed in first 7months and the number is growing as the campaign is alive and will continue to be so. I have widened my campaign to include reduction of other single-use plastic items also. 

I encourage establishments to Not offer a Straw at all. If a customer desires then offer an alternative eco-friendly straw ( paper/ bamboo/ metal). This has led to a reduction in the wasteful consumption of straws.

Recently, in last week of September 2018, I was invited by India’s big Steel manufacturing group JSW Steel , to help make their main plant at Vijaynagar, Karnataka and their entire township single-use plastic free. This again is a process that will carry-on for few months, till we achieve the desired goals at their factories.

#Plasticupvaas campaign last year

I have also been actively spreading awareness among general public during the #plasticupvaas campaign in November-December 2018, against single use plastics and encouraging them to pledge to give up at least One item of single use from their lives. I did this through presentations at RWA Cinema complexes.

I will continue to balance my studies, exams, and my campaign in the coming years. Sometimes the balance seems tough,  but if we all don't take some tough decisions then our planet ( being our only home) will be damaged beyond repair within the next 40-50 years.

Some esteemed corporate, who are part of my initiative are-

The Holiday Inn hotels, Crowne Plaza Hotels, Oberoi Hotels, Park group of hotels, JW Marriott Aerocity, Lalit group, Jaypee hotels, Interglobe Hotels-Accor, Delhi Golf Club, Delhi Gymkhana Club, Delhi Club house, Tonino, TownHall, Smokeys, Whiskey Samba, Wine Company, Eros Hotel, PVR cinemas, Accor group of hotels in India, Clarks Shiraz Hotels, Country Inn hotels, many more hotels, clubs, restaurants, schools, individuals etc.

Refuse if you cannot use

The philosophy that I am seeking to promote amongst establishments and the younger generation is -  Refuse If You Cannot Reuse. I am promoting the 4th R in the waste management hierarchy :- REFUSE ( So it should be Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

This is not a project for me---It is a Mission—It is a work in progress—As I truly believe that no one can ever do enough when saving the environment is concerned. There is a lot to be achieved and I shall continue to work to make a difference to protect our planet.

In order to promote awareness, I have co-founded a FB page  "The Alternatives"  along with my parents

The author of the story is Founder of "The Alternatives"  initiative and can be reached  on the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TheAlternativess/

InwasteR is only a platform to share WaStory and the views and experience are purely of the author.

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