A trip to the Deonar landfill two years ago was all it took to convert Monisha Narke, 35.
“I saw the piles of unsegregated garbage spilling out and I realised we were facing a crisis,” she said.
The next day, while waiting to pick her daughters up from school, she talked to some mothers. Much of what landed up at the dump did not belong there at all, she told them. “We decided that the only solution lay in controlling the garbage we generate.”
In June 2008, Narke, along with five eco-conscious mothers, Sumegha Kumbhar (36), Jassvi Savla, Malavika Gadiyar, Yamini Puri and Sejal Kshirsagar (all 35), started a movement, Are you Reducing, Reusing, Recycling or RUR for short.
Their aim was simple: to educate people about generating waste smartly, and, teaching them to be smart consumers too.
The group holds workshops for residents’ associations, schools and working mothers on how to segregate waste and then directs them to recyclers of non-biodegradable waste. They demonstrate how to make compost in the house, which can then be used as fertiliser for plants. RUR has also organised clean-up drives, distributed cloth and paper bags in market places and published a book called Mumbai Green Pages, which lists the various recyclers in the city.
“We began by making our own homes zero-waste zones,” said Kumbhar.
Added Narke: “Everything is reused. Instead of buying plastic scrubbers for cleaning utensils, we use orange rinds or lemon peels. We buy notebooks made of recycled paper and only use cloth bags instead of plastic ones.”
“My children, who are 4 and 7, see me segregate our waste into dry and wet, and they follow me,” she continued. “That’s all it takes to create future generations of green citizens.”
Mahim-resident Manju Shah (49) attended a presentation by RUR seven months ago and began convincing her neighbours to adopt the practices they were advocating. Close to 70 families from her lane behind City Lights cinema now send their non-biodegradable waste like old toothbrushes, plastic bottles, and tins to a Bandra-based NGO called Force, which crushes the plastic and sends it on to different recyclers. “A representative comes by every week to collect it,” she said.
Said Narke: “You don’t need to be an NGO or spend a lot of money to manage home waste. You just need to be more careful about what’s entering and leaving your home.”