From veggies to compost, a cloth bag for all: Delhi-NCR NGOs chip in to reduce plastic footprint

Updated on Dec 12, 2021 11:03 PM IST

Delhi-NCR NGOs and citizen collectives are not leaving any stone unturned to reduce the use of plastic in the city. Why Waste Wednesdays collaborated with SDMC and came up with an initiative called Project Vikalp where shoppers can rent cloth shopping bags.

Denizens can now rent a cloth bag in Green Park. This is an initiative called project Vikalp, started in by an NGO, Why Waste Wednesdays, in collaboration with the SDMC.
Denizens can now rent a cloth bag in Green Park. This is an initiative called project Vikalp, started in by an NGO, Why Waste Wednesdays, in collaboration with the SDMC.
ByAnjuri Nayar Singh, New Delhi

Several attempts have been made to reduce the plastic pollution in the city. Yet, often shoppers end up demanding bags from the shopkeeper as they miss bringing one from their home. But, recently, when shoppers turned up at Green Park market, they were pleasantly surprised to see the option to rent cloth bags, to carry whatever they buy at the market. This experiment called Project Vikalp, is an initiative by an NGO, Why Waste Wednesdays, and allows people to rent a bag for a small fee. The best part is there’s no deadline to return, and whenever they wish to return, shoppers can give it back at the NGO’s counter at a different market as well.

“We will soon start this facility in more markets in the city. People can deposit 20 and take the cloth bag to carry whatever they shop. And when they come back, whenever they wish to return the bag, a full refund is given to them,” says Ruby Makhija, founder of the NGO, adding, “We plan to generate a QR code soon, which will contain all the information about Vikalp alongside educating people about the ill-effects of single use plastic on the environment, solutions to curb it as well as the address of existing Vikalp stalls with GPS locations for their ease. To inform the shoppers visiting the market, we have put up a banner on our store and stickers on all the shops in the market, mentioning the address of the store.”

This campaign got a structure, early this year, when the NGO started work along with South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), and its volunteers got cloth bags made out of upcycled cloth. Makhija adds: “We were successful to a great extent, but the problem was translating this awareness into practice. As a consumer, I could have three cloth bags at home and wouldn’t want to purchase another one. So we wanted to come up with a solution where it doesn’t pinch people’s pockets and they are also able to use the bag and return whenever they wish so. This is when we thought of the name and concept of Vikalp (which translates to ‘option’).”

Also pitching in to save the city from the ill-effects of plastic is Delhi Greens. “We have come up with 100 ways of how Delhi citizens can minimise the use of plastic,” says Konsam Nirmala from the city-based non profit organisation, adding, “What tops in this list is the need to simply stop using plastic bags, and the solution to it is to reuse cloth bags. If you can’t find a cloth bag near you, write to us on our website and we will find one and send it to you! Toothbrush is another major example of plastic pollution, and we are arranging bamboo brushes that can be used as an alternative. We are also encouraging people to use pen refills instead of changing the entire pen since that too adds to plastic usage. Through WhatsApp groups and social media, we are reaching out to the masses and encouraging them to adopt at least five of the simple ways enlisted among the 100, and help bring a change in the environment.”

Also creating awareness about the need to reduce plastic usage is Dwarka-based NGO, Rise Foundation. “We are asking people to carry cloth bags with them when they go out. And we are in talks with groups that make these bags, which can be distributed through drives,” says Madhukar Varshney, from the foundation. And a Gurugram-based citizens’ collective, Why Waste Your Waste, has started a similar movement to reduce plastic footprint and aims to soon move beyond it. “The compost produced from the kitchen waste at our compost plant is being sold to residents. This was earlier done in plastic bags but now we have replaced them with cloth ones,” informs Kavita Bansal, a core member of the group, adding, “The beautiful handmade bags were procured from an NGO that supports the underprivileged. When the residents return the cloth bags, after using the compost, they also get their refund. Soon we shall be pushing this initiative further as we have received requests from a lot of other communities, who want to take to the same thing. There are also people in our group who are distributing cloth bags, but the crises is so acute that such methods need to be re thought. There are some residents who are setting examples at individual, and even community level, by upcycling their old clothes into bags that are then used to carry vegetables, etc.”

Besides this, Rise Foundation has also found a way to reuse plastic which we find at home. “We ask people to get PET bottles and fill it with MLP waste like chips, chocolate wrappers which they accumulate in their houses. They send it to our foundation then and we make eco bricks with the same. We, then, use these bricks to make benches etc in the park. We have made two of these in the green belt in Dwarka,” says Varshney.

Author tweets @anjuri

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