Out with the old: Campuses take steps to go plastic-free

College administrations and students are replacing canteen cutlery with steel, limiting the use of packaged drinking water and using alternatives to thermocol for cultural festivals.

education Updated: Jul 11, 2018 18:53 IST
Prakruti Maniar
Prakruti Maniar
Hindustan Times
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Like all of Mumbai, colleges in the city too are taking steps to replace plastic and introduce alternative materials on campus. Jai Hind and the Sophia College for Women, management institute WeSchool in Matunga, the Somaiya Vidyavihar campus and Vivekanand Education Society’s College of Arts, Science and Commerce (VESASC) in Chembur have all begun using more sustainable options such as steel and paper cutlery in canteens, and reduced the use of packaged water bottles and plastic bags. The ban has also encouraged students to make small but significant changes, such as replacing disposable plastic water bottles with non-disposable metal ones.

The biggest change is the canteens, administrators say, where the use of disposable plastic as glasses, cutlery and takeaway containers was high. “About five months ago, in the run-up to the first deadline of March, we replaced plastic plates with steel,” says the VESASC canteen contractor (who did not wish to be named). “Using paper cups and wooden spoons costs more, so wherever possible we have shifted to stainless steel as it is reusable and easy to clean.”

At WeSchool, group director Uday Salunkhe says there is an effort to slash the use of plastic water bottles. “We have limited the sale of packaged water on campus. More students now carry their own bottles, which they can refill at the college’s water filters,” Salunkhe says.

At Sophia and Somaiya Vidyavihar, guests and visiting faculty are no longer offered those small, disposable bottles. “We serve filtered water in glasses,” says principal Sr Ananda Amritmahal.

Somaiya campus administrator TS Sundarrajan says conference rooms have water jugs and glasses. “We have also purchased a machine to recycle cans and plastic bottles,” he adds.

Student councils have also amped up efforts to spread awareness following the enforcement of the ban. “For two years, we have been putting up posters and banners to encourage people to say no to plastic, but they have not been as effective as the ban,” says Mansha Kohli, 20, head of the student council at Jai Hind.

It’s not easy, particularly in the monsoon, but the change is slowly being adopted. At Sophia, peons have been given faux-leather bags to carry files and documents around the college. “At the annual college festival, thermocol which is generally used to construct sets and props will be banned,” says Sr Ananda. Jai Hind too says it will switch to cardboard and paper.

Esmail Bagasrawala, 21, chairperson of Mithibai’s media festival Paparazzi in 2017, says that the teams will have to think creatively but alternatives are possible. “Last year, we had an island theme, and instead of building a prop from thermocol, we got actual sand, which could be disposed of easily,” he adds. “Replacing plastic might increase the budget for one year. For examples, using red and blue lights, instead of covering yellow lights with coloured gelatin paper which is the norm, will mean paying extra. But they can be reused.”

Last year’s Paparazzi had also used paper bags instead of plastic when handing out goodies and mementos to guests. “It adds to the costs, but could be managed within the budget. You have to work a good deal with your vendor,” Bagasrawala says.

After the home, the campus is the ideal place to sensitise youngsters to the need for a more sustainable way of life, educationists point out. “Youngsters are finding creative alternatives,” says Salunkhe of WeSchool, “and it is good to see that.”

First Published: Jul 11, 2018 18:53 IST