Meet the anti-plastic crusaders of Pune who reduce, refuse, reuse
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Meet the anti-plastic crusaders of Pune who reduce, refuse, reuse

 Rather than waiting for the state government to impose a ban on plastic, some individuals and groups in the city are doing their bit to protect the environment by reducing the use of plastic or even completely eliminating it from their lives. From terracotta bottles to carrying their own plates and cloth bags wherever they go, here are some Punekars who redefine ‘environment-friendly’. Anjali Shetty reports

pune Updated: Mar 25, 2018 14:55 IST
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,anti-plastic,plastic ban
(From left) Rujuta Bhave, Sujata Bhave, Sukhada Bhave and Mayur Bhave follow a strict rule of using only bamboo, cloth and plant fibre material at their residence.(Ravindra Joshi/HT PHOTO)

Bamboo, cloth and plant fibre for a green future

(From left) Rujuta Bhave, Sujata Bhave, Sukhada Bhave and Mayur Bhave follow a strict rule of using only bamboo, cloth and plant fibre material at their residence. (Ravindra Joshi/HT PHOTO)

Mayur, Sujata, Rujuta and Sukhada Bhave

For the Bhave family, eating out or attending an event or function has one rule--you have to carry your own plate and glass. Be it the eldest Subhash or the youngest Rujuta, the family ensures that they do their little bit to protect the environment. A development manager at Siemens India, Mayur realised the harm which humans are causing to the Earth many years ago. He started by eliminating the use of plastic bags and switched to cloth bags. Gradually, he introduced the concept of avoiding plastic containers, plates and disposable items to his family.“It is all about making an effort. My family and I carry our own steel glasses, spoons and steel bottles wherever we go. Even at weddings or functions, we do not drink water in plastic cups or eat in anything that is non-biodegradable. From Ganeshotsav to Diwali celebrations, we ensure that everything is plastic-free. I also advice my housing society members to follow the same practice,” said Mayur, who also uses a Bamboo brush for his dental hygiene and a glass/ceramic mug for everyday use.

His 18-year-old daughter Rujuta has bought a mason jar which she carries to college.“I request vendors or the canteen staff to pour my coffee or juice in the jar instead of disposable glass. This way, I do my bit to protect the environment. During my college fun fair, I requested fellow students to use plant fibre plates and spoons instead of plastic. Initially, people were sceptical but eventually they agreed. The idea is to generate awareness about the alternates of plastic available in the market. We also carry our own steel bowls to ice cream parlours and request them to put the scoop in it,” said Rujata.

The Bhave family has around 100 steel plates, glasses and spoons that they keep handy. Sujata said,“Societies tend to organise a lot of events, imagine the kind of toxic waste one society will generate if everything used is disposable. Mayur is very particular about such events and insists that we use biodegradable or reusable items. Even milk packets at our place are cut open in a manner that it doesn't create nuisance. For example, the small chip of plastic cut off from a milk packet often gets mixed with wet garbage and causes issues during segregation. All these small changes make a huge difference in the long run.”

Alternatives suggested:

1. Use a bamboo made brush instead of a plastic one

2. Keep cloth bags in your car, bike, office and home

3. Use bamboo straws

4. Keep a set of steel glass, plate and spoons handy

5. Ditch plastic cups/glasses in office and carry a glass mug or cup

Why terracotta is best choice for potted plants

Smita Pandya promotes the use of terracotta. (HT PHOTO)

Smita Pandya, nursery owner

Forty five-year-old Smita Pandya has been a nature and environment enthusiast since a long time. After choosing to study Botany in college, she got a broader perspective of the banes that mar Earth. She realised the ill effects of plastic and other materials at an early stage.“Eco-friendly products have always been a priority for me. As often as I can, I incorporate the use of degradable products in my personal and professional life,” said Smita, who introduced terracotta pots and bottles in her life and replaced every plastic item with them.

“I generally promote the use of terracotta material.I carry a cloth bag in my purse and have not used a plastic bag for a very long time now. I don't give away my plants in plastic bags either. Many other people have become aware of this practice and prefer carrying the plant as it is or in their own bags,” said Smita.

She added that bulks of saplings come in plastic bags from the source and we need to work towards changing this practice.“I really hope we find an alternative to this style of packing. Unfortunately, large-scale sellers don't have alternatives available because of the sale of huge quantities. I am hoping that eventually we will be able to change that too,” added Smita.

She had also replaced all her plastic bottles with terracotta bottles.“It is a very minute change but makes a lot of difference. Terracotta keeps the water cool and prevents infections too. It can be decorated and painted the way you want and is durable and easy to carry. I have seen that many people have started to keep it on their desks and homes too,” said Smita. According to Smita, bamboo and plant fibres are other alternatives which we can include in our daily lives.

Alternatives suggested:

1. Use of terracotta bottles to store water

2. Use of terracotta pots in gardens

3. Use of plant fibre plates and bowls

Forgot to get your own cloth bag for shopping? Get it here for Rs 10

Members of Landmark Garden keep cloth bags at the gate with a poster ‘Forgot your bag? Pick a cloth bag at Rs 10’ (HT PHOTO)

Swachh Bharat at Kalyaninagar

Kalyaninagar citizens’ volunteer group ‘Swachh Bharat’ has been active in spreading awareness about waste management among residents for over three years now. Their aim is to make lives of residents better, healthier and happier by making them aware of the fact that our waste is our responsibility and that plastic waste is a menace. They spread the idea that plastic materials clog drains, pollute rivers, lakes and, oceans, kill marine life, cause sewage water reflux during monsoon, get eaten by animals, especially cattle and marine animals and ultimately come back to pollute our food through micro plastics.

Shirin Nalwalla, Vaishali Nadkarny, Vijaya Rao, Aruna Suratkal, Vinay Rambal, Maya Ramchandani and Shabnam Fazel, and PMC’s sanitation inspector Mukund Gham have visited every shop and hawker to educate them as well as customers of the ill effects of plastic.

Swachh Bharat group of Kalyaninagar has conducted workshops on Boat Club road and Lullanagar and has inspired residents to look at zero-waste solutions. Landmark Garden did something innovative; they kept some cloth bags at the gate and put up a poster that said “Forgot your bag? Pick up a cloth bag at ₹10. Return the bag and get your money back”. It has made a big difference and generated a lot of awareness about the ill-effects of plastic. The society’s security guards are also involved in the initiative.

Vijaya Rao, a member of Swachh Bharat group, said, “When I joined the Swachh team, I actually felt ashamed that I was merely mouthing words about how one should not use plastic and how harmful it was. But in reality, I was not doing what I was preaching. We do 'No Plastic ' drives where we sell cloth bags made by women who earn money through the initiative. We have lot of people and organisations involved in such activities. Many organisations come and give informative talks on how each resident can do their bit by using alternatives, thus curbing the hugemenace which is taking over the world.”

Vaishali Nadkarny, another resident, said, “There has been widespread awareness about the harmful effects caused not only to the environment but also to all living beings on the Earth by plastic waste going to the landfill. Since almost everything is packaged in either plastic or thermocol, it is very difficult to avoid it but one can certainly give plastic materials for recycling through some eco-friendly method.”

Rajeshwari Lakhani, another member of the group, added, “Plastic, as we now know it, is creating havoc everywhere. Now, each and every person knows what its implications are but when I started volunteering for the group, we had to catch hold of people and explain on a personal level how their wrong choices are affecting their children; leaving a world full of filth and heaps of plastic on land and water. I have a group of three ladies - Mita Banerjee, who gives talks on plastic waste and its implications; Anagha, who does the marketing for us and I get the bags stitched. Nothing is possible on an individual level and I do all my activities in a group, with the children of my society. When I see them eating chips and throwing wrappers, I tell them to eat roasted peanuts, which you get in a paper cone. That way, they will eat healthy as well.”

Alternatives suggested:

1. Use cloth bags, reuse plastic bags.

2. Use newspaper to wrap things.

3. Recycle by giving plastic waste which cannot be used to Rudra Environmental Solutions India Limited. The company was founded by Dr Medha Tadpatrikar, who is working in collaboration with Keshav Sita Memorial Foundation Trust, which is a registered charitable trust. It offers solutions in plastic waste management.

4. Use a steel container as a dustbin for wet waste.

First Published: Mar 25, 2018 14:45 IST