Waging a war against plastic - Swacch Assn

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 03 Apr 2018 10:05:47


By Aasawari Shenolikar,

Swacch Association, an organisation, that has on its agenda three main points all focussing on sustainability and protection of the environment, has been very active in the city since the past four years. The members of Swacch Association, under the able guidance of their President Anu Kale Chhabrani are busy creating awareness about eradication of plastic, burning of leaves and segregation of waste. Their diligence and perseverance has paid off as slowly, but steadily denizens of Nagpur are becoming aware of the noble work these women from all strata of society are doing. One of their agenda -Eradication of plastic gains prominence as the Government machinery of Maharashtra State has swung into action to put into effect the ban on plastic.

“This directive by the government has given a new impetus to our project. And it was on International Women’s Day that we launched a venture that we hope will go a long way in eradicating ban on plastic,” says Anu Kale Chhabrani. Since Swacch Association's main aim is to reach more and more people, they requested NMC for inputs. “The officials told us that we should visit gardens to target one particular locality, and they particularly named Shivaji Nagar garden and Aaji Ajoba Park in Bajaj Nagar,” adds Dr Saroj Desai, a senior member of the organisation.

Morning on weekends - Saturdays and Sundays - the members gather in the park to create awareness about how plastic is not the ‘be all and end all’ of our lives. With sewing machines in tow, the members of Swacch Association, in collaboration with a few Self Help Groups are promoting the use of cloth bags. ‘Get your old sarees, curtains, and other sundry clothes, and at a very nominal price (Rs 2 to Rs 10 per bag), we will make cloth bags out of them,’ is what the association advocates. ‘Reuse’ is the most significant word in their lingo.

The response has been tremendous with many citizens from all corners of the city calling up ad asking about this venture. “The senior citizens are very receptive to the idea because they know that there can be a life and a very comfortable one at that without plastic,” grins another veteran Dr Sumita Mukherjee. They will soon be targeting another important section of the society - the children, through schools, once the schools reopen. They are happy that Gayatri Bhojanalaya and Purushottam Supermarket
have given the Association their first order of cloth bags. So now the Swacch Association is working at two levels - the individual level as well as targeting the big shops for mass production. This, in turn, is helping generate income for SHG's.

Given the present day scenario, it is imperative that all plastic - less than 50 microns must be totally banned. We all know the disadvantages of plastic and its harmful effects on the environment. We all are aware that if not controlled, the earth will one day suffocate under the huge and heavy load of plastic. And it is to prevent this, we need to find eco-friendly solutions.

Plastic bags are the main culprits- we need the grocery guy to give us plastic bags, we hound the vegetable vendor to give us the ‘panni’, we pester the shopkeeper to give us additional plastic bags, hoarding them using them and discarding them at will - in the process adding to the accumulation of toxic materials on the earth. Swacch Association, for sustainability, has come up with one solution - cloth bags, but much more needs to be done. “Recycling centres are a must in each city,” states Shefali Dudhbhade.

Anu Kale Chhabrani is perturbed and concerned about the vendors too. “Many a time the vendors do not want to use plastic bags, but is the customers who harass them into using plastic bags as they are convenient. If a situation arises where a vendor is caught with plastic bags, he is slapped with a hefty fine and the customer goes scot free. This is unfair on the vendors who may lead a hand to mouth existence.”

Along with educating the buyers to shun plastic bags, it is necessary to educate the vendors too. And that is why the Swacch Association, along with NMC, surveyed four main markets and tutored the vendors about the ill-effects of plastic. The members feel that if the vendors collectively refuse to use ‘pannis’, it will go a long way in the promotion against plastic. Using paper bags or cloth bags is cost effective in the long run is what the vendors have been taught.

The team members, Neelima Bawane and Shailaja Chahande, Usha Badiyani and Pragati Patil,(who is a part of all their campaigns not as a corporator but as a volunteer), all are acutely aware that this is a demanding task, but a beginning has been made.

For the plastic ban to be effective and complete, cooperation from people is must. Anu Kale Chhabrani laments that its a huge challenge to make people understand for it is the educated class who is the biggest consumer of plastic, and is irresponsible in waste management. Fines and punishment can work as deterrents but more effective would be being persistent about not using plastic in any form in which it harms the environment.
The members advocate gifting trendy cloth bags as return gifts, and for packing purpose during any celebration.

Where is the alternative to plastic? This is the question hanging in the air. Swacch Association, whose tagline is ‘War on Waste’ has provided the citizens with a solution - usage of cloth bags. As of now, people do not have a choice. In the long run, this will definitely bode well for a sustainable environment.

Volunteers who want to join in the war against plastic can get in touch with Swacch association on 9850489953 or on email [email protected]