Students of St. Joseph’s Matriculation Higher Secondary School on Tiruchi Road have added a new dimension to the war on non-biodegradable plastic bags.

In this month alone, they have made 3,687 paper bags, accommodating a significant social commitment in their tight schedule for academics.

Under a project initiated by the alumni association of St.Joseph’s school, the students of Classes VI to XII will make a minimum of 2,500 paper bags and provide these to shops and eateries.

The PULSE (People United to Love and Save the Earth) Project will work to replace the plastic carry bags with those made of paper across the city.

Coimbatore Corporation Commissioner Anshul Mishra launched the distribution of the bags at the school on Wednesday by handing over the first set of paper bags to Managing Director of Nilgiris M. Chellaiyan.

Treasurer of Residents Awareness Association (RAAC) of Coimbatore R.R. Balasundaram was among those present.

Secretary of the alumni association Jane Melanie said another set of bags was handed over the Managing Director of Thulasi Pharmacy Ramakrishnan.

Some more paper bags were given to the bakery located opposite the school and also to the canteen inside the institution that was run by a women self-help group.

“Sometimes the children buy lunch from the canteen and the food is packed in a plastic carry bag. We have provided the paper bags in order to eliminate the use of the plastic bags,” she said.

Appreciating the project, the Corporation Commissioner said: “Apart from projecting the paper bags as a viable alternative, the awareness creation will be very important.

“We are not yet in a situation where plastic bags can be replaced totally.

“But, there are alternatives such as paper bags and jute bags and this awareness is being created through such projects.

Private establishments could promote paper bags by buying these from such students’ groups or self-help groups.

“We want to try out a similar initiative in the Corporation schools and the alumni association of St. Joseph’s school has offered to train the teachers and students,” he said.

A batch of teachers was trained by a resource person to make paper bags. In turn, the teachers trained the students.

Representatives of RAAC had also offered to train the students further.

Melanie, the Librarian at the school for girls, said the entire paper bag programme was being pursued with a sense of social commitment and also a spirit of competition within the campus.

“We have four houses and the one that makes the maximum number of bags gets a rolling shield. As for individual award, the student who makes the highest number is crowned Miss Gaia.

“The title is named after the Greek Goddess who protects the environment,” Ms. Melanie said. “The competition was intense and Loyalty House got the shield. D.M. Venkatalakshmi, a Class IX student, made 1,461 bags (out of the 3,687) and won the Miss Gaia title,” she said.

Mr. Balasundaram said the project at the school was a very good initiative, especially because it involves students.

Now, the message would reach their parents and this way the campaign against plastic bags would expand.

The Residents Awareness Association of Coimbatore offered to extend to the school the Wealth out of Waste programme it was carrying out in association with ITC.

Under this programme, ITC paid residents, institutions and commercial establishments for the plastic bags or paper waste they handed over to it.

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