Chennai

Discarded plastic items turned into public amenities

Its tagline — ‘Your plastic waste recycled for your city’ — leaves no one in any doubt about the collaborative nature of this not-for-profit initiative. Project Mumbai, as it is called, brings various stakeholders of the city, particularly its citizens, to give recyclable waste new character and purposes.

Recycled waste gets turned into benches — 60 of them have been parked in Mumbai’s public parks; pencil boxes — over 3,000 distributed to children who have been part of this drive called ‘Mumbai Plastic Recyclathon’.

Project Mumbai began in 2018 when Shishir Joshi came across patients in a government hospital who got lost searching for departments due to lack of signages. This incident prompted him to start looking for solutions to everyday challenges faced by citizens.

The recyclathon drive was first launched during Daan Utsav 2018 where people were asked to keep aside their plastic waste and the organisers would pick it up from their doorstep.

“I started in a small way but I had 85,000 people donating plastic during the week-long drive,” says Joshi, founder and chief executive officer of Project Mumbai. The annual drive was restarted in October 2019 but with many new volunteers pitching in.

“This time the number crossed a lakh, to be precise 1.25 lakh people donated plastic waste, and the drive was much more organised,” says Joshi.

Since then, the drive has been a monthly feature and has extended to cover Navi Mumbai and Thane.

How does it work?

Though it looks simple, it is a massive exercise in planning and coordination. The drives are notified well in advance on the website for people to register and they are offered a choice of pick-up dates. A route-wise Google map list is provided to the volunteers on board. An app called ‘I am here’ is enabled to locate the truck. Route-wise WhatsApp groups of participants are created to facilitate communication between donors and volunteers.

Joshi says the drives clicked because of the volunteer force that would take time out during weekends to conduct them.

“We have empanelled these volunteers to co-own these drives by making them local owners,” he says.

Increased frequency

As the registrations for pick-up of plastic waste increased, Project Mumbai stepped up its collection drive. It wheeled in new rules. Those giving more than five kilos of recyclable waste will get to see it picked up from their doorstep. Others would have to drop it at the nearest pick-up point.

“This month, we will be starting two drives-a-month routine,” says Joshi.

Once products based on recycled plastic see the light, the organisers display them at local events and got people to paint them. “There are citizens who have volunteered to be spokespersons for the drive,” he says.

Beyond making citizens take ownership of their plastic waste, the campaign sought to send across a message about behavioural changes.

“Once an individual registers for the pick-up, they have to take a pledge that they will segregate waste,” says Joshi.

Mumbai Plastic Recyclathon, which has entered the Limca Book of Records, is keen on moving to new cities.

“We are starting the drive soon in Pune, where the plan is to convert recyclable plastic into fuel to be used for public school buses and generators of the municipal corporation,” says Joshi.

In Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai, the campaign is looking for volunteers to own it.

For details, visit www.projectmumbai.org

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2020 5:55:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/discarded-plastic-items-turned-into-public-amenities/article31008846.ece

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