Chennai

How two youngsters galvanised their neighbours into driving a sustainability exercise

Artwork made of discarded plastics. Photo : R. Ravindran  

S. Mahesh ends his evening walks with a ritual that takes in the six streets of P.P. Garden, a neighbourhood opposite Ampa Skywalk in Aminjikarai. At each of these six streets, a wooden pole has been installed, with a cloth bag crowning it.

Residents deposit the plastic waste in these bags, and Mahesh collects it at the end of the day. He would then proceed to his terrace and segregate the contents of the six bags into reusable and non-reusable plastic waste.

Mahesh’s initiative, which kicked off in May this year, is allied to the larger goal of making the streets in the neighbourhood litter-free, particularly free of plastic waste. He has been conducting a sustained campaign toward this goal.

Mahesh, an interior designer who also teaches free drawing to children, at the Anna Nagar Tower Park, and his team of volunteers seek to drive the campaign through art. The plastic bottles could be upcycled into art items. On September 16, which is World Ozone Day, they created an installation art with the plastic bottles collected from the neighbourhood, mostly along the Cooum and North Buckingham Canal. P.P. Garden is located close to these waterways. There was a striking image of a fish made of discarded plastic bottles.

Children in the neighbourhood also contribute to the initiative by depositing in the cloth bags the plastic waste they have collected. As an incentive, free chocolates and play items are given to these children.

The lockdown has helped Mahesh and his team of volunteers reach many residents in the neighbourhood as most of them are staying at home.

“As a boy, I would play on these streets along with my neighbours. As I know the residents very well, I have been able to talk to them and persuade them to avoid using plastics as far as they can,” says Mahesh.

A joint initiative

Taking a cure from Mahesh’s initiative, Monisha Balamurugan, a post-graduate student in social work, has been doing similar work on her street, Manappa Street in Royapuram for a month.

She has tied a cloth bag on a neem tree on the street in the neighbourhood encouraging her neighbours to dump plastic waste in it. Monisha also uses her terrace as the source-segregation spot. Though their sustainability work is focussed around their respective neighbourhoods, Mahesh and Monisha see it as a joint initiative.

“Our parents are very supportive of our initiative. We also started a non-profit association as a platform to rope in young volunteers for the initiative,” says Monisha.

They undertake door-to-door collection of plastic waste with their volunteers in their respective neighbourhoods.

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Printable version | Oct 31, 2020 8:13:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/how-two-youngsters-galvanised-their-neighbours-into-driving-a-sustainability-exercise/article32649605.ece

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