Society

A cup of coffee costs one kilogram of plastic here

Plastic parlour in Visakhapatnam will serve you a hot beverage, cookies and even breakfast at a never-before cost

Joggers and walkers on Beach Road can’t miss the makeshift stall with a table covered with cookie jars, flasks of coffee and paper cups. This is the Plastic Parlour, recently launched as an initiative of the India Youth for Society with the blessings of Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation. The stall is set up every morning at 6 am and dispenses coffee and cookies till 8 am. What does the cup of coffee cost? A kilogram of plastic waste!

“We consider one kilogram of plastic equivalent to ₹ 20. So a kilo will fetch you a cup of coffee, two kilos will fetch you a cloth bag and four kilos, a jute bag,” says Appala Reddy, president of the society. If you are flush with three kilos of plastic, then you can treat yourself to a breakfast of a cup of milk, two biscuits, a banana and an egg.

Slipping performance
  • Adjudged the third cleanest in India in 2017, by the Swacch Survekshan Survey, Visakhapatnam has squandered that rank since. In 2018, the city slid down to seventh position and in 2019 it stands at 23rd position. This year has begun on a good note for the city as the official handle of Swachh Bharat Urban recently tweeted about the city’s clean roads and appreciated GVMC and the citizens for their efforts.

I go there to see for myself. I lug along my own plastic waste of two kilos and reach at 7 am. I can’t spot it right away amidst the many other tea and ragi malt stalls that are set up every morning on the Beach Road. Then I catch sight of a green banner with ‘Plastic Parlour’ painted in white, tied to the fence of Park for Children with All Abilities. There is the stall all right, but where are the people queueing up? I am disappointed to see just two volunteers waiting for people and their plastic waste to show up. One or two joggers do slow down long enough to enquire about the initiative, but that is all. I leave my plastic containers there, drink a lonely cup of coffee and head home, crestfallen.

People donating discarded plastic at the parlour on Beach Road

People donating discarded plastic at the parlour on Beach Road   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Guilt-free coffee
  • When 24-year-old Sudixa Majumdar learnt about the initiative, she was delighted because now she could do something about all the plastic that she couldn’t bring herself to throw out for several months. “I moved to the city recently and since wet and dry waste are not collected separately, I began keeping aside PET bottles and takeaway containers. I am relieved that I can deposit my plastic discards at this Parlour and need not feel guilty of adding to the waste in the landfill. Oh yes, the coffee at Plastic Parlour is very good!” says the resident of Siripuram.
  • While the proximity of the collection point to her residence made it possible for Sudixa to dispose her waste responsibly, it would be a long way for V Kalpana, a resident of Allipuram to travel six kilometres to dispose a few kilograms of plastic. “It is not possible for everyone to travel so far especially on weekdays as we are expected to reach office by 9 am. It would have been helpful if the organisation offered door-to-door collection or at least set up two or three more collection points across the city,” she says. Currently, Kalpana tries to upcycle her plastic bottles by converting them into planters or pen stands.

When I asked Appala, he said that the initial day or two had seen an overwhelming response. The parlour earned 43 kilograms of waste all of it from only nine people. Sadly, the enthusiasm is less hearty now and so far only 110 kilograms of plastic waste has been deposited with them. Source segregation is a problem, admits Appala. “People need to realise that mixing dry and wet waste will just make garbage pile up in the landfills. The authorities too, need to educate people in a better way so that they understand the hazards of reckless dumping.”

The society hopes to encourage people to also deposit low-density plastic waste that is generally not accepted by the kaadiwalas. “Plastic waste is not just bottles and containers. The plastic that is used for packaging, milk packets, wrappers and plastic bags, are all welcome. At our unit, we break the low-density plastic into small chips that are then sold to cement or tar-making industries that use them for making roads or buildings,” he clarifies. The collected waste is sent to a plastic waste reprocessing unit in Kapuluppada which is almost 30 kilometres from the city. The collected waste is recycled and then sold as raw material to several other industries.

Plastic donated to the parlour

Plastic donated to the parlour   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Apart from plastic, the parlour also collects old clothes and e-waste. Anyone wanting to donate clothes will have to pay ₹ 2 per piece of clothing they deposit. The money collected this way covers the cost of transporting the clothes to areas such as Madhurawada where they are distributed to the people who need them. In a month’s time the organisation is planning to open 14 more centres across the city. “We are planning to have one collection centre in each of the Rythu Bazaar. We are in talks with the authorities for setting up these parlours,” adds Reddy.

Reach them atcall: 0891 2709797

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 2:36:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/a-cup-of-coffee-costs-one-kilogram-of-plastic-here/article30879222.ece

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