Thanal, an NGO in Trivandrum city, Kerala that continues to work on a range of environmental issues in the state had organised 'Bag Tree', a zero waste campaign in collaboration with the Zero Waste Centre in Kovalam, Trivandrum with the aim of creating awareness among the people to stop using plastic bags and replace them by paper bags. September 25 th, 2012 was the day chosen by Thanal as it is observed as Global Day of Action on Waste called by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), an international network of people and organisations across the world fighting waste issues and promoting zero waste.
Zero waste campaign near the Saphalyam complex, Palayam Trivandrum
People on the road near the very busy and crowded parts of the city near the Saphylam complex in Palayam area noticed a group of people, standing under the shade of the tree with colourful patch work banners on display reading 'Thanal' and 'Zero Waste Centre' with loads of paper bags being tied for display on the tree branches nearby.
The aim of the campaign was to create awareness among the people in the city on the disastrous impacts of the increasing amount of plastic bags in the waste on the environment and pursuade people to switch to using paper bags. Pamphlets were distributed among the people and volunteers continued to move into different parts of the city among grocery and vegetable shops and provide them with free paper bags. The event was inaugurated by handing over a pile of paper bags to a fruit vendor at the junction.
Plastics pose as a threat to the environment mainly out of its use as packaging materials, particularly with the introduction of the carry bags and account for about 21% of all (paper, glass, tin plate. etc.) packaging materials. Packaging materials account for 25% of the total production of plastics in India, but in terms of consumption, they account for as high as 52%. While the total consumption of plastics in India is about 4 million tones, the waste produced is around 2.0 million tonnes. Though plastics constitute only about 2.4 % (world average) of the total municipal solid waste, they are perceived as a major threat because of their long life and light weight .
Volunteers distributing paper bags and pamphlets
Plastic waste generation in urban areas of Kerala accounts for as high as 4% to 6% as compared to 0.6% for the whole of India and is almost at par with developed economies with disposable life style contributing about 8 % of solid wastes. In Kerala, the practice of burying, burning and dumping of solid wastes including plastics is now growing into a serious crisis .
For example, a recent study by Thanal in March 2011 on the waste situation in the state found that the total number of plastic bags used in one houshold in Kerala was 560, total number of plastic covers generated in Kerala per year were around 370,00,00,000. As high as 22,000 tonnes of plastic bags and packing covers were being discarded in Kerala per year. The Director of Thanal, Dr Usha informs that the garbage and waste situation in the state is getting beyond control and something needs to be done urgently to deal with this situation by creating awareness among people.
Volunteers distributing paper bags to grocery shops
Thanal has distributed 3,000 paper bags at the busy junction, in the hope that more and more people will take up the cause and say ‘no’ to plastic bags. "Beyond creating awareness, we also plan to first give paper bags free of cost and then create a demand for paper bags among shopkeepers, which can be supplied by the Zero Waste Centre, Kovalam. However, this is not a one time process. We plan to keep on conducting campaigns in different parts of the city", informs Dr Usha, Director of Thanal.
1. R. A Varma (date unspecified) Plastics and environment - An abridged compilation. Downloaded from the site http://sanitation.kerala.gov.in/pdf/plastic_envornment.pdf on 28th September 2012