By Sitara Mathur:
For the last 48 years, we have been celebrating Earth Day by bringing to attention the most pressing environmental issues around climate change, loss of natural resources, and loss of biodiversity. This year’s campaign is focused on ending plastic pollution! Because plastic is cheap, easy to manufacture, and versatile it has become a part of our everyday lives. Most people do not stop and think about where the plastic goes once they’ve disposed it. Does it end up in a landfill? Does it get recycled? Does it get reused? All of the answers to these questions vary depending on where you live.
Unfortunately, most plastics do not naturally degrade. “As of 2015, approximately 6300 Mt of plastic waste had been generated, around 9% of which had been recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% was accumulated in landfills or the natural environment. If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 Mt of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050,” says a 2017 research paper.
Another major concern is the accumulation of micro-plastics within the food chain. Micro-plastics found in the digestive tracts of marine animals and sea birds is increasing. A major reason for this is that the ocean is home to millions of tonnes of plastic. “In a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish [by weight],” a report launched at the World Economic Forum in 2016 said.
As in years before this one, Chintan will be partnering with the Indian Railways to celebrate International Earth Day by picking up garbage at the New Delhi Railway Station on April 22nd, 2018 at Platform No.1 from 10 AM to 4 PM. This Earth Day will be dedicated to providing the information and inspiration needed to fundamentally change human attitude and behavior around plastics.
Chintan has been celebrating this event at this railway station for the last six years. Through this unique free-of-cost partnership with Chintan, the Indian Railways is able to demonstrate that it can handle its waste, reduce pollution, create safe livelihood opportunities for the poor, and make railway stations greener.
The waste that Chintan and our volunteers collect will be taken to a material recovery facility, where it is segregated into various categories. The PET bottles are cut to avoid any refilling and misuse. The segregated waste is taken to a bigger facility outside the stations, further segregated by a team, and, finally, recycled.
As the New Delhi Railway station is a busy place, we have planned multiple events. We will be reaching out to visitors, asking them to take a pledge to use dustbins and to stop littering the platform and rail tracks. Secondly, we will answer their questions about waste and recycling. We will also be making public announcements about the event over the speakers at the station, so that the public is aware of the campaign.
This initiative offers a tangible way to make change in our own spheres of influence, and partnerships like these thrive with encouragement and participation. So, come, participate and pledge to keep the station clean!
Over the past several years, Chintan has worked closely with the Indian Railways, training over 700 waste-pickers in the last 3 years to collect, segregate, and recycle the waste. Each month, over 20 tons of waste is collected from across the four stations by nearly 100 waste-pickers. Chintan has provided waste-pickers with uniforms and I-Cards and created green jobs for them. The waste-pickers work seven days a week to make sure the trains are clean and the bins are not over flowing and unsanitary.
For those who cannot volunteer or who live elsewhere, you can still help this cause in many ways. A major way in which you can help out our planet this Earth Day is by recycling plastics! The biggest challenge in recycling plastic is sorting the different types of plastic wastes, as there are many of them and the process can be labour-intensive.
Educating yourself and others on the different types of plastic is one way to help! Another great tip would be to reduce your overall consumption of plastic. Here are several ways in which you can do this: