This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Kritika Matolia. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Why Recycling Alone Is Not Enough To Save The Planet

Let’s imagine, for a moment, that we are recycling all the plastic that humans consume at full swing. Fast forward a few 100 years – all the packaging consumed by humans for the last hundreds of years have been recycled to make more things with plastic. Furthermore, many new plastics have also been introduced over the years.

Now imagine – the roads are made of plastic to make them durable and to put plastic to a good use. But eventually, when all the roads on the face of the earth are made of plastic, where do we put the rest of our plastic? Moreover, when we converted our plastic into raw material for making roads, we also prevented groundwater percolation. So, now we have a low water level, and trees lack water for consumption.

Many of the other products we use are also recycled ones, but there will never be an end to new plastics entering our consumption cycles. Let me explain why.

So this is how recycling works: our brooms, electrical appliances, stuffing in pillows and upholstery, furniture and many other products have a component of the recycled plastic. Once they wear out, they may or may not be recycled further. So, the ‘unrecyclable’ plastic that is hanging at the end of its life has to be eventually put to rest at the landfill.

A product may be made from 100% recycled material, but all the material sent for recycling is never recycled up to 100%. A part of it always remains unrecycled depending on the type of plastic. Only about 29% of some varieties of plastics are currently recycled in the US. This figure may grossly vary in other countries – and in a country without any recycling plants, this may well be 0%. Besides, the recycling percentage for lower varieties of plastic may be much lower than 29%.

So, if the human race and/or other species survive for a couple more millennia, we might see a day when we have covered the entire planet with plastic that can’t be recycled any further. The other possibility is that before such a day arrives, we will have to take away the land from people, animals and plants to bury all the plastics we constantly consume – and thus, stop life from existing.

 So what can we do?

Refuse

Have you ever been to a hotel and found those mini-bottles packed with toiletries that you picked up out of temptation and never used again? Or have you ever been to a party where you were given a gift for coming but you couldn’t refuse it? Or the time when you were given a complimentary item at a store or restaurant and took it only because it was free of cost?

Don’t be embarrassed – we have all done these things at some point in time. But if one were to think about it, these things served no better purpose than creating waste. So the next time you encounter something similar, refuse the things you do not need. If you think that by refusing too, you might be creating waste, remember that the person who gave it to you might give it to a more needy person. Even if they throw it away, it sends a subtle message that you don’t need it – and some of those people might reevaluate their actions of giving freebies.

Reduce Your Consumption Of Disposables, Especially Plastics And Other Polymers, Slowly

Start by cutting out the ‘easiest-to-get-rid-of’ plastics – bags, straws, packaged food that are super easy to make at home, cutlery, plates, cups, disposable boxes and mineral water bottles.

1. Reuse

This is the simplest and most convenient way to reduce our plastic consumption. Ask for hand-me-downs from friends and families. There’s no need to be shy when it comes to saving our planet.

Reuse boxes, containers, bags rather than buying new items every time. Buy second-hand stuff (only if you like the quality). Buy grains, pulses in reusable boxes rather than packaged ones. There are many local stores who sell the ‘loose’ variety. Check the quality with your own eyes and use your own judgment. Seek help and training from highly-qualified moms (don’t intend to stereotype here, but they are indeed brilliant at this) or dads (if you have one with a great eye for detail) to select a good product.

2. Vote from our wallet

It simply means that as consumers, we show the producer what we want by purchasing sustainably. If we reduce or remove the demand for an unsustainable product, we will indirectly affect its production. We need a mass consumer movement for that.

3. Purchase from local producers

Purchase snacks from local producers. This will create a sustainable source of income for them too. There are many people who make snacks at their homes. Make your expectations clear to them while ordering, and give them reusable boxes to fill your order. This is easily possible in India. Find local shops that provide items you require – like dairy products, meat, vegetables. Purchase those rather than packaged products.

4. Write to the producers

See a problem? Write to the company that is creating that problem. Tell them your concerns and ask for a change in the way they deliver and pack their products.

In fact, there are a few producers who have changed the way they deliver and package products to make themselves sustainable. So, others too can do it. To create a better voice, get more people to sign on your letters or emails – or better still, start a campaign. Take one step at a time or you might burn yourself out (like how I felt in the beginning) by the efforts. We need sustained efforts and not people who give up our planet’s health.

5. Join a group to seek guidance

The zero-waste movement is going on around the world with the aim to cut down household wastes to a minimum. The aim is to produce no waste at all.

It’s highly ambitious but nevertheless, it’s also a great source of hope, if it becomes a mass movement. Minimalism is another way of living that aims to reduce one’s possessions to a bare minimum, thereby simplifying our lifestyle and saving the environment.

There are groups of ‘zero-wasters’ and minimalists on Facebook, which can help you get started you on this journey, which can often be overwhelming in the beginning. Ask questions, seek suggestions and help on these groups – and there will be tons of people ready to help.

6. Start a co-op or group to exchange products

Within the Facebook groups or your locality or friend circles, you can find like-minded people. Together, you can select products that each of you can make in bulk and share with the rest of the group. This helps in reducing the burden of making a lot of things on one person alone. Instead, it creates a culture of sharing and gifting.

As a group, you could also decide, in advance, if you would prefer selling the stuff rather than gifting or sharing if these options are a costly bet for you. See what works best for your group.

7. Start or find a party supply or crockery bank

With the zero-waste movement, many people have started a crockery bank, wherein they lend a set of plates, bowls, and cutlery for parties. If you are a part of a Facebook group, you may find people who lend through their banks. Or you can also start your own bank with your friends in your society. This will also help build a community spirit among your group members.

8. Tell others

No movement can be successful if it doesn’t have an audience. Tell others about it – incessantly and consistently. Even if you can pass on the wisdom to a few, they will pass it on to a few more – and together, a group can be a driving force for change.


Go rescue our planet from the toxic plastic monster and share your ideas and experiences in the comments below.


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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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