By Shruty Yadav:
“India is one of the world’s fastest growing economy”, boast recent reports. Being the global host of World Environment Day in 2018 might have helped with our desired image, but in reality, the constant abuse of nature remains off our list of concerns.
Despite being one of the major recyclers of the world, India generates roughly 62 million tons of plastic waste annually out of which only 11.9 million tons is treated. The rest is disposed off in landfills where it contributes to severe pollution.
As a nation, we need to take steps that ensure that environmental degradation does not become secondary to the agenda of progress. The need to take initiatives for curbing this menace is not merely a necessity but a major urgency.
As an effort towards the same, we at Enactus Jamia Milia Islamia came up with Project Tabdeel. Through this, we targeted achieving the goal of zero waste by segregating waste which was later transformed into reusable items.
We started by targeting the group engaged in the primary level of this sector – the ragpickers. Residing in the makeshift clusters on the banks of Yamuna, a group of ragpickers live at the mercy of exploitative contractors. As it is with the informal sector, they suffer due to unjust wages and the lack of an official regulating body.
Our quest to change their lives led us to the ghettos near Batla House where we met women from Sambhal, Uttar Pradesh.
Despite being adept in the traditional skill of crochet, they were unable to gain any economic benefits due to the unavailability of a suitable market. Thus, they led a life subverted by lack of education, sanitation and social backwardness. To uplift the communities while safeguarding the environment, Enactus JMI sought to connect them through a business model.
We utilised the segregated non-biodegradable as well as organic waste by producing good quality marketable products. The rag pickers collected plastics from various places in and around our university which were then cleaned and supplied to the Sambhal women who used their crochet skills to make affordable and durable plastic mattresses. These mattresses were further purchased by several NGOs and distributed amongst homeless people.
Part of this segregated waste was shredded into flakes. This shredded plastic was sold to factories and other private firms which used it to make structures like roads. The ragpickers were trained to operate the shredder machine.
Vermicomposting pits were constructed in the college campus in collaboration with the Department of Horticulture, Jamia Millia Islamia to utilise the organic waste collected from hostels, canteens and community centres. All of this was managed by our community members who were trained to work on the generated compost which was further sold to nurseries.
The major objectives of our project include the production of useful items, skill enhancement of the involved communities and preservation of the environment. We aimed for economic independence and better income of our communities by educating their children by enrolling several of them in MCD schools and providing computer classes in our university. We also introduced them to occupational opportunities by integrating them with various government schemes.
We, therefore, strived to engage with the community and try our best to facilitate the process of them becoming successful entrepreneurs. At Enactus JMI, our efforts to pursue our vision of a better world led to our growth by facing challenges which turned into opportunities and a team of few members became a family, working together in harmony.