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India Generates 56 Lakh Tonnes Of Plastic Waste Annually: How Can We Reduce This?

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For a person living in the 21st century, it is nearly impossible to imagine life without using plastic. That is why it is quite often quoted that, “Plastic is the fourth essential necessity, after the three basic necessities of life.” The palpable fact is that be it for carrying commodities, packing items or for storing essentials, it is plastic that is more often than not the go-to solution for any individual. And the obvious reason for it is the fact that plastic is lighter, making it easier for people to carry it, and most importantly, it is cheap which makes it commercially viable. Whether at a place of residence or a place work, most items are made of plastic.

All of this makes plastic one of the highest used materials in the world. However, there is another angle associated with the usage of plastic that some people, intentionally or unintentionally, try to ignore, and that is the catastrophic effects of plastic on the biodiversity as well as on the planet as a whole. The fact which most of the educated people are aware of is the paramount concept of the ‘food chain.’ If you haven’t heard of the concept, you simply have to flip through the pages of an environmental science textbook.  Nature is designed in a manner where one living being is dependent on another, and in this chain, human beings too occupy a pivotal place. But if by any means this chain is disturbed, the whole ecological balance would be in disarray and the conspicuous fact is that, directly or indirectly, the usage of plastic by human beings is destroying the balanced food chain. However, the pivotal question is:

How Is Plastic Affecting The Food Chain?

  • Plastic being a non-biodegradable material remains on the earth’s surface without getting decomposed for thousands of years. When this happens, it slowly snatches away the fertility of the land, making it dead and barren. In this land, the autotrophs (green plants) cannot grow and this destroys the food chain to a large extent affecting the animals in the upper part of the food chain.
  • The main reason that has led to debates on the banning of plastic is its perilous impact on marine life.

The lack of civic sense and carelessness amongst some human beings has made them believe that the throwing of plastic waste like bottles, polythene bags etc. anywhere and at any time is not a big issue. However, while believing so, they completely tend to forget the fact that those plastic items might be swallowed by animals, and that could lead to their death due to choking.

This attitude of human beings has unfortunately destroyed the lives of many aquatic animals. The recent case of the death of a whale due to plastic consumption in Southern Spain is a tragic example of this. Videos circulating on social media showing tortoises being operated on because of plastic accumulation in their nostrils. Moreover, the astonishing fact is that India itself generates 56 lakh tonnes of plastic waste annually according to a report by Taking the stats into consideration, we can simply imagine the amount of plastic waste the world produces as a whole.

However, now it is high time that some substantial steps are taken globally or by individual countries in order to tackle this grave issue.

Here Are My Recommendations:

  • It might not be possible to ban the usage of plastic materials globally, its usage can, of course, be reduced by replacing it with biodegradable products.
  • Other countries can also take examples from specific countries like France, Rwanda, Sweden, Ireland, China etc. where they have dealt with the issue of overuse of plastic in a serious manner, by implementing laws peculiar to those countries.
  • The concept of ‘Go Green’ can also be strengthened further by opting for things made of jute, coconut etc. for the purpose of carrying and storing items. Even steel and copper might be a good alternative to plastic.
  • People must also be cautious about the proper disposal of plastic items and they should not at any cost throw plastic debris in water bodies or inland areas which are a common habitat of many species.

A little bit of effort on the part of humans can go a long way in eradicating the threat imposed upon the environment by the usage of plastic. Furthermore, in the current context, the problem of plastic wastage is regarded as a serious threat to the environment, even bigger than the threat of nuclear wastage. Experts have already estimated that in the near future, plastic wastage would turn hectares and hectares of fertile soil into barren lands. And the particular case of the death of a whale due to the consumption of 40 KGs of plastic debris has once again questioned the logic of human beings.

Plastic, in appearance, might not look that threatening, but in reality, it can seriously lead to the extinction of many species including human beings. But the sad fact is that no one can provide the perfect solution for this problem since the use of plastic is an indispensable element of our day-to-day lives. Thus in the near future, it would be interesting to see the steps taken by the countries to reduce the drastic impact of plastic upon the environment. However, in the present time, more than anything else, it is the change in the human attitude while dealing with plastic that could turn out to be a game-changer. But if the opposite happens, then slowly human beings would directly invite their doomsday.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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