Plastics: A Raging War With No End In Sight

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Plastics, one of the most widely used material in our everyday life, due to its immense popularity and structural properties, has started to gather a lot of negative attention. The properties which make the material optimum for a plethora of applications also cause plastics to remain in the system and not decompose for thousands of years.

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Thousands of products in the market today are packaged in plastic, the major chunk of which is acquired by consumer durables and personal care products. Every cream you buy, every pack of chips, every biscuit pack and packaged beverages you enjoy in the scorching heat are made of plastic. If you read the label carefully, you can easily find instructions of where to dispose of such packages so they can be sent for proper recycling and reuse, but who reads the label anyway?!

Well, our inability to take things seriously have landed us in a situation where, if reports are to be believed, there would be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050. While we are enjoying our packet of chips, reading articles on the plastic menace on the internet and tweeting about the #WarOnPlastic with utmost enthusiasm; the world is still getting filled with plastic packets and bottles, which are killing animals, polluting our rivers and oceans, and accumulating in our landfills with no plans to leave.

Going back to the start of an era, plastics were engineered to solve several problems that we humans were facing back then. Other alternatives to plastic then, were glass, wood and paper. Glass for starters, requires immense heat to be formed, is extremely heavy and fragile, thus increasing the cost for transportation and our carbon footprint. Wood and paper, on the other hand, are derived from trees, the same trees that we need for our existence. Cutting down more trees to replace plastics will get us closer to the already unavoidable catastrophe but at a much faster pace.

To solve these problems and come out with a proper solution, humans created plastics. Plastics are nothing but polymers made up of different monomer structures to create a long-lasting film which has several barrier properties and abilities to keep the contents inside fresh for a longer period. After the origin of plastics in the early 19th Century, the food wastage across the world has substantially gone down. Lesser trees were cut to make packaging material, thus reducing an individual’s carbon footprint; allowing us to exist on the surface of the earth for a little longer.

So Where Did The Problem Arise?

The use of plastics increased at a pace we could not imagine. Packaging, furniture, kitchen utensils, home décor, and many more things we use regularly were replaced by plastic alternatives due to their cost-effectiveness, lightweight and better properties. With the magnanimous increase in the production of plastics, there should have been an equally stronger development for recycling of the substance, since we know it cannot be decomposed easily. But instead, we kept throwing our daily use plastics into our dustbins, and the government kept dumping them into landfills without realizing the depth of the upcoming plastic menace.

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According to Mr Rajagopalan Vasudevan, who is fondly called the Plastic Man of India, plastics thrown into dump yards can be brought to better use to solve the current problem of plastic waste. In a circular economy, waste for one is gold for another. Similarly, used plastics can be re-used to make unbreakable roads, fuel for machines and tractors, plastone tiles for home construction and to generate electricity.

If we make small efforts in our everyday lives to segregate plastics from our waste, it would be easier for the government to put this waste plastic to better use. The government should have regulations which define the kind of waste which needs to be disposed of separately for segregation and recycling. Each home should have two different dustbins for in-house waste segregation. Children should be educated on the use of plastic, and collection centres for waste plastic can be established in schools.

Yes, plastic is a material which requires special care while being disposed and it has become a menace in the current scenario, but it can’t be denied that we are falling short on creating better, more eco-friendly alternatives to this unique polymeric substrate. So our aim should be to utilize our plastic waste properly, rather than waging war on plastic without realizing the effects of other alternatives on our environment and our existence.

The above article was first published here.

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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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