Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Project DePlasticize

Have you ever travelled to a place described as breathtaking…only to have the trash and filth there take more than just your breath away? Plastic waste forms the most prominent embellishment.

As inconsequential as this may seem, it played its part in the floods that brought Mumbai to a halt on 26th July 2005, affecting tens of thousands of Mumbaikars either directly or indirectly. We, at the DDC (Dedicated Delivery Center) have decided to reverse this destructive trend.

We began this month by giving up the use of plastic cups in office. Each of us at the DDC took it up as a personal challenge to change our attitudes and use mugs/reusable bottles instead. A week of environmental education saw the core team and each manager taking it up upon themselves to pass the green word on to the entire DDC, irrespective of location.

After some deliberation it was decided to let individuals buy their own mugs, since this gives people a greater sense of responsibility than when something is handed down free. It also allows for personalization and expression of individuality while eliminating the confusion that standard one-type-fits-all mugs could create. The team has supported the cause by buying their own mugs to show that they care for the environment! And slowly but surely, the usage of plastic cups has reduced in the DDC.

We can take this message with us wherever we go. Going on a long trip? Travelling by bus or train? Keep your trash in a bag and throw it in a trash can when possible, rather than out of the window. In the train, use steel cups to have tea/coffee and wash once you’re through.

Now, these simple steps may seem bothersome, but don’t we do this at home? Don’t we keep our houses tidy and try not to waste the resources that we pay for?

Look at the bigger picture. The Earth is our home too!!!

Save the Earth! It's the only planet with coffee on it!

- Primus, edited by Averil

Raise your non-plastic cup

Most organisations provide refreshments for their employees in plastic/Styrofoam cups. On an individual level using 1 or 2 cups a day seems insignificant, but let’s do some simple math here and see how it adds up:

  • Say you work for 5 days a week, using on an average 2 cups a day (I'm positive the usage is way more than that)
  • That would mean using 10 cups a week and 40 a month.
  • So a single person uses 480 cups a year.

Still think that’s a small amount?

  • Consider a midsize company with 1000 employees... that's 480,000 cups a year.
  • A city like Mumbai has at least 1000 such companies... that's 480,000,000 cups a year
  • Say a cup weighs a meager 5gm... that’s 2,400,000,000 gm or 2,400,000 kg of plastic a year — all of it going to some landfill!

All because of a measly cup! What a criminal waste!

It does not make economical sense for the company either. A cup costs Rs. 0.40 per piece, which would mean Rs.1,920,000 a year just “thrown” in the trash.

So we decided to educate the people in our respective companies regarding the issue and try to get people to change.

I started small, with my project team of around 100 people. The department heads and managers supported me all along. Information emails were sent, polls conducted, colleagues were educated and in a couple of weeks we saw a huge change in peoples mindsets. They willingly bought their own bottles and ceramic/earthen/ steel mugs to have their refreshments.

We had this featured in the company
monthly newsletter. At a 'Green' day that was organized, the center heads were impressed with what we had achieved in our department. This paved the path to take the drive to the entire company. Emails and posters informed people about the harmful effects of plastic. Soon a policy will be in place and plastic cups will slowly make their way out of our corporate lives!

The same argument can be extended to plastic bags that we use without batting an eyelid. It is very easy to carry your own bag while going shopping. Infact it’s even better if that bag is cotton or jute. Small steps like these lead to big changes. Join the revolution…be a part of the solution!!

- Primus, edited by Averil

Circa 1950 — Plastic weds humanity: Till death do us apart!

Here are some facts about our friend turned foe:

The thing to understand is there is no such thing as "away" when it comes to plastic. Often people think that because it's no longer in our home, in our work place or in our car, it has "gone away". Not true! It just means we no longer see it on a daily basis and it’s somewhere else on this planet. Out of sight, out of mind, and not our problem! How wrong can we be! Remember the 26th July floods?

We've used plastic only since the 1950s. With scientists estimating that each plastic item could last in the environment anywhere between 400 to 1000 years, it's all still here. Our plastic consumption, which is already estimated to be about 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags a year worldwide, is growing at an alarming rate. Moreover, nearly every piece of plastic EVER made still exists today.

Plastics do not biodegrade; they photo-degrade, breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits contaminating soil, waterways, oceans and entering the food chain when ingested by animals.

Scare Statistics:
Plastic production uses 8% of the entire world's oil.
The world currently produces 200 million tons of plastic a year. Around half of this is used for disposable packaging that is discarded within a year.
96 % of the world’s waste plastic is not recycled. This debris accumulates in landfills before being dumped into the sea.
An estimated 14 billion pounds of trash, much of it plastic is dumped in the world's oceans every year.
Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1 million sea creatures every year
Excess packaging is not just bad for the environment but for your pocket too. Studies carried out in 2007 established that excess packaging costs the average UK family about GBP 470 a year. (London.gov.uk) (BBCNews)

Plastic News, Facts, Myths, Bans and more:

- Primus, edited by Averil

Mumbai Rewind - Why?

Mumbai is a city of dreams. With an estimated population of 13 million, it is currently the second most populous city in the world. It has an area of 600 sq kms with a population density of 20000 people per sq km!! It is also estimated that over a 100 people call this city their new home everyday.

This then is a city stretched to the limits.

Growing up in the then Bombay feels like a surreal experience when one looks back today. The streets weren’t overcrowded, the pollution didn’t scare people out of the city, the endless cacophony didn’t raise its ugly veil, the traffic was manageable and the filth would go in dustbins.

As the 20th century bid us adieu something went wrong.

Mumbai today is a mix of crowds and mobs, noises and wars, stench and disease. The problems just seem to be increasing exponentially with no Messiah in sight.

Oh! Everybody is tired of this city; everybody grumbles about it, everybody wishes for change, everybody wishes that somebody will do something about this mess…and yet very few will put in a modicum of effort to change…

Mumbai Rewind is the brain child of a bunch of friends who decided to reverse the trend by bringing about a change for the better, even if it seems very little compared to the enormity of the problem at hand.

We want our old city back!!

- Primus, edited by Karthik