TRASH Exclude. Exercise. Evolve. Our ‘Design for Change’ Students of 8th std., K.C.T. Vidya Niketan, Pune, Mahrashtra, India Mentor Teachers: Arti Nair & Sriram Chemuturi
Summary of the project Exclude plastic carry bags Exercise reuse and reducing options Evolve and be the change Go Eco Friendly
THE STORY- Step 1: FEEL We, the students of the 8th std. read a book called ‘Trash!’ as a part of our English curriculum. The book describes the life of a rag picker boy and recycling. Though the book gives good details on the topic, there was a disconnect amongst us and we couldn’t fully appreciate the facts. Also, there was this question in our minds –’How can we help the rag pickers?’ The increasing garbage near the school premises and our communities also was a big concern.
What to do?! Knowing the need, our teachers discussed about various ways in which we can clarify our doubts. It was then decided that the entire school can carry out a project to understand more about rag pickers and facts related to waste. This project was agreed to be the core of the Gandhi week and the Design For Change this year. We got pretty excited about the idea, but we didn’t know where to start and what to do?!
THE PROJECT- Step 2: IMAGINE To get a basic first hand understanding of the life and problems of the waste pickers, we decided to first interact with them. Our teachers invited people from an organisation called ‘SWACH’ (Solid Waste Collection and Handling Coop.) SWACH is an organisation of self employed waste pickers with around 2000 women workers. First we saw a video on the story of SWACH (life of rag pickers) and then we had a good interactive session with Kailash Bhaiya and Sarubai didi ( a rag picker).
Awareness... We learnt many facts from this session and didi answered all our questions patiently. We learnt that the best thing that we can do to support them is give them respect for the great job they are doing and help them by segregating the waste, right at our homes when disposing.
Awareness (contd...) Paper bags! Sriram bhaiya was sweet enough to show the whole school a powerful presentation on harmful effects of plastic bags. After the session, we discovered a whole new side of managing garbage. It is not only about the rag pickers, but also about how we, as citizens of this country, have managed to ruin our environment! Plastic bags take years to decompose, and we did not know that! Thus, we came up with a new idea. “Lets make paper bags and distribute it to the people around the community !” A target of 2500 paper bags was set, and the whole school was ready to go!
THE TASK- Step 3: DO We were trained by our Art teachers and the other teachers on how to make news paper bags. We then coached our friends from lower grades and all of us were religiously into the task. There were prizes announced in the assembly for the classes which made maximum number of paper bags, neat paper bags, etc. Newspapers were pouring in from everywhere and students spent every free minute making paper bags.
A ‘dirty’ trip!!! As the rest of the school was deeply involved in the task, we had a chance to go to the huge landfill at a village called Uruli Devachi. All the garbage from the city of Pune reaches this dumping yard. The garbage then is separated into bio waste, plastic, glass, etc. We also saw the recycled plastic moulds, bio fertilisers made from the bio wastes, construction sand derived from the garbage, microbe culturing, etc. What stunned us all is the fact that an enormous 10000 tonnes of garbage reaches this place everyday!!!!
Hence the change.... After the visit to the dumping grounds, a kind of brainwave hit us. We thought, that instead of imposing the paper bags on others, why not try and make the school a no plastic zone. Thus, it was decided that the paper bags made by us will be distributed amongst ourselves. Plastic carry bags will be completely banned in the school. The school had made over 3300 paper bags!..We had crossed our target by a margin of 800. The bags are ready and soon we will distribute them amongst us and the teachers. We had already made an initiative to not bring plastic carry bags to school.
EVOLVE “ Design For Change project is a powerful project because it evolved on its own. The children themselves decided to ban Plastic carry bags in school. Hence, it is a child led project.” -ShaliniSachdev Principal, KCTVN “ We initially thought, what is the use of going (to UruliDevachi) and seeing garbage...” Hitesh, Std. 8, KCTVN “ It (the DFC project) redefined what real learning in the school means...” Kanchan Thadani, Vice-Principal, KCTVN
Aspire. Achieve. Be the change. From trying to impose the change on to others, KCTVN students had chosen to BE THE CHANGE themselves, first. This also goes well with the Akanksha motto- to ‘Aspire, achieve and be the change’. “ We just gave them the ground work, showed them how things are and the project was led forward by the students themselves.” - Sriram Bhaiya (Teacher)
The Long term effect This project is not meant to bring about a change in a week, or even a month. It is meant to bring about a long-lasting change, a change which sensitizes people to garbage and plastic bag pollution. The distribution of the paper bags is yet to happen and the school is on its way to becoming a true ‘NO PLASTIC CARRY BAGS ZONE’. We will encourage the use of paper and cloth bags in our own communities. As we come from 65-70 different communities in Pune, we can influence as many areas. We hope to keep in touch with the SWACH organization and help them in any way possible. WE ARE THE CHANGE. WE LEAD THE MOVEMENT.