New Delhi: Is it possible to live a life without using plastic? The 175 families of Mumbai’s Rustomjee Central Park Society in Andheri are trying to prove it is possible. Over the last weekend, the society, spread over seven wings, shunned around 700 kg of plastic and handed it over to a recycling company, thereby pledging to live a plastic-free life from now onwards. Talking to NDTV about the plastic-free journey of the society, 39-year-old Bianca Louzado who is a celebrity Make-up and Hairstylist by profession and who started this plastic crusade said,
It all started last year when I used to go on sets and do hair and makeup for actor Dia Mirza. She always used to pinpoint to me on things like – ‘don’t bring a plastic bottle on the sets, instead bring a steel bottle, don’t carry plastic bags, don’t use plastic cups.’ I started changing my daily habits and slowly was inspired to such a level that I thought of overhauling my home and gave away plastics completely. I gave up things like old shampoo bottles, cutlery, plastic bottles, daily utility plastic items, basically whatever I can find in my house that was made of plastics. It felt good and satisfying because I was doing my bit for the environment.
Commenting on how she was successful in involving her entire society in the process, Bianca Louzado further added,
Whatever good things you do at your home, you surely take outside. Isn’t it? I started talking to more and more people in my society on how we can make our area plastic-free. I spoke with few members and asked them to join me in what I am doing. Slowly, I started getting support from more and more people. Our aim was to cut down usage of plastic to 90% in the society and make it first in Mumbai to completely eliminate plastic.
The Plastic Free Society Journey
As a first step, Bianca and few members of the society started making people aware of the plastic-free drive and motivated them to give away plastics from their lives completely. There were pamphlets highlighting the correlation between plastic usage and cancer, birth defects, compromised immunity, endocrine disruptions and other ailments and how plastic is taking the life out of our planet by killing the marine life. These were distributed to all the 175 families living in the area. Apart from the residents, even shopkeepers and grocery shop owners were guided on why not to give plastic bags to consumers for their daily utility items. Bianca adds,
It is all about small habits – if we change them, it will go a long way. With this as our motto, we started guiding both residents and shopkeepers on why not to sell or accept items in plastic bags. If together, we all start saying no to plastics – it can shape-up long-term substantial change.
The residents were also given eco-friendly alternatives to plastic bags so that they can give away the usage of bags completely.
Our second step was to provide the residents’ alternatives to plastic bags – we zeroed down on an NGO near our area and got them to make us canvas bags which were sturdy, long lasting and better alternatives to plastic bags. Last weekend, when we were giving away plastic from our society to a recycling unit, we had few stalls so that people can buy the canvas bags from us and make a green switch for life. We sold almost 256 bags that time at a cost of Rs 50 (small bag), Rs 80 (medium bag) and Rs 100 (large bag).
Apart from the awareness drive, a system of plastic waste collection has been instituted in the society – residents are guided on segregating the household waste and saving all the plastic items for a month in a separate bin and only dispose it off at the end of the month when a recycling unit truck comes down to collect the items.
Talking about the future plans, Bianca added,
“The current focus was on plastic, in future, we will be holding e-waste, medical waste drives and soon will put a system in place to effectively segregate and manage it.”
With an appeal asking more and more societies to follow their footsteps, Bianca signs off by saying,
The change needs to be started somewhere by someone – only then we will be able to make our country waste-free. It is high time people should know that their actions are causing harm to all of us, it is time we start thinking and caring about our planet.
Bianca and her society members’ efforts have also got thumbs up from actor and UN Environment goodwill ambassador, Dia Mirza. She said,
“A remarkable member of my team! @BiancaLouzado you are a changemaker! We need many more like you to help us #BeatPlasticPollution ?? Keep up the great work! So proud! #SayNoToSingleUsePlastics #WasteManagement.”