New Delhi: When we talk about single use plastics, usually items like straws, spoons and glasses come to one’s mind, but there is one type of single use plastic which is often ignored or not taken into consideration – plastic wrappers. As per a research by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), 53 per cent of plastic waste in 15 cities across India are Multi Layered Packaging, which in simple words is plastic packaging. MLP is used in Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) – the everyday things we consume packed in glossy/shiny wrappers like biscuits, chips, candy, laundry detergent, tea, hand-wash,all of which are non-recyclable, non-biodegradable and non-reusable and mostly end up as litter on the road or in landfills.
In a bid to raise awareness against the menace of MLP and encourage young children to think about a sustainable future, Gurugram’s Heritage Xperiential Learning School (HXLS) is providing environment sensitive education to its students through their unique ‘experiential’ curriculum.
As part of their learning expedition called “Geography that shapes us”, the grade-six students of the school led an initiative on Waste Management and a Multi Laminated Packaging collection drive. The HXL School collaborated with the Non-profit ‘Safai Bank’ to bring an actionable change with the project.
Safai Bank accumulates MLP waste and reuses it by sending it to the cement industry where they are safely burnt in their furnaces, in a process called co-processing. The students from HXL school managed to collect and save about 14,000 MLP packs from ending up in landfills, in just a span of four months.
Explaining the concept of learning expedition, Rajeswari S, who teaches the sixth grade told NDTV,
Learning Expeditions are an integral part of our school’s experiential learning curriculum where the concepts and skills are built through real-life experiences. This begins by presenting students with a pertinent, real-life problem. Students are responsible to perform primary and secondary research on various aspects of the problem, gather and analyse information, interact with experts to learn more, collaborate and brainstorm to find possible solutions to the problem – all within the ‘learning by doing’ framework.
Explaining this particular initiative, she added,
For this project, our students closely evaluated the interdependence of nature and humans and the impact of our present choices on future lives. The sustainability of Gurugram city was also assessed and solutions were drawn based on the current trends to make the city green and sustainable.
As part of the research phase of the expedition, students studied the Aravalli Range and their impact on the geography of Gurugram. Environmentalists were invited to the school to teach them about waste management and ground water recharging.
Based on this background work, the students identified effective Waste Management as a critical element to avoid air, water, and soil pollution and focused on waste segregation and Multi-Laminated Packaging management.
They began with a school-wide drive to collect MLP wrappers, with the help of Safai Bank and the Middle Programme student council. To generate maximum awareness about the MLP issue and the drive, the students also prepared posters to put around the school campus, made presentations in different classrooms, sent emails to all departments of the school, and placed attractive hand decorated collection boxes throughout the school so that the MLP waste could be deposited easily.
Sifti Kaur, a grade 6 student started an MLP collection drive in her residential area by putting up cardboard boxes for each tower in her society. She then brought the wrappers to school and sorted them with the help of her classmates and deposited them with Safai Bank.
Another student Suhani Ravi Tewari conducted an MLP collection drive and with her mother’s support and reached out to family and friends.
She baked cakes as a gesture of appreciation and encouragement for her relatives who collected a substantial amount of MLP. Her passion and determination to find a solution for plastic packaging waste took her to Meghalaya, when a family friend invited her to participate in Shillong Times’ initiative ‘Operation Cleanup’.
Suhani spoke in 8 different schools in Shillong, informing students about MLP and also took the issue up at an event, in the presence of the Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Conrad Sangma.
My mantra is – Reduce the MLP you consume and dispose it responsibly. Everyone along with the manufacturers and the government need to take a collective action to curb the menace and place some alternatives for all the citizens, the young student asserted.
Suhani’s school teacher Sunayna Uberoy says that she teaches all her students about the three R’s (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) and an additional R (Refuse), and its high time adults start following them too. She told NDTV,
We must abide by the Plastic Waste Management Rules for trying to reduce plastic waste by stopping the production of it, instead of dumping it and recycling it. We have to remember the three R’s that are to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. We need to bring in the concept of the fourth R – Refuse which is created but not followed. If humans refuse to take the polyethene or the plastic bags given by shopkeepers or stores, automatically their production will stop.