What do you expect when you walk into a funeral procession? Grim faces, devotional hymns, traditional chants, perhaps?
The funeral procession that we are talking about will blow your mind. It had no mourners.
Instead, this bunch of smiling individuals laid the bane of their existence to rest!
Shocked? Well, it wasn’t a human being. It was environment-threatening single-use plastic!
On June 23, 2018, Mumbaikars from the Thakur village in Kandivali, performed last rites and organised an official funeral for plastic items to mark the day the Maharashtra plastic ban came into effect.
Christened the ‘Antim Yatra’ or Final Journey, residents of over 26 housing societies turned this procession into a collection drive for single-use plastic items. They also wanted to encourage more residents to give up dependence on these plastic items and switch to sustainable alternatives.
This society has been a lead runner in fighting plastic pollution. They began their battle in 2017, ahead of the state-wide plastic ban. What once began as a social cause to beautify their surroundings has now transformed into a full-fledged battle against plastic.
These like-minded environment crusaders have formed a group named ‘Soch Sayani’ (Think Clever) to make people aware of the harmful effects of plastic. They conduct regular awareness drives in the area.
To pledge their support to the state government’s ban on plastic items, they collected all the banned plastic items from residents and submitted them to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Speaking to NDTV, Hema Rao, an active volunteer of the group, said, “The collective drive was organised with an aim to drive out plastic from Thakur village without the people having to make much effort.”
Thakur village houses over 40 societies of which over 26 took part in the procession. To promote this unique antim yatra or collection drive, the residents went the extra mile by creating quirky posters that mentioned the venue, date, and purpose.
These were circulated in all the societies and their respective WhatsApp groups. The organisers also appointed 26 persons to serve as Point of Contacts.
Every individual who wanted to participate had to give away all single-use plastic items like bags, spoons, forks, cups, thermocol, etc. at the designated collection point in their society. They were given two weeks for this task.
Impressed by the citizen’s initiative, the BMC even came forward and offered four trucks to collect all the discarded plastic items on June 23, reported the publication.
On the day of the procession, about 50 volunteers braved heavy rains to begin the procession at noon and shared live locations via Google Maps to the 26 societies to ensure the collection drive went smoothly.
“A fixed route map was provided to all the societies. They tracked the route of the trucks and submitted their plastic accordingly,” another resident, Latesh Shetty, told NDTV.
It took an hour for one truck to get full. When all the four trucks were full by evening, and a few societies were left, the residents hired a private truck to ensure all the plastic waste was collected.
“We blame the authorities always, but we are also equally responsible for the plastic menace. This drive was a team effort. Many of the societies even arranged for snacks and tea for us while we were on the rounds. A local bakery patted our backs with free pastries. This was really assuring and motivating,” said Hema Rao, a member of the organisation.
Isn’t it great to see residents take up innovative and quirky ways to put an end to the plastic menace? This initiative is certainly something many other societies can attempt.
Whether it is approaching your street hawkers to stop giving plastic bags or asking the residents of your colony to carry cloth bags on their way to the market, every small effort counts.
These colonies did it for months and today over 60 per cent of the people, including residents and vendors have stopped using plastic bags!
It’s never too late to start. Will your colony be next?
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)