I still remember the important lines marked and highlighted with different coloured inks in my school textbooks.
That was an era when an elder sibling, cousin or neighbour would pass down their textbooks along with other school materials like bags and uniforms to the younger ones. We would cover them with old newspapers and stitch unused papers from notebooks to make new ones.
Way before the concept of ‘Reuse’ was integrated with waste management, it did rounds in several Indian homes, including mine. I can’t really recollect at what point these practices faded away.
Reviving some of these customs, here are some initiatives that the Tamil Nadu government has launched:
To encourage the reusing of old books the Tamil Nadu school department will soon kickstart ‘Book Banks’ in all its schools. According to The Times of India, this programme will also extend to all government affiliated schools in the state.
The idea behind the initiative is clear—to save lakhs of trees that are cut every year to make papers from them. The move comes in after the National Green Tribunal had recommended School Management Committees in all states to utilise used books in an effective manner.
The Tamil Nadu Textbook and Educational Services Corporation (TTESC) is likely to start a book collection drive with the students passing in this academic year. The collected books will then be distributed to the new batches next year. However, it is optional for them to choose the used books, which will be distributed for free.
The schools have started collecting old books from the students who had written exams this year. If the books are in a good condition and if the students opt for them, then these books would be distributed to them, an official from the state education department told The Times of India.
More than 40,000 metric tonnes of paper is acquired by the TTESC every year to produce over eight crore textbooks for students studying between grades 1 and 12. In terms of impact, approximately eight lakh trees are cut down every year to make pulp for the papers used for the textbooks.
Welcoming this move, former Director of School Education, R Elangovan, said, “Creating this kind of environmental awareness among students is a good move. If we explain benefits to them, I am sure many students would opt for old books, which would save lakhs of trees and help in conservation efforts.”
Using Sugarcane Waste To Make Paper
Last year, the state education department printed more than 5.6 crore free textbooks and 3.1 crore chargeable copies.
For the next academic year, the TTESC is planning to purchase 49,500 metric tonnes of paper from the Tamil Nadu Newsprint and Paper Limited (TNPL). The printing company is known for using eucalyptus, casuarina plants and sugarcane waste to produce paper. This non-surface sized paper offers good strength, shine and brightness.
Besides, the textbook corporation had also collected discarded books from students and given them to the TNPL to recycle. A total of 2,119 metric tonnes of outdated books were collected from 2015-16 and 2017-18.
Recycling Paper Waste
Usually found with street and vegetable vendors, torn pages from discarded school books are used to serve food. This is an unfortunate state, considering that a child only uses the textbook—the treasure trove of knowledge—for a year before being given to the scrap dealer. Instead, this textbook can be recycled or reused in multiple ways.
For example, 900 children in Chennai are to undergo a waste management programme by Agal Foundation. The city-based NGO has provided ‘recycle’ bins in several schools, where children can deposit paper waste, reported NDTV. The idea is to educate them that while it is difficult to stop tree cutting, it is possible to reduce the number of trees cut by recycling used paper.
The Chennai High School in Kotturpuram and Mirra, a school for remedial learning, also follows the same practice of recycling waste. Namma Ooru NGO trains students in several schools of Chennai to segregate waste, reported The Times of India.
Going one step ahead, some schools also give their students the opportunity to earn money by donating waste paper. Around 30 schools collect paper, plastics and other waste materials from students and give them money in return. This is ITC’s Wealth Out of Waste (WOW) initiative. The ITC Mill in Coimbatore collects paper from these schools and converts it into pulp, reported The Hindu.
These projects will not only reduce the strain on natural resources but will also help in reducing the overall cost of producing paper and new textbooks. Besides, they will be life lessons for children and adults across the country to smartly use existing resources without tapping into new ones.
Featured image source.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)