Abhijit (name changed) is relieved and excited about his new study space. The class four student speeds his way to the new grocery shop his parents own as soon after school ends. A resident of Sircilla town in Telangana, he spends the afternoon completing his homework without any disturbance, while his parents take a nap.
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More than Abhijeet, it is his mother for whom the 8×8 feet kiosk is a boon. She no longer has to sit on the pavement under the scorching sun or worry about protecting her small business from the rains.
Like her, eight other street vendors in the town have been provided with kiosks to carry out their businesses.
Every shop is made from 400 kilos of recycled plastic, and 47 such kiosks in Sircilla and 43 in Siddipet are scheduled to come up by August 15.
This sustainable initiative is a part of Urban Street Vendors Project under the National Rural Livelihood Mission that aims to promote self-employment for the underprivileged sections of the society.
It was undertaken by Prashant Lingam, the owner of Hyderabad- based Herwin Eco Infra. In the past, Prashant has made several eco-friendly houses, bus stops, and government rooms from recycled plastic waste.
Speaking to The Better India about the mission, he says,
Earlier this year, the state government approached us to build eco-friendly and cost-effective kiosks for the street vendors across Telangana, starting from Siddipet and Sircilla. The intention behind this project was to improve the livelihood of vendors who are often affected by weather conditions and harassed by the public as well as authorities for blocking pavements. This unique initiative is a first in India.
The government has partnered with Prashant to make around 4,000 green kiosks over the next five years across the state, he says.
Solving the Plastic Menace
After the government gave the green signal, Prashant and his team designed the proposal of using recycled plastic to make the shops.
Prashant opted for low-density polyethylene (LDPE) to make the structures, considering that they are chemical and water resistant and do not break easily. Examples of LDPE include packaging materials like plastic wrap, labels on plastic bottles, grocery bags, and milk pouches.
One of the limitations of LDPE is that it cannot be recycled if it comes in contact with wet waste and thereby, not suitable for segregation.
Unfortunately, we cannot lift any plastic from the dump yard. So our sources are companies who produce post-production plastic waste. We procured the plastic from scrap dealers, ragpickers and companies we know in Hyderabad, says Prashant.
The leftover raw material after plastic items are manufactured is known as ‘post-production plastic waste’.
The collected waste of about 3,500 kilos was transported to Prashant’s recycling unit in Gujarat.
At the factory, the plastic was shredded into pieces using machines and converted into sheets of 8×4 feet. It takes two days for three people to finish this process.
Depending on the thickness of the sheet, the consumption of plastic is calculated. For instance, 18 mm sheets use 60 kilos of shredded plastic, thereby preventing the same amount from going to the landfill.
Once the sheets are ready, they are transported back to Hyderabad where Prashant and his team attach doors and shutters made of metal. The final touch takes place at the location of the shop.
While all the walls are made from LDPE, the roofing is done using a combination of LDPE and multi-layered plastics. An example of multi-layered plastic is chips packets.
Are recycled plastic shops durable enough to face extreme weather conditions? Prashant answers,
Six months ago, we conducted a fire testing, and the results showed that the plastic would melt only when the temperature touched 240 degrees. Only if someone attempts to break it, will the shop break. It is acid-free and free of any leakages.
Prashant had conducted an internal survey with street vendors and their requirements for an ideal shop. But the constructed kiosks are proving to be too large for the vendors.
So, in the next phase, the team is likely to reduce the shops by 2 feet.
To measure the impact of the shops, Prashant’s team will monitor the revenue generated by every owner in July, “We will compare the revenue before and after the installation of the shop to assess if the kiosks are beneficial.”
To provide a sustainable livelihood through eco-friendly for the lakh or so street vendors in Telangana, Prashant and his team are looking for investors. They are also looking to collaborate with corporates who generate huge volumes of plastic waste.
How Kiosks Can Be A Boon For Street Vendors
Exposed to safety and health issues, street vendors in India are often considered as a public nuisance for encroaching pavements and other such public places.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation estimates that there are around 10 million street vendors in India who work throughout the day to earn minimum wages. Often, most of their earnings go to the local police or the municipality as bribes disguised under ‘protection money’.
Acknowledging that street vending is a viable source of income for people who lack education, skills, and financial investment, the central government came out with the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, that made street vending a legal profession. Despite this, street vendors are perceived as ‘encroachers’.
However, concrete initiatives like these can solve multiple issues and promise them a dignity of labour.
Get in touch Prashant Lingam at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)