Earlier this year, Indore earned the title of India’s cleanest city for the third time.
To keep up the good work, the Municipal Corporation of the city has now taken a step towards eliminating single-use plastic cutlery not only in government offices but in food joints and private functions too.
What’s more, it is going back to India’s traditional vessels and metal utensils like copper bottles and lotas, steel and glass.
The Better India (TBI) got in touch with Asad Warsi, Indore Municipal Corporation’s advisor for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to know more.
“More than 90 per cent of the litter in the city consists of single-use plastics, that are difficult to collect, clog drainage systems and pose a big threat to the environment due to being non-biodegradable. As Indore has won the title of being the cleanest in the country for three years, it is our responsibility to keep it bin-free, litter-free and dust-free.”
This has been ensured by enforcing a strict ban, confiscating tonnes of plastic bags from distributors, dealers and shops, and fining violators amounts ranging from Rs 500 up to 12 lakh!
The corporation conducted large scale awareness drives in its most popular markets including Sarafa bazaar, 65 Dukaan and Meghdoot Gardens where it emphasised the need for elimination of single-use plastic cutlery and become zero-waste.
“Our approach was simple. We met the association of food joint owners and explained to them the math behind it. Many of them spent close to Rs 2000 per day behind plastic cutlery which amounts to Rs 60,000 a month and almost a whopping 7 lakh a year! Instead, if they invested in steel, glass or melamine plates and cutlery, they would be cutting these costs down to 2.5 lakh, while making an eco-friendly switch and using a durable alternative!”
He also went on to add how one of the major reasons these eateries used single-use plastic cutlery is hygiene. To tackle this, the corporation has identified three CSR partners who will set up dishwashers in these markets, collect this cutlery, sanitise them and return it twice a day at a minimal service fee basis.
This will ensure a continuous supply of clean utensils and save water too.
How? Warsi claims that the dishwashers use only 20 per cent of water when compared to a running tap.
To make the larger community a part of this change the corporation has also set up two zonal Bartan (utensil) Banks in the city, where metal utensils are provided free-of-cost to the citizens for use at any get-togethers or functions.
“The idea is not only to enforce bans but provide cost-effective solutions that people can readily accept, and that is how the concept of Bartan Banks came about.”
These “banks” have been set up through CSR funds in the zonal offices of Bengali Square and Sukhlia each. The corporation plans to extend this service to other 17 zones too, over two months, thus covering the entire city.
“Every ‘Bartan Bank’ has more than 3,000 sets of utensils/cutlery (plates, bowls, glasses, spoon, etc.). So, anybody in need of cutlery for occasions can go to the bank and issue these utensils as per their requirements with prior notice of 24 hours, completely free of cost. Once used, these utensils have to be cleaned and deposit it back at the bank. In case a utensil is damaged or lost, the person issuing it will be charged to recover the loss.”
More than 200 people have used the service, and the response has been exceptional, claims Warsi.
“From birthdays to school annual functions, religious celebrations—many citizens have come forward to support the initiative. People from other zones have requested for facility be set up in their areas as soon as possible.”
He shares some of the written feedback of the citizens who used the service.
Nanda Nagar-based Vishal Kulkarni, wrote, “It is a very good initiative by the municipal corporation. It is not only reducing waste that is generated by disposable cutlery but is also cost-effective for users. I have used the utensils from ‘Bartan Bank’ once for a party at home. I will be using it again and will definitely recommend others to use it instead of buying disposable plates, glasses, and cutlery.”
Warsi adds how the corporation is also practising what it is preaching, by banning disposable plastic water bottles, spoons, forks, glasses, and plates from all of its government offices.
It now ensures that in its offices, water is served in a copper ‘lota’ or steel or glass cups or tumblers and its snacks are served in metal, glass or melamine plates.
Right from its peons to the highest officer, the corporation is ensuring that each of the employees is given a copper bottle for personal use too.
“With the move, we estimate to reduce 5,000-6,000 plastic bottles and 10,000 disposables cups and cutlery per day from our government offices.”
Indore generates about 100 tonnes of plastic waste per day. The initiative Warsi adds will help “the city reduce plastic waste by two tonnes a day until Oct 2nd and by 10 tonnes by December 2019.”
We hope many more cities and government offices can take a leaf out of Indore’s book, say NO to single-use plastic, and say YES to eco-friendly alternatives!
Other photo credits: Asad Warsi
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)