Situated in the East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, Peddapuram is a small town waging a war on single-use plastic in an interesting way. The man behind the mission—30-year-old Naresh Pedireddi—after mobilising his townspeople through an online community into various social initiatives, is now bartering one kg of plastic with one kg of rice.
Let’s find out the why, how and when of this drive.
“We started by organising blood donation drives and camps, organ donation awareness programmes, and other smaller community-based activities,” explains Naresh, an MBA, who is a cashew nuts trader.
Naresh started the online group with the intent of bringing the 50 thousand-strong Peddapuram people together to work for the community. Mana Peddapuram or (Our Peddapuram) is now 25k member strong.
Avoid Plastic – Avoid Hunger
“India is known to produce more than 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste each day, and unfortunately only about 9 per cent is recycled. The remaining plastic waste finds its way into landfills and water bodies,” says Naresh. “We aimed to somehow find a solution to tackle this issue.”
On the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Mana Peddapuram launched the Avoid Plastic-Avoid Hunger campaign. “In this initiative we ask people to trade their plastic waste for rice. We realised that this would be an effective way to combat the plastic menace while encouraging people to come forward with it,” informs Naresh.
The concept is simple – for every kilogram of plastic waste that a person donates they get one kilogram of rice in return. Within days of launching this initiative, the group collected almost 400 kgs of plastic waste from the town.
“While in the first week we managed to collect about 200 kgs of plastic waste, the count has now risen to 600 kgs after almost a month of operations,” shares Naresh. For now, the collection is a weekly program which will soon turn bi-monthly.
What happens to the collected waste?
“Once the sanitation workers sort the waste, the civic body sends it to recycling plants. Through this initiative, we wanted to try and address two issues – plastic waste as well as hunger.”
The response has been positive so far with people from all sections of the society coming forward with bags of plastic waste. When kids visit them with the waste, the team rewards them with toys and candies.
“There was this 70-year-old lady who spent three days collecting plastic from roadsides and on the third day came to us with about three kgs of plastic waste. Her happiness at taking back 3 kgs of rice was something else,” says Naresh.
What’s heartening is that ten other districts in the area have also started this exchange programme seeing the success in Pedapurram. “We get calls from various NGOs and collector’s offices to find out about how they can implement this in their district as well.”
How they raise funds?
Naresh says that given their large volunteer numbers, they raise funds internally and sometimes have corporate sponsors who support their cause. “Each kg of rice costs us Rs 25 to 30, and so far we have been able to take this initiative forward by crowdsourced funds and the money that we get by selling the plastic,” he says.
With thousands of volunteers and active members, Naresh is confident of taking this initiative to greater heights and help in fighting the plastic menace eating away the planet.
If you wish to reach out to this organisation, you can visit their Facebook page here.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)