Kana Ram Mewada, a tea stall owner from UP, has come up with a unique way to collect and recycle kilos of plastic waste in and around his village, in a bid to make it plastic free.
In a small tea shop located in Bisalpur, Uttar Pradesh, one can spot unique furniture like stools and tables made of bricks and recycled plastic. Other than customers, tourists who come to visit the nearby Jawai Dam often stop by here to hand over plastic waste to the shopkeeper.
Run by Kana Ram Mewada, the shop not only sells steaming cups of chai and snacks, but also leads a campaign to reduce the use of single-use plastic in his village.
According to a report of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 2019-20, 3.5 million metric tonnes of plastic waste is annually generated in India, and will remain in the landfills for the upcoming hundreds of years.
Kana Ram was deeply disturbed after reading about this report in the newspaper. He believes that relying completely on the government without making any individual contribution was not a good idea. The youngster began thinking about ways to raise awareness among people in his village and make at least his locality free of plastic.
“I came to know that the many municipalities had failed in effectively employing the single-use plastic ban, even after spending crores on awareness campaigns and planning,” Kana Ram tells The Better India.
He understood that plastic can’t be removed completely, but the number can be reduced through recycling. “Even I sell things in my shop that come in plastic covers. These cannot be changed, no matter how much I try. But what I could do is not let this waste pollute our environment.”
“One man from the village, Dilip Kumar Jain, who is associated with an NGO in Mumbai, extended all support from his organisation to make our village plastic-free. We started the activities by collecting a few kilograms of plastic waste majorly from my own shop and roadsides. Whenever a customer comes, I explain the initiative to them. Slowly, they started contributing as well,” Kana Ram shares.
It’s been one year since he started the campaign, through which he urges villagers to bring plastic waste to his shop instead of throwing it carelessly. “In order to attract more people to the campaign, I started giving something in return for the waste they bring. It could be anything from the shop — like sugar or even a plant.”
As a result, people from the village, especially children, became curious about Kana Ram’s initiative. Even tourists began participating in the exchange. And today, the forest, river and public spaces that were rife with plastic waste are cleaner. Tourists here are also mindful about dumping waste in the village, he says.
Kana Ram collects an average of 50 kg of plastic a month, which is taken to the recycling company in the nearby city for further processing. “Sometimes, I purchase a few things made of recycled waste to show the villagers and tell them that it was created from our plastic waste contribution. I also try to make decorative items out of this waste and place them around the shop,” he says.
It was through the NGO that Kana Ram was connected to the company. He stores the waste in a room adjacent to the shop. The items are accepted only after cleaning, after which he takes his collection to the recyclers on any day of the first week of a month. He hopes that he can help the neighbouring villages also recycle plastic waste and make the whole locality plastic-free.
He adds, “When an ordinary person like me decided to initiate a cause, a whole village stood by extending all support. We can all be torchbearers for a better tomorrow. All we have to do is take a step forward.”
Read this story in Hindi here.
Edited by Divya Sethu