For #plasticfreejuly, this is the final part of a four-part series highlighting some of the needs of the hour of plastic waste pollution through worldwide and India specific stats along with first-hand insights from Bare Necessities- Zero Waste India staff and interns.
In the third part of this series, we discussed consumerism and the sustainable development goals with key members of Bare Necessities’ operations team (click here for Part 3). The week before we explored the insights of two interns who have vastly different backgrounds- one from England and one from India- about how they view waste (click here for Part 2). During the first article, we delved into the thoughts and perspectives from the manufacturing team (click here for Part 1), which consists of four women from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, in relation to how their relationship with waste has changed since beginning employment in a business that focuses on zero waste- Bare Necessities promotes the adoption of zero waste practices, circular economy methodology and sustainability to consumers and businesses throughout India and further abroad.
The final part of this four-part series focuses on the benefits of creativity, education and innovation with Bare Necessities Creative Head, Mouli, who takes photos for the social media channels and provides important marketing structure for the team. She has previously worked as a freelance photographer, content writer and designer. To her, the social business is not just a brand, it creates purpose and enjoyment.
To begin with, I’d like to start off at the end, with a simple, yet the pivotal note of wisdom from Mouli who has travelled throughout the country and has lived in some of the biggest waste generating cities in India- Kolkata, Mumbai and Bangalore.‘More awareness about the waste crisis is needed. Where awareness is being created is important. The way you are talking about is important. The best way to create awareness is to do it yourself. Forcing people does not work.’
So then, let’s go back to the beginning to understand this better, but where exactly? How about, a time not too long ago, let’s say 15 years ago- “40 per cent of plastic produced is packaging that is used just once and then discarded (and) half of all plastics ever manufactured have been made in the last 15 years” (source). If the insights of Mouli and her colleagues (in week 1, week 2 and week 3) during this series of articles have supported one key fact, it is that within India there was far less waste when they were younger than there is now. 15 years is not a long time in the scheme of things but the damage done in that period has been profound.
Mouli noted that earlier in her life ‘there were groups who were conscious but others who were not’. The same can still be said today. This sentiment underlines the facts of the final piece of wisdom she left me with during the interview. Evidently, the awareness that was being created to some of the groups who took a conscious approach to manage waste did not reach everyone. Therefore the way people were spoken to, it can be safely assumed, did not carry enough weight and it is likely that where the people were spoken to about waste management was not quite correct. Due to this, the importance of the discussion did not reach all those people as it did to Mouli who has been an active waste reducer throughout her life. Additionally, her first-hand experience has taught her that forcing people to manage waste to a higher level does not work, which brings us to creativity, education and innovation.
The types of methods we use in creating awareness about plastic waste are paramount to success. Whether that is finding the exact amount of light needed for a picture of a zero-waste product from her camera or if it is achieved through an educational scheme where kids pay for their school fees by bringing in plastic waste (source), both are fine examples of what can be done. The type of educational method does not matter so much if the people involved want to be involved.
By educating people in the right manner and getting the who, where, what, when and why right more people will likely get on board to manage the problem. Currently, there are numerous solutions and recommendations that have been made for India- and could be similarly adopted elsewhere- including creating eco-friendly alternatives, monetary incentives to help clear plastic debris and involving and valuing waste pickers to a higher level (source). A potential result of these types of solutions is found in the children in the school mentioned above, based in the northern Indian state of Assam, they are demonstrating through their actions what can be done because they have been, and continue to be, educated in a way that appeals to them. They are embracing the method and making a difference.
We all know that there is a lot of plastic waste and that it is an issue. It is a problem that has increased in ferocity in the last decade and a half. We can make it a spike instead of a straight line linear trend by finding both simples tried and trusted solutions and new innovations. Mouli is certainly on board, she’s been taking photographs since she began working here to try to create, educate and encourage people to become involved by showing her audience what she is involved in instead of forcing their hand.
I can see her taking a photograph one day of a zero-waste product. It’s not too distant in the future either, providing there is the right type of education given to everyone in ways that matter to each of them. Everyone needs to be a part of it, everyone’s eyes now fall on plastic each and every day here in this big city in India where I sit, and in many other locations worldwide. The challenge is to ensure that enough of us are on board to turn the tide of the past years of plastic use.
Oh, the photograph Mouli was taking!
I almost forgot, she fixes her lens upon the image and at that moment she is no longer taking a picture of a zero-waste product. Instead, by then, it is just a product because enough of us have stopped relying on plastic and now the alternatives are the norm.
Would you like to see the picture she has captured? I know I would.