23 Jun 2022  |   06:15am IST

Maka Naka Plastic

You must have heard of the latest buzz in the Panjim market. An initiative in the city, which is attempting to curb the usage of single use plastic bags. Why only single use plastic bags? 

When I first began going to the Panjim market regularly more than 15 years ago, the fad of using plastic was undeniable. The reason was utterly unjustifiable, however, it had simply become a habit. It was so convenient. It took care of fish and meat instead of a leaky and smelly bag to deal with. Like most people, I too badly needed a lightweight disposable plastic bag to line my dustbin so that I could then dump the smelly and stinky waste of the day replete with fish waste, vegetable peels, non biodegradable packaging waste too in a neat ‘poti’ which could be easily dumped in the nearest ‘dustbin’ that the city was then literally littered with. But after a period of using such plastic bags, I began to learn about the horrors of the impact on the environment and stray cattle. I also witnessed a cow possibly affected by ingesting a plastic bag with waste in it followed by a video of a cow dying a slow death because of ingesting waste in a plastic bag! I then began questioning my dependence on the single use plastic bags and their impact on stray cattle and the environment. Further reading and research led me to understand that micro plastic and plastic soup is connected to cancer and are like poisons in the water and soil. I pledged to change my habits. 

I began using paper bags to line my dustbins, I began composting all the wet waste on my little terrace using a terracotta composter and started using cloth bags for shopping. Yes, when one bag did not suffice to carry all the items of shopping, I began carrying more cloth bags. I could wash them and reuse them. But within a few days I began to notice the change. 

The #MakaNakaPlastic initiative was launched in the Panjim market on World Environment day 2022 by the Corporation of the City of Panjim along with its collaborators Sensible Earth, TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute), GIZ (Duetsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit), India NAMA-Circular Waste Solutions and FLIP. The campaign conceptualised by the Sensible Earth has invited volunteers to join this massive drive to curb single use plastic pollution. The initiative is a 21-day programme where volunteers will be giving away cloth bags for free to all the shoppers and customers visiting the market. Why 21 days? Because, it takes 21 days to inculcate and develop a habit. So far, students of the Community Classroom- Nagalli Taleigao have been volunteering everyday during the peak shopping hours, a group from the Sunshine Worldwide School-Bainguinnim participated on a couple of Saturdays, and a few volunteers from Magsons joined the initiative for a few days. We have had so much learning since the first day. The local market is a store house of good organic food. There are locally grown fruits, vegetables, millets, flowers, artisanal items, handmade products, etc that one will not find in a modern day super market. Here you will also find local vendors who also pack their items in hand made and natural packaging. Large leaves for garlands and local berries, newspaper cones for smaller fruits and vegetables. Glass bottles with coconut oil and kokum sherbat. There are many that are responsible as customers and shoppers too and very diligently bring along their own cloth bags. There are many who either forget or simply do not know the issue with plastic pollution or are too lazy to do anything about it. There are others who cannot live without the plastic bag. They even demand for one and take offence if they do not get one or are provided with one. The vendors are doing their job. If the customer does not have a bag, they are obliged to offer a plastic bag which is the cheapest option for them. Now what happens when one uses a single use plastic bag. After each use, it is either thrown away or disposed in a waste bin. Only a very small percentage is collected and segregated. This is then ‘recycled’. Most times it is baled to be sent for incineration ‘under controlled conditions’. A large percentage of the single use plastic bags gets dumped in a landfill (like Sonsoddo-Margao) or it ends up in the nearest water body or river. This then goes on to join the floating mass of plastic waste that flows into the sea and then the ocean. Have you heard of the 5 Gyres? Large islands of plastic that are forming and continuously growing as the ocean currents gather this debris across the world. What happens to this mass? It becomes plastic soup and the portion exposed to the air becomes micro plastic particles that we inhale and ingest. It also contaminates our soil and food. This means it is everywhere. Inside our body, in water, in the air. Who is responsible? You and I. Not the vendor or the shop or the supermarket. Who can make a change? You and I. Who will benefit? You and I. 

It is time we join the movement and make a difference. Carry your own cloth bag, make one using an old T-shirt or any other garment. Get your family members to participate in a group activity and make cloth bags from old garments or discarded cloth. Get your students from your school to join the mission. Get your neighbourhood to take action. Let’s say no to plastic. MAKA NAKA PLASTIC. 

(The author is an Architect and silver awardee of the Golden Door Award 2020 for truth and integrity)

IDhar UDHAR

Idhar Udhar