TetraPak Campaigners of Shishuvan

“Excuse me, do you use TetraPaks?” Blank look. “You know… Frooti, Real, Milk. Do you use TetraPaks while cooking?” “Yes, sometimes.” “After you’ve finished using them, can you please donate the empty ones to Shishuvan school? We send them for recycling to Vapi where they are made into furniture and books.” “Wow, sure I’ll send them to Shishuvan.” “Do you know where our school is located?” “Yes, I do.” ” Thanks! Have a good day!”

This was a typical conversation when Shishuvan’s TetraPak campaigners went out to different parts of Matunga, asking for donations of used TetraPaks. Campaigners from Std VIII conducted a mini-rally (a bigger version will follow in the month of December), targeting a few neighbourhoods in Matunga. Campaigners from Std IX and X also joined in.

Std VIII had created a Papier-mâché Ganapati for the rally. They tried their best to use minimal resources, and reused plastic bottles for decoration. They got help from Gitesh, the art teacher and viola! The recycled Ganapati was ready! They created a palkhi (palanquin) to carry the idol on.

Everyone gathered the rally props – lezims, flags, drum, cymbals, cameras and the palkhi; and assembled in near the gate. With a loud ‘Ganapati bappa morya’, out they went. The lezim players were in the front in two columns, followed by the palkhi bearers. The rest of the campaigners took the rear (they were a little shy). The path was somewhat decided: To Maheshwari Udyan, then to market and right up to Ruia college.

Std VI performed a street play on saving water resources and wildlife twice. They didn’t get much response the first time. The second time, however, they performed in front of a Ganesh pandal and not only had a bigger audience but also a bigger applause.

The campaigners knew they had done a good job, when people stopped to look and complemented them on reusing materials. A beggar girl wanted to give money to the ‘idol’ and when refused, placed a marigold flower instead. A shopkeeper wanted to offer money too, but the campaigners informed him that they needed plastic bottles and used TetraPaks. The palkhi was heavy due to the thick bamboo sticks, but the campaigners were happy to take turns to share the ‘burden’.

Then the campaigners began having conversations with people near the market and colleges. They were careful to be quieter (no lezims, drums or slogans) near the colleges so as not to disturb the students inside. One memorable moment was when a gentleman stepped up and gave his card titled ‘A concerned citizen’ and offered support. There were many opportunities to learn with scope for improvement which the campaigners wrote down in their ‘What Went Well (WWW)’ and ‘Even Better If (EBI)’ experiences.

Pulling off the rally was no mean task – there were many hurdles and time constraints. Their passion to do something for the environment, kept them going.

They plan another rally soon and hope to reach out to more people in Matunga educating them on the importance of recycling and reusing materials like PET bottles and TetraPaks. We wish them great success!

Keep abreast of the activities of Shishuvan TetraPak Campaign on Facebook here.

Recycle, Reuse, Reduce, Refuse

(Jai Sonwalkar has been trying to understand the nature of humans towards the materials they use. Though she is not a hundred years old (yet), she has heard and read about how close humans were to nature once upon a time. Is a connection to nature only restricted to visiting national parks and sanctuaries? Do we respect our surroundings and environment? Do we even care now? Here she writes a letter to some long-lost friends who helped us connect to earth and fellow living (and non-living) things.)

Dear Recycle, Reuse, Reduce, Refuse, Bio-degradable and Eco-friendly,

Wish you were being practised by more people! Before we even knew you existed, you were being practised in India and now that we know you exist, it’s becoming more difficult to practise!

Let me show you how a typical household in India would deal with resources ages ago:


Wake up early morn: Save batteries and use a real fowl to sound the alarm with its cock-a-doodle-doo! On time, every time? You bet! Left-over grains were all the batteries they needed!

Personal Hygiene: Brush your teeth with ‘datoon’ – essentially a twig from a Neem tree or Bael tree or Khair tree. Total dental protection all day long! No detergent chemicals released when spat out.

Bathing and washing clothes: Fruits like Shikakai and soapnut (Ritha) were used to not only bathe but also to wash clothes.

Cooking: While firewood was burnt to provide the fire for cooking, the ashes left behind were sometimes used to scrub metal cooking utensils. Bio-degradable plates and bowls made of Palash leaves stitched together using straw or banana leaves were perfect to have the meals on. The used plates and bowls were fodder for cows and goats. (I suspect modern Indians never grew out of this habit, hence you see them throw every plastic wrapper on the ground. Pray that no cow or goat eat these!) The stirrers were often made of scraped coconut shell halves fitted with wooden handles. The brown coconut hair would also double up as scrubbers.

Of course, every part of the coconut tree and even the neem tree was used. Coir ropes, mats and roofs woven from leaves were widely used in many parts.

I’m sure the readers will be able to add to this list of bio-degradable and eco-friendly resources.

Let us now come a little closer to the present day, say 20 years ago. When we started getting milk in milk packets, mothers would take the empty packets, wash them and use them as tiffin covers. Every kind of plastic was reused to keep liquids or oils oozing out of containers. The flimsy polythene bags would be woven into mats. Old trousers would be sewn into bags, complete with pockets to keep the change.

Plastic bottles would store excess oils. Glass bottles that once stored jams were cleaned, sterilized and used to store home-made pickles. Reuse, you’d be delighted at how many things were reused! Torn plastic raincoats were often sewn and new ones were purchased only if we outgrew the old ones. Likewise with rain-proof footwear. Things were mended and seldom thrown. Electronic appliances would last for years, and wouldn’t need repairing.

Then began the assault of the ‘Use and throw’ culture.

You want chips? Get them in a non-recyclable, non-reusable, non-anything-doable-everything-throwable package. Packaged water comes in a tamper-proof, non-recyclable bottle. Aluminum foils and plastic wraps can’t be reused. Do styrofoam plates, bowls and cups save water that would have been otherwise used to wash metal dishes? Or do they form an impenetrable layer on the soil for millions of years on which perhaps nothing can grow?

When plastic was manufactured, due to its durability, it was used to replace paper packaging. So, plastic could save trees. Yes, you read it right. Earlier, paper was used for everything – as a bag, a cover to wrap… It would, however, degrade very easily in water, tear easily too. So a lot of paper was wasted, and many trees cut to make more paper. Plastic was a reusable waterproof material that could wrap, cover, contain everything from dry to wet. This would save trees from being cut.

We humans have the uncanny ability to come up with ideas to save nature, yet it is we who often end up abusing the saviour material plastic and harming nature. Instead of reusing plastic, we kept throwing in the most incorrect places and chose to be ignorant about its ill-effects. We never thought of what to do with worn and torn and used up plastic. Recycling of plastic was not kept in mind.

We have lost a sense of you, dear eco-friendly and bio-degradable! We have abused and continue abusing a reusable material like plastic. We are not using you o’ Recycle, Reuse and Reduce. Refuse, we do not even acknowledge you! Just imagine, everytime we refuse to eat at eateries serving in non-recyclable utensils, how much it would help? Or refusing plastic bags when shopkeepers hand one out to us…

I still have hope… there are a bunch of students at Shishuvan school who are discovering/practicing some or all of you. It takes patience, some extra efforts too. One bit at a time, we will get to it.

Till next time, adios!

Coming up: Plastic kills / eco-friendly options / tough choices

(All images courtesy google. I do not own the rights to any of them! I guess I am reusing them?)