When was the last time you carried bag from home when going out for shopping? When was the last time you stuffed your purchases in a cloth bag instead of the plastic one? When I was kid, the shop keepers use to wrap grocery items in paper and we used to carry cloth bags (bright yellow bags in particular) when we go shopping. Things have changed drastically in short span of years. Now we are so used to plastic bags in life that for even small petty purchases, the shop keepers provide us the plastic bags. It has become integral part of our life.
Have you ever thought about how many plastic bags are in usage everyday? Every year, around 500 billion (500,000,000,000) plastic bags are used worldwide. Imagine the quantity of bags that would be in use in a growing economy with a billion populations.
Why do we need to say NO to plastics?
- Plastic is forever and they litter the landscape.
- Plastic is poisoning our food chain
- Plastic affects human health
- Plastic bags kill animals
Inspite of this hard facts plastic usage has become almost indispensable in our daily life and one cannot even imagine a life without them. But then for the larger interest of Planet Earth strong action has to be taken. Our previous generations have managed their life without plastic bags, so can we all that needs is an effective discipline on the part of the Government as well as the public to curb this practice.
Couple of weeks back when I visited Kanya kumari, I was pleasantly shocked. The plastics carry bags and cups are banned in the entire District, consisting of 1057 rural habitations, 56 Town Panchayats and 4 Municipalities. The ban has been welcomed by the public and it is hugely successful. How did this happen when this idea failed in the neighboring district of Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala?
Yes, the public do have the practical difficulties. Shift from plastic bags to non-plastic mode is not that easy but the people of the district have got used to the change in life style. Yes, it is a change in life style. One has to carry cloth bags when going out to make small purchases, you need to carry utensils when you plan take-away food parcels. Inspite of these small inconveniences the no-plastic momentum has sustained and well received by public. The credit for the Plastic-free Kanyakumari goes to Rajendra Ratnoo, the District collector who started the campaign and makes sure it is effectively implemented through three prong strategy.
This is how Rajendra Ratnoo and his administration made the change happen. In his own words:
What made us to succeed is that we did almost a six months long campaign and this campaign had some specific strategies, such as
1. Campaign had three components- Awareness generation, Training for behavioral Change of all stakeholders and Enforcement from a preannounced date i.e. 1st April
2. Focus in the trainings beyond knowledge i.e. on change in attitude and behaviour
3. Leading by example before preaching i.e. before launching the campaign in Public Domain, First Collector and his family stopped using plastics, then entire Collector Office Staff and District Level Officers said NO to it, then we targeted the Leaders and opinion makers, including Honourable Minister for Tourism, MLAs, Municipal and Town Pt Chairpersons and gradually we went down upto ward members, SHG leaders, Traders, and sanitary workers!
4. Multiple Channels of Communication, including vernicular media, Schools, Colleges, FM Radio, SMS,Voice calls from District Collector to all citizens, through religious leaders i.e. both mass media, and interpersonal communication strategies were used!
The results of our team work are very encouraging and we are following and monitoring the Enforcement!Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board provided good support in the campaign.
Have we not heard for umpteen times the phrases “charity begins at home”, “be the change”, well here is an administration and the administrator who lead by example and then implemented the change very effectively. The administration and the public of Kanyakumari deserve a big round of claps and cheers.
During my stay I did find a couple of small restaurants packing the sambars and chutneys in plastic bags. When I found that the there is an official Facebook page by name Plastic-free Kanyakumari, I joined and pointed it out. Immediately next day, I came to know that the shops were raided and action taken. Can you believe it?
Visit Plastic-free Kanyakumari face book page :
Now the district administration has embarked on a new initiative “solid waste management and zero waste generation” Good luck KK ! Hope we learn a lesson or two from this tiny district.