With Pongal around the corner, citizens across the country, who ring in the annual harvest festival, celebrate Boghi as a prelude to the festival. As per tradition, people clear their households of old items and burn them in a bonfire, symbolising a change in their lives and the start of new beginnings.
This year, the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) has come up with a Swap Shop, a unique initiative to celebrate Boghi which promises to de-clutter your house of old items and bring in something new for another household in need.
Speaking to Indianexpress.com, Alby John, the Regional Deputy Commissioner (RDC) of GCC South said, “Even though the concept of a Swap Shop is new to us, it has been taking place in many places outside the city for a while now and I came across it while reading an article on the internet. I suggested it to the Commissioner of the GCC who approved of the idea and said that it will be a good initiative to propound the concept of reuse.”
The two-day Swap Shop helps citizens swap items that they don’t need in exchange for items they want. “The items that can be exchanged should be reusable and in good working condition and should not be an opportunity for people to dump unwanted items,” said Alby.
Citizens wishing to participate in the exchange can swap toys, clothes, utensils, small appliances like toasters and sandwich makers, footwear, bags, suitcases, purses, wallets, small furniture, blankets, pillowcases, bed sheets, cycles, umbrellas and even artificial jewellery.
“The prices of the items will be nominal since we are promoting reuse and it is not a profit making exercise. Citizens can either bring something and exchange it for another item or they can donate items,” said the RDC. Since the items are being sold for a nominal amount, all payments have to be made in cash.
Alby said that the aim of the project is to reduce the waste footprint per person and the volume of waste that is generated in Chennai. “Most of us have items purchased items in the past which are not in use now, yet we still keep them for various reasons and by the time we dispose them, they cannot be used by anyone. Through the Swap Shop, whatever we do not need anymore can be a benefit to somebody who is in need of the item. This reduces their need for purchasing and in turn, reduces the consumption amount and waste footprint of society as a whole,” remarked Alby.
The Swap Shop comes at a crucial time in the city which generates around 5,000 metric tonnes of garbage a day, given that Chennai’s two landfills at Kodungaiyur and Perungudi are nearing full capacity. “It is a small step towards waste management and sustainable living,” said the RDC.
According to Alby, the upcoming Pongal festival gave the GCC a good opportunity to introduce the Swap Shop. “On one hand, people make a lot of purchases for Pongal. So intead of shopping for items, we thought that swapping could be a better option. Secondly, we have the custom of getting rid of used items during Boghi. It will be a good time to exchange since you are getting rid of something but at the same time, it is useful for another person,” he said.
While the GCC is hoping for all items to be exchanged at the end of the two-day market, Alby said that any items which remains unsold will be given to citizens in need, free of charge.
Since this is the first time a Swap Shop has been introduced in Chennai, Alby said that the GCC is waiting to gauge the response of the people towards the project before implementing it across the city in the future.
Citizens intending to participate in the exchange can visit the venue with their goods at 10 am on Sunday and hand them over to the organisers, since the sale will begin only at 12 pm. Meanwhile, people who cannot make it to the exchange can drop off their items at collection points in wards 170 to 182 in Adyar on Saturday.
The GCC’s Swap Shop will be available for exchange and sale from 12 pm to 8 pm on January 12 and from 10 am to 6 pm on January 13 at the Tamil Nadu Housing Board community hall in Besant Nagar.