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Monday, September 21, 2020

World Environment Day: Meet the Delhi heroes who wage war on plastic

These heroes include a 9th-grade student who convinces posh restaurants to give up plastic straws and a businessman whose company 'Prakriti' makes plates and bowls from palm leaves.

By: AP | Updated: June 5, 2018 12:26:15 pm
In India, a trio of unlikely heroes wages war on plastic Ram Nath, 40, sorts reusable trash that he fished out from Yamuna that flows through Delhi. (Source: AP)

For more than 25 years, Ram Nath has lived on the banks of the Yamuna River under a 19th-century iron bridge. Each morning, the wiry man walks a few steps from his makeshift hut and enters the black, sludgy waters of one of India’s most polluted rivers. He is fishing for trash. “This is the only work we have,” said the 40-year-old, sorting through a pile of plastic bottles, bags, and cast-off electronics.

World Environment Day: A trio of heroes wages war on plastic Hundreds of garbage collectors live on the Yamuna’s banks in Delhi, making Rs 120 to Rs 240 per day recycling plastic waste collected from the river. (Source: AP)

While Nath doesn’t think of himself as an environmentalist, he is one of a handful of Delhi residents waging war against the tsunami of plastic threatening to swamp India. They include a 9th-grade student who convinces posh restaurants to give up plastic straws and a businessman whose company makes plates and bowls from palm leaves.

World Environment Day: A trio of heroes wages war on plastic Aditya Mukarji, left, a 9th grade student who has been urging various restaurants to stop using plastic straws meets Bhupender Kumar, manager of Delhi Club House restaurant which has recently switched to using paper straws and wooden stirrers at their restaurant instead of plastic in Gurgaon. (Source: AP)

Some fancy restaurants in and around Delhi are doing away with plastic straws and replacing them with paper straws. That’s largely because of Aditya Mukarji, a student who launched his campaign after seeing a video of two veterinarians trying to remove a plastic straw from a turtle’s nose.

World Environment Day: A trio of heroes wages war on plastic “People listen more to children bringing up environmental concerns,” said Mukarji, who has helped replace more than 5,00,000 plastic straws at restaurants and hotels since he started his campaign in March. (Source: AP)

Amardeep Bardhan believes he can make a difference. His company, Prakritii, makes plates and bowls from the leaves of south India’s areca palm trees.

World Environment Day: A trio of heroes wages war on plastic The company doesn’t harvest any palm trees, but waits for leaves to fall to the ground. The plateware, which has the feel of thick paper plates, biodegrades in seven to ten days. (Source: PTI)

“In this entire process, we are not harming the environment,” said Bardhan. “We are generating something from the waste, people are loving it, and then it goes back as a waste.”

While Prakritii initially made most of its income from exports to Europe and the US, Bardhan said the market for eco-friendly products is growing in India, especially among younger people who value quality over price. His company generates more than $150,000 in revenue each year.

World Environment Day: A trio of heroes wages war on plastic Vaibhav Jaiswal, left, and Amardeep Bardhan, second left, founders of Prakritii, or nature, a company that manufactures eco-friendly dinnerware, showcase biodegradable alternatives to disposable plastic products to a customer, at his office in New Delhi. (Source: PTI)

With more than 15 million people, Delhi and its surrounding cities produce an estimated 17,000 tons of trash daily, according to officials and environmentalists. That requires immense dumps, hills of stinking trash that measure up to 50 meters tall.

World Environment Day: A trio of heroes wages war on plastic Last year, two people were killed when a large part of one of the city’s dumps crashed down onto them. (Source: PTI)

Tuesday will see numerous official environmental gatherings across India, clean up campaigns along the Yamuna and mall food courts agreeing to forgo plastic plateware for one day.

The hope is that everything doesn’t go back to normal on Wednesday.

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