Daan Utsav: It’s Time To Give Up Plastic – Project MumbaiBloombergQuintOpinion
This #DaanUtsav, BloombergQuint brings you a series of first-person accounts on volunteering that narrate stories of how different organisations across India are engaging volunteers at scale, or in depth, and bringing about significant transformation.
Mumbai is a city that never sleeps, they say. It is also a city constantly on the move. However, I have also come to believe that Mumbai loves to give. People may complain about the insane traffic, the stench, the potholes and the crowds. But when it comes to doing something for others, there is always an extended hand. The aftermath of many a disaster is evidence of this generosity. But how does the city respond in good times? As generously, so has been my experience. DaanUtsav after DaanUtsav.
Three years ago, in another avatar, I had co-led an initiative that gave me the first taste of Mumbai as a city-with-a-heart. The Railway Station Beautification project, Hamara Station Hamari Shaan, also celebrating Daan Utsav saw close to 25,000 people throng across various railway stations wanting to do their bit for the city.
This is when I realised, there is an extended hand and there is a heart that is deeply connected to the giving hand. All that is needed is the right cause.
Last year, as the founder and CEO of Project Mumbai, when I first began talking about it, I realised that everyone seemed to be aware of the perils of plastic, but no one knew what to do next. The Mumbai Plastic Recyclothon was our simple and yet catchy initiative to inspire people.
At project Mumbai, we wanted people to do something for Mumbai. To participate and own the city which they felt so strongly for. When we announced the Recyclothon, making it an attractive offering, they responded, and how.
Our proposition was simple — give away whatever plastic you can. We will pick it up from you and recycle it. Early this year, from the recycled plastic, we managed to make benches. We are now working on the feasibility of increasing the production of such benches, which can be installed in BMC gardens.
So, while the 2018 Mumbai Plastic Recyclothon was a testing ground, this year, the 2019 Mumbai Plastic Recyclothon - Ek Baar Phir, has been a game-changer in terms of joy of giving.
Celebrated to coincide with DaanUtsav, this time, we have made the Plastic Recyclothon bigger, better, more interesting, and meaningful.
This year, we expanded our footprint beyond Mumbai, to Navi Mumbai and India’s biggest district - Thane. The response has been nothing less than overwhelming.
We promised a free pick-up of the plastic items, any kind of plastic – bags, packets, pouches, mugs, broken buckets, bottles, sachets – from doorsteps.
The only pre-condition being, they should register on our website with a detailed address, point of contact and choice of date. We kept the collection date from Oct. 2 to Oct. 8, as India celebrates Daan Utsav.
As registrations opened up, our office resembled a call centre with calls pouring in, registrations building up by the minute. From an 85-year-old from Peddar road bungalow in South Mumbai to a 40-year-old housewife in Kharghar in the distant suburbs. From a social activist in Bandra to a car dealer in Mira road, they all joined in. From individuals to housing societies; schools, colleges, and corporates, they all were in the rush to volunteer to donate plastic. And to spread the word.
At last count, we now have close to 1,25,625 Mumbaikars planning to donate plastic through the Mumbai Plastic recyclothon-Ek Baar Phir. The number is only growing.
Then began the logistics planning. Newspapers loved the idea and they began writing. Recyclers felt excited by the proposition. They also helped us with transport and drop off points, and interesting ideas in recycling.
We also came up with two more offerings. Daan Mein Jaan was our way of urging people to come up with ways that plastic can be recycled into amenities for the city. Make manhole covers for Mumbai, suggested someone on our website. Plastic Daanav (little monsters) was our action call for schools and colleges.
We also promised to see installations and reward the school with pencils recycled from plastic. For, larger housing societies, I thought why not use the plastic they have donated to convert it into big garbage bins.
The timing was opportune too. Our job had been made easier by the Prime Minister, who had, in his Independence Day address, urged people to donate plastic and recycle it. We were two steps ahead.
Not only had we started this initiative last year, but were scaling it up this time. To every individual plastic donor, we gifted them a cloth bag. Carry the cloth bag the next time you step out, we told them. Keep it tucked into your bike or car or in your purse, so you don’t feel tempted to pick a plastic bag from your vendor.
Adding A Bit Of Colour
While offerings came pouring in, we were also concerned with the aesthetics. Support came in from students and faculty of the JJ School of Arts. They are going to help us provide designs to the amenities. Also, in case we get some plastic that is worth recycling, we plan to create Live Plastic art installations in public places, with messages conveying reduce and refuse. Or recycle.
Our web board is full of messages of support as well. People have begun offering support in all forms. A 14-year-old from Oberoi International School has said he wants to volunteer for anything that we do.
Meanwhile, a retired IT professional from one of India’s best-known corporate firms says he has the time and inclination to volunteer. These are among at least a hundred others, including housewives, professionals and doctors, wanting to do something for their city. And there are scores of others wanting to do away with plastic.
Inspired by this, I have decided to not let this movement be limited to Mumbai, Navi-Mumbai or Thane. Or not be limited to DaanUtsav either.
The Plastic Recyclothon, by Project Mumbai was Ek Baar Phir, this year. It will surely be a Baar Baar Phir, from November. And do not be surprised if you see it taking place in a neighbourhood near you. In your city.
What started as an idea, has now turned into a people’s movement. There certainly is Joy in Giving.
Thank you Mumbai.
Shishir Joshi is the Founder and CEO of Project Mumbai. He works to create social transformation through initiatives of scale.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of BloombergQuint or its editorial team.