Environmentalist of the Week – STEM

This Week’s Environmentalist of the Week

This week, the Environmentalist of the Week goes to a group of students (ages 12-15) who are part of an organisation called “STEM” (Save The Earth Movement). They started a “no plastic drive” in Ghatkopar East. They also visited the fruit and vegetable vendors and explained to people about the harmful effects of single-use plastic. In addition, they went to households and collected a great amount of plastic and gave it to Sampurn Earth for recycling. Therefore, the recyclable plastic was further used to make durable plastic and the nonrecyclable plastic was incinerated and mixed with cement.

The STEM team discussing the harms of single-use plastics with fruit and vegetable vendors.

STEM collecting plastics from buildings to be recycled.

To learn more about their efforts behind this initiative, Earth5R conducted an interview with various members of STEM.


The Interview

Earth5R: What made you decide to do a “no plastic drive”?

Aayush Parekh: One of the many things that I am passionate about is swimming. Many times when I have to travel abroad I have noticed that the water bodies there are so clean. People there actually take efforts and do not pollute the city. A thought crossed my mind that can my city be this clean? Will people in Mumbai take that effort to keep the city clean? I made up my mind and couldn’t have found a better time take up the no plastic drive as all my friends and me have a 4-month long vacation. With the support of STEM, we started this drive. This has helped in spreading awareness and also reduce the usage of plastic.
Earth5R: How did people react when you explained to them the harms of single-use plastics?

Dirgh Shah: The reactions of people were surprising as well as encouraging. Let me tell you about the supporting encouraging kinds. Many individuals ( I observed mostly the older generation) tried to understand the ill effects of plastic and were so happy to see that we children have taken up this cause and were ready to help and support us in all ways. Now talking about the other two kinds the 1) ignorant ones and 2) I don’t care types
These people were not bothered and said they will use it because it’s available and blamed it on manufacturers. There were people who just walked away with plastic bags in tow without any guilt even after listening to the harms.
But 70% of users were supportive and promised to switch to reusable alternatives.
Earth5R: Do you think fruit and vegetable vendors should stop the use of single plastics completely?

Varun Parekh: Yes I strongly believe that shop vendors should terminate the use of single-use plastics completely because these are the type of plastics which are used only once and thrown away in the oceans creating water gyres and they are also thrown in landfills engendering the release of a gas, methane, which can lead to global warming. These plastics are one of the worst and most lethal plastics. I think it’s best for our environment to not use these plastics. Also, vegetables and fruits are such things which don’t require to be carried in plastic and can easily be carried in cloth bags. Terminating the use of single-use plastics can lead to a much safer, healthier and sustainable tomorrow.
Earth5R: Was it difficult to find a way to recycle plastics?

Vedant Poddar: The only trouble is, plastics are relatively hard to recycle.
So now the biggest concern was “What to do with the Plastic which is already there in the environment”?
So when we started this campaign of educating people of the ill effects of plastic and collecting this plastic from them, the next big question was “ What and How can we recycle this plastic which is reusable and in case of nonreusable plastic what would we do with them”.
After all, we were also clueless and did not know much about it so we started researching it and then found an organisation which segregated plastic into recyclable and nonrecyclable plastic. With recyclable plastic, they make reusable things and with nonrecyclable plastic, they make cement for further use which helps in not polluting the environment. We then got in contact with this organisation called Sampurna Earth which collected the plastic from us. Thus, it was difficult but they say “ Where there is a way”.
Earth5R: What happens when the non-recyclable plastic is mixed with cement? What can this be used for?

Niva Shah: Nonrecyclable plastic is not mixed with cement. The nonrecyclable solid plastic waste is used as an alternative fuel and raw material (AFR) which is used as a substitute of COAL in a cement kiln.
Due to high temperatures in the cement kiln, this waste can be effectively disposed of without harmful emissions
So disposing of plastic in this way improves waste management, reduce landfilling, reduce the use of fossil fuels such as coal etc and lower CO2 emission.
Earth5R: What do you recommend other citizens do to reduce single-use plastics?

Vriti Garodia: Other citizens could reduce the use of single-use plastic by refusing plastic bags from vendors that may eventually cause them to reduce their supply of plastic bags. They could also reduce the use of plastic in their daily life by using reusable water bottles and food containers and carrying their own reusable bags when going shopping. Also, I feel that citizens could recycle plastic bags instead of throwing it away as that would only add to the landfills and pollute our water bodies.

This is a very impressive and ambitious initiative that was taken up. STEM members are true environmentalists.



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