A very common fact – stated a multiple number of times at various instances – is that children and youth represent our future. As the need to tackle plastic waste has started being recognised, it is imperative, now more than ever, to educate our younger ones about the same. Schools and colleges can be referred to as our second home, and values that we inculcate in these institutions help hone our life skills and can lead us onto a path to achieve a sustainable future.
Peer education campaigns and seminars, focusing on how essential it is to negate the use of plastic along with ways to deal with plastic waste, would enlighten students and motivate them to be instrumental in spreading awareness about waste management in and around their community. Various steps can be taken by a school or college, and it is always better to start implementation at the earliest. An effective way to start would be by keeping track of the ‘plastic footprint’, that is, the amount and kind of plastic waste generated by the institution in a day, month, or year, considered in respect to the damage caused to the environment. It accounts for items such as plastic utensils, bottles, cups, straws, bags, containers, trays, and packaging along with polystyrene cups and plates, that are regularly discarded. The idea of collecting, reusing, and recycling of waste should be propagated as a fun activity or challenge for students, in addition to keeping in mind the importance of sensitising them. Reusing can be instilled as a habit among younger children through numerous interesting activities like ‘best out of waste’ competitions. Students can be provided with research exercises and projects on the scale and impact of the problem, alongside ways to improve the current scenario. They can set up or work with the existing environment society of their respective schools/colleges, and furthermore, get involved with NGOs.
While steps like segregation of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste can be promoted through the distinguishing of trash bins, and recycling bins too offer a common approach, the staff and students must focus on expanding the practise of reduction – and ultimately elimination – within the school system too.
Small steps such as encouraging students to use pens that require refills, instead of regular use and throw pens, help contribute towards achieving our goal. Further, plastic utensils and straws must be replaced with reusable ones. Even better, the use of straws can be eliminated. Alongside, cafeterias could purchase condiments in bulk so that the use of individual plastic packaging can be reduced. Switching to eco-friendly alternatives and encouraging students to become aware of the damage caused will enable them to become conscious of the need of the hour. Measures like these taken in educational institutions help further encourage students to participate in service-based community events.
So, audit from time to time, compare progress, and celebrate improvements! While one of the main goals is to champion plastic waste-free schools, it doesn’t just end there. Ensuring that the positive impacts are maintained is a task in itself, and we still have a long way to go!