Steel Banks; The Conventional allure

The rise in plastic waste is turning out to be a menace and threat to the environment. Even though there are proper plastic waste management systems in place and strict measures to curb littering, the surge in plastic pollution is alarmingly high. Poor management of plastic waste and lack of concern for the environment can be attributed to the contrite situation.

To overcome this looming danger, a town near Hyderabad called Siddipet in Telangana, has come up with ‘steel banks’, a novel initiative to curb single-use plastic. A concept envisaged by Bala Vikas; a pioneering non-profit organization working with the sustainable community is driven development & capacity building and Siddipet municipality as part of their corporate social responsibility initiative. These “Steel Banks” were set up in partnership with Ramky Group, Prasad Seeds Private Limited and Siddipet Municipality. Of the 34 wards in Siddipet Municipality, 15 wards are equipped with “Steel Banks”.

 Managed by women self-help groups, the “steel banks” provide Stainless Steel cutlery at a nominal rental to event hosts – right to their residences, community halls, and function halls. The cost of hiring steel utensils are  50%  less than what people spend on buying plastic glasses, plates, cups and spoons for functions. Every steel bank has a minimum of 700 utensils. Money earned through rentals are used to meet overhead costs and purchase of new utensils.

After the inauguration of  “Steel Banks“ on 10th March 2020 at Ward no. 1 in Siddipet Municipality, Finance Minister T Harish Rao stressed on the need to ban plastic and use steel utensils henceforth and warned violators with heavy fines. He also stated that awareness of steel banks is necessary to promulgate the use of steelware to a wider populace.

India’s love affair with “steelware” is centuries old, right from the mythical tales of divinities and deities we have been using metal utensils. It was later supplanted in the modern age with ceramics, glassware, melamine and the current use and throw plastics. But those old steel flatwares and bronze cookwares were ever-present hidden from sight in our kitchens.

The benefits of using steelware are numerous. They come in various size and shapes. They are highly durable and can be used umpteen number of times. Plastic containers turn flimsy and brittle over time and recycling them are a costly affair economically and environmentally. Plastic containers are known to discharge harmful chemicals into food stored in them and later into the soil after being discarded. Furthermore, temperature variations alter the texture of the plastics, steel, on the other hand, remains stable.

The “Steel Bank” initiative of Siddipet Municipality and Bala Vikas is commendable and should provide an insight for the government to enforce it all over the country. Let us wake up to a plastic-free society in the coming future.

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