Published: 05th November 2019
This green warrior from Kolkata set up the city's first zero-waste store. Here's why you should visit
The store has a policy where they encourage their customers to bring their own containers and carry it with them every time they come to buy anything
Urban India generates 62 million tonnes of municipal solid waste each year, of this about 43 million tonnes (70 per cent) is collected and 11.9 million tonnes (20 per cent) is treated. About 31 million tonnes, which is 50 per cent, is dumped in landfill sites. And in the next 20 years — by 2030 — it is estimated to increase more than twofold, which equals to 165 million tonnes of waste. Is that alarming enough? If not for us, for this 57-year-old Kolkata woman it definitely is. Lata Bhatia, opened the city's first-ever zero waste store Kolkata Zero Waste Bazaar on October 13 and trust me, the place is all about shunting every bit of non-biodegradable and inorganic product that cause harm to our environment.
Green warrior Lata thought of opening a zero-waste store almost two years ago. "I was working in the line of waste management and I started my own organisation called Green Legion in May 2016. I have always been upset with the way waste is dumped on the roads around the city. Initially, it was the aesthetic sense in me that took a hit to see the roads were dirty but gradually I realised this waste is not just what it looks like but there is a lot that can be done with it. We could work towards saving these resources that are being thrown away in large numbers every single day," she explains.
A scene from Lata's store
After starting Green Legion, Lata began going around the city speaking to people in schools, colleges and other places teaching them about reduction and recycling of waste. How us human beings could live a simpler and zero-waste life. She then began her own journey of the same life she had been preaching to others — began segregating her waste, composting it at home, created a terrace garden on her rooftop and eventually growing her own vegetables and fruits. "Very soon, I realised that this kind of a life is so much more sustainable. What we are doing now is a massacre of the whole world and its resources. Consumerism has become a major problem everywhere. However, my way of approaching things is to look at the problem, then look for a solution as well and not just sit and brood over it. So, then I began to work with organic waste mainly, started teaching people how to compost in their own homes and provide solutions to people as to how to lead a zero-waste life," she adds.
Everything that we buy or we get, comes to us in huge amounts of uneccessary packaging. A toothpaste box is useless and there are so many such things that we throw away every day without realising the harm it causes to our surroundings. "Packaging is one area where you can reduce and recycle so much," says the green warrior. And that's how the thought of a zero-waste store came to her mind. "In India, Goa first started a zero-waste store and then other cities followed. I wanted to do the same and inaugurated my store on Lakshmi Puja, which is considered to be an auspicious day in West Bengal," she adds.
Steel straws, bamboo combs and toothbrushes at the store
Lata points out that we are using a lot of disposables — plastic combs, plastic straws, diapers, utensils and other everyday items. A better replacement for these plastic materials are steel straw, bamboo combs, reusable diapers, cloth sanitary napkin and grocery, which is all available at her store. "Materials that come out from boutiques are just thrown away in landfills, so we began using those to make decorative materials such as party decorations, which are quite popular now. In the process, we are also helping young entrepreneurs, setting up self-help groups where they are learning to make things for themselves first and then eventually, they began making things for my store. We are providing them empowerment and helping them with the first step of setting up their own businesses," she says.
Kolkata Zero Waste Bazaar is located in South Kolkata in New Alipore road. The store has a policy where they encourage their customers to bring their own containers and carry it with them every time they come to buy anything. The store also has cloth bags in which you can carry the stuff you buy. What will come as a surprise is the prices of the items at the store, which by the way are extremely affordable. You would find wooden toothbrushes for just Rs 35, wooden combs ranging from Rs 28 to Rs 48, and bamboo cleaning brushes just for Rs 30. "I didn't want the store to have an elitist feel where only people from a certain strata can purchase, so the pricing is at par with the market prices. I am trying to make it as reasonable as possible because this would then be a viable and sustainable solution as compared to what we consume now. We need to provide more such solutions and thus, in the process, save the environment," she concludes.