Published: 17th March 2021
How Vivek Gurav's Pune Ploggers are taking the war against waste to new levels
Vivek Gurav who formed the Pune Ploggers group speaks about his campaigns of picking different sorts of waste and letting people change their age-old habit of littering around the city
When Vivek Gurav saw that people were dumping a lot of waste in the Indrayani river, close to the engineering college where he was studying, he really wanted to do something about it. To begin with, he did what 9 out of 10 people would do - he went around and told people not to dump waste or plastic in the river. But people's response shocked Vivek: they blamed it on the government.
That's when he made a rather drastic decision. He decided to pick up all the waste lying on the banks of the Indrayani himself. He recalls, "It was such a sad sight. Since I couldn't do the cleaning alone, I asked my college friends to join this initiative. They agreed and over 60 people worked on clearing the waste."
Vivek has now made this a habit. The plogging, that is. "I wake up at 5.30 am and walk at least three kilometres a day. On the way, I ensure that I pick up plastic and recyclable waste. I realised that having more people with me could ease our waste problem. Therefore, in 2017, I formed a group called Pune Ploggers, that now has over 3,000 people across all age groups."
What makes Pune Ploggers unique is that they don't encourage people to donate money, nor do they accept it. "All we want people to do is spend time to pick the waste while they jog or walk during weekends," says this software engineer based in Pune. But why not take donations for different campaigns? To this Vivek says, "The moment people donate money for campaigns, the value and purpose of it is lost. Hence, I don't encourage donations and I spend money from my own pocket in these campaigns whenever necessary."
So what happens to all the waste collected from roads and other places? Since a large percentage of the waste collected has plastic in it, Vivek brings it home, washes and dried it and uses it to make ecobricks to build toilets or classrooms by different organisations. Similarly, the recyclable waste is given to scrap shops and they are happy to receive it.
Chalk of Shame
While Vivek and his Pune Ploggers picked over 200 tonnes of plastic waste, they observed that cigarette butts were literally everywhere. He says, "Because the toxic parts in these cigarette butts pollute land and water. We are not against people's choice of smoking but we are definitely against those dropping the cigarette butts around and making the place look ugly. Hence, we decided to start this campaign called Chalk of Shame during Diwali last year. We drew small or even bigger circles around the cigarette butts using chalk and wrote messages in English and Hindi around these circles." Isn't that a cool idea?
Vivek is happy about the response from the owners of petty shops that sell cigarettes. One day, it so happened that there were hundreds of circles drawn around the cigarette butts in front of three to four petty shops. The owners were themselves shocked the see the amount of waste. Hence, in response to this, they brought the huge dustbins so that people can throw the butts in it rather than littering around. Similarly, smokers who observed these circles were ashamed of littering. They too started throwing the butts in the dustbin."
Say no to sanitary pads
Vivek and his group members are busy spreading awareness about the usage of menstrual cups instead of sanitary napkins or pads. "We find a lot of sanitary napkins dumped around and there is a high risk of infection spreading at a rapid rate. We find at least 20-30 sanitary pads lying around during every plogging drive. Therefore, we are talking to SHGs and various communities who are manufacturing sanitary pads and telling them that menstrual cups are an alternative to it," he concludes.
For more information and updates, you can follow Pune Ploggers on Facebook /bit.ly/2Nom226