Published: 22nd February 2021
This Chennai campaign will soon transform your old Tetra Paks into benches and desks for schools
Wasted Solutions has initiated the Take Me Back campaign to reduce waste caused by Tetra Paks and make it into utility products
What would you usually do after consuming a pack of milk? You'd probably dispose of the Tetra Pak carton along with the rest of your dry waste — that is if you segregate your waste in the first place. Now, these cartons will go into the landfills and due to the presence of plastic, would normally take years to disintegrate. Now, what if we tell you that you could do something better. Like, make furniture out of it. That would definitely be better than it ending up in a landfill and causing pollution, wouldn't it? This is exactly what Chennai-based waste management company Wasted Solutions, founded by Ann Anra is doing. Through their Take Me Back campaign, Ann and her team have set up 20 bins across the city to collect these cartons so that they can be used for something else, something better.
The idea of using Tetra Paks to make furniture, however, isn't something that Ann developed. "A campaign, 'Cartons le aao, Classroom banao' has been running for the last ten years in Mumbai and Pune. Under the initiative, the organisation collects cleaned and flattened cartons mostly from school and college students and creates chipboards out of it. These chipboards can be used to make anything and it is zero waste. Under this campaign, the chipboards are made into benches and desks and then supplied to government schools in Mumbai and Pune. We thought of doing something similar in Chennai with the Take Me Back campaign," explains Ann.
In Chennai, Ann says, the ragpickers won't collect cartons because they can't be sold again. The only place it can go to for making chipboards was far away in Maharashtra. "But we wanted to initiate it in Tamil Nadu as well," she says about the reason behind the campaign. Before she was able to take the campaign off the ground though, Ann did face some setbacks. "Schools have been shut and while we began in January hoping that schools would reopen, they did not. We need more student volunteers on board to spread awareness about it," says Ann. So now she and her team have placed these bins in supermarkets all the way from Anna Nagar to East Coast Road.
Pic: Ann Anra
So what does Ann want you to do, exactly? "Ideally, we would like people to clean their milk or juice cartons, dry it and then flatten it before dropping it off at stores," she says. Some schools have already contacted Ann to take part in the initiative, she adds. "As part of the initiative, we have partnered with six women from the Arpanam Trust in Perumbakkam Housing Board who are responsible for handling the cartons, keeping it clean and then sending it to the recycler," states Ann. "We have provided training to these women in January," says Ann.
However, Ann says that the campaign will go on for a year and by mid-2021, they should have enough cartons to start making chipboards and furniture. "We have also contacted local government bodies to help us identify orphanages and schools where we might get more material from," says Ann. They are also partnering with apartment complexes to collect cartons in bulk and they would arrange a free pick-up from there. Ann has also partnered with Tetra Pak India for the initiative.