‘Keep our surroundings clean’, ‘Do not throw waste on the streets’, ‘Please use the public dustbins while discarding food wrappers and bottles while traveling’— these may sound like environmental awareness advertisements by the municipality which a lot of us often tend to ignore.
However, there are some people who not only practice the same but also ‘pick up’ the waste, especially plastic waste irresponsibly discarded by others at public places, inspiring others to act responsibly.
One such example is the group ‘Aurangabad Ploggers’, comprising of a bunch of enthusiastic residents of Aurangabad, Maharashtra who are working towards making India a ‘plastic-free nation’. ‘Plogging’ refers to the activity of picking up trash while jogging.
How it started
Talking about how the journey began, Aurangabad Ploggers Founder Nikhil Khandelwal told The CSR Journal, “We started in December 2020. My late cousin Vinit and I used to go on trek every Sunday and we would find plastic packets and wrappers thrown around everywhere. These are not cleared regularly because the corporation doesn’t regularly clean places which are outside the residential areas of the city. So we decided to start this waste collection drive. These are mostly the hills inside the city and places where people go for jogging and trekking. We are cleaning those places consistently every Sunday.”
“We first began the waste collection drive together with all our cousins. After the drive, we posted pictures of our activity on various social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram etc. from where people connected with us showing their interest to be a part of our group. Now we have over 500 volunteers from across the city,” added the 23-year old, who has also started ‘Vinit Foundation’ in memory of his late cousin.
Plogging in which areas of Aurangabad
Quizzed which areas are the spots for their plogging activity, Nikhil replied, “We have discovered 7-8 spots in the city where people regularly visit. We visit these places turn by turn on every Sunday. These are Goga Baba Hill, Walmi Lake, Harsul Lake, Himayat Bagh, Aurangabad Caves, Hanuman Tekdi, Sai Tekdi and Aurangabad Cave Hills. In one group nearly 60-70 volunteers gather. We announce the location and time on our social media groups and volunteers gather accordingly. We meet at 6.30-7 in the morning and wind up our plogging activity by 9 am.”
Teaching waste management
Not only waste collection, waste management is also taught to the volunteers. “After each drive is completed, we conduct a short session where we teach everyone about waste management and segregation at source. We segregate while collecting also. For example, each person carries two bags and plastic bottles and wrappers are kept separately during collection,” informed Nikhil, who works as a software developer in an IT company.
Chalk of shame
Not only plogging, initiative is also taken to shame those who throw waste on the streets here and there. The activity is called ‘Chalk of shame’. “We encircle any plastic waste thrown on the roads with chalk and write slogans beside the same inspiring people to stay away from such activity. The things we encircle include chips packets, bottles, cigarette butts, marks of spitting of pan masala etc.” he explained.
The group also conducts philanthropic activities like tree plantation, blood donation, food, clothes, sweaters, blankets and books donation to the underprivileged.
Kind and quantity of waste collected
“We collect mostly plastic waste which includes bottles and food wrappers. We also collect glass bottles. These mostly include chips wrappers, mineral water and soft drinks bottles. The amount of waste collected varies from location to location. In some locations the waste collected is more than 200 kgs, while in some locations it is near about 100 kgs,” informed Nikhil.
Recycling plastic waste
The waste collected is sent to a recycling centre which is in Aurangabad only. A company which deals with solid waste management takes away the waste collected by the ploggers.
“They come to our waste collection drive locations and take away the waste that we collect for recycling. The multi-layered plastics or MLPs are given to cement factories which they use,” he shared.
Aiming to create plastic-free India
Aurangabad Ploggers aims to create plastic-free India and the group is working relentlessly to achieve their goal.
“I want the awareness to spread among more and more people. If my friend or neighbour sees me collecting waste today, he will think twice before throwing a wrapper on the road tomorrow. If we work with over 500 volunteers from across the city, then more and more people will be conscious about not throwing waste here and there. This is how the awareness will spread, just like every drop of water contributes in making an ocean. Not only in Aurangabad, we want the awareness to spread throughout the nation which will create a plastic-free India. It’s a slow process but it’s impactful,” Nikhil signed off.