How a recycling campaign in Mumbai turned waste into food

Piles of large garbage bags full of plastic containers, boxes, bottles and sheets lay in the storage room of a sprawling housing company on the outskirts of Bandra, waiting to be donated to Project Mumbai. This was organized as part of the Mumbai Plastic Recyclothon, a collection marathon held on the occasion of World Environment Day on June 5. The campaign had the dual purpose of preventing non-biodegradable waste from going to landfills and bringing food and groceries to the homes of the few thousand people impacted by the pandemic.

To encourage people to donate plastic, the NGO Project Mumbai launched a plastic drive in October 2020. The drive, which ended on June 5, has collected a total of 6 tonnes of plastic since it began. Project Mumbai went further and involved its new initiative, Livelihood Mission, to raise funds for the food supply of underprivileged families in the city who have been affected by Covid. For every kilogram of plastic collected, Project Mumbai will donate groceries worth 10 times the weight of the plastic collected. Project Mumbai’s recycling partner has also worked to convert the collected plastic into benches and bins for use across the city.

By June 2020, the drive had collected more than 2.5 tonnes of plastic and donated four times the weight – 10 tonnes of groceries – to street dwellers and workers who had lost their jobs during the pandemic. Their achievement was mentioned in the Limca Book of Records 2020 as the largest citizen plastic collection initiative in Mumbai. “The plastic Recyclothon has helped instill a change in environmental behavior. Thousands of people are reducing the use of plastic, but by introducing Livelihood Mission into this activity, the aim is to scale up measures to help families in need, ”said Shishir Joshi, Founder and CEO of Project Mumbai .

The citizen-led group, which operates on a public-private partnership model, has been at the forefront of Covid relief activities since last year. It has so far distributed over 65 lakh of free meals and provided free groceries to 30,000 people. In line with demand during the second wave for medical equipment rather than food, Project Mumbai launched a unique initiative this year, loaning oxygen concentrators free to citizens who are HIV-positive for Covid. Last month, they had supplied 15 ventilators, high-flow nasal cannulas for patients with respiratory problems, BiPAPs, concentrators and body bags to several major hospitals in the city.

With the news of the increase in cases and the high death rate in semi-urban and rural Maharashtra, Project Mumbai, for the first time, has expanded its activities beyond the city by sending 10 concentrators each to 20 districts of Maharashtra, including Parbhani, Raigad, Nanded, Latur, Nashik, Beed and Chandrapur, among others, and begins an awareness campaign in taluka level hospitals. Last month, the organization sent a high-precision ventilator to a Covid care center in Kudal and is now preparing to launch an online training program for caregivers on how to care for patients. “Our effort is to reach as many people in need as possible. We saw enough suffering during the second wave and would like to see people, not only in Mumbai, but also in the less privileged rural areas of Maharashtra, be better prepared in case a third wave hits us, ”Joshi said. .

In the pipeline are vaccination camps, which will be organized in collaboration with the Municipality of Mumbai, exclusively for the elderly and the disabled. Apart from this, Project Mumbai also launched a campus vaccination campaign for inmates at Arthur Road Prison on June 1.

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