FB group creates novel way to remove plastic, feed poor

Members of the Facebook group exchanging plastic with rice in Peddapuram

A Facebook group “Mana Peddapuram” (Our Peddapuram) has come up with the novel idea of saving the environment from single-use plastic. The local youth are offering rice in return of plastic.

A septuagenarian woman heard about the offer and for three days she collected plastic covers, water bottles and other tiny plastic things thrown on the streets. By Wednesday, she gathered a bag full of plastic waste.

The fragile lady walked up to the designated place and got her share of rice for the plastic that would harm the environment. “The offer is simple. We give one kilo of rice for every kilo of plastic. This way she got three kilos of rice,” Naresh Peddireddi, the young cashew entrepreneur whose brainchild is rice-for-plastic-waste”.

The Facebook group has around 24,000 members including 2,000 volunteers on the ground. The town, located in the East Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh, has about 50,000 people. The group members posted two stories on their wall: India generates 25 lakh tons of plastic waste and only nine percent of it goes for recycling, and India stands at 103rd place in the hunger index.

"We felt that we can solve both the problems in one go. We named our programme "Avoid Plastic - Avoid Hunger". The members readily agreed and we inaugurated on Gandhi Jayanthi day. Exchange will take place every week, Naresh said. On the first day, the group collected 200 kgs of plastic, which was reciprocated with 200 kgs of quality rice costing Rs 30 a kg.

To encourage children to participate in the plastic waste collection or disposal, the group offered toys and chocolates. The group tied up with the local municipality for reuse of the plastic collected through this initiative.

The four-year-old group does not depend on donations. When it announces a programme, the members themselves offer their contributions. For the rice-for-plastic programme, many members and local entrepreneurs offered one bag to ten bags (of 25 kgs) of rice. The material would be collected when required.

Inspired by the initiative youth in at least ten villages in the vicinity took up a similar programme. “There were several phone calls. People are asking us for guidance” Naresh said. The group also administered an oath on its members against using harmful plastic.

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