Artist B Gowtham has been picking out plastic waste from the streets to hand them over to recyclers. His initiative ‘Walk for Plastic’ is now mobilising hundreds of people to collectively walk 75km in the city to gather plastics
“After I started sharing on social media my daily updates on the amount of plastics I have been able to collect during the walks, people started joining me on their own. I think I have been able to demonstrate that change can start from one person. Today, after 235 days of starting the initiative ‘Walk for Plastic’, I have the support of nearly 2,000 volunteers from across India, who are on a mission to remove plastics from our streets. Close to 800 people from Bengaluru, Mumbai, Coimbatore, Puducherry, Kancheepuram, Mysore, Kolkata and Delhi have reached out to me on their own and are picking up plastics on their streets, and taking them to local recyclers,” says 26-year-old Gowtham.
There has been a ban on single-use and non-biodegradable plastics in Tamil Nadu since January 2019, so where are these plastics coming from? Gowtham notes that water bottles are a major component of the plastics they pick up. “Even though the ban has reduced a lot of plastic litter, it is still present on every street. We find many plastic bottles, transparent polythene sheets, plastic food delivery boxes,” he says. Data is essential to keep a track of the impact being made, Gowtham says, sharing that the initiative has managed to recycle about 7 tonnes (7,000 kg) of plastics in these 235 days, saving over 1 lakh square feet of landfill area. He has kept aside Rs 45,000, that was collected through recycling, with an aim to fund the education of children of sanitary workers and rag pickers.
“We have at least 150-200 volunteers across cities taking up the walk on a regular basis, each month. A few months ago, we took up ‘Payanam 25’, a collective walk, wherein volunteers from different locations collectively walked for 25km and gathered 100 kg plastics. We will be replicating that in five different routes of the city through ‘Payanam 75’ on February 16 to create larger impact. The collected plastics will be given to Greater Chennai Corporation, and the money raised will be donated towards the welfare of sanitary workers,” he says.
Payanam 75 will be held on February 16 from 11 am to 6 pm, starting from Tambaram, Villivakkam, Shollinganallur, Anna Square, Poonamallee and ending at Guindy Kathipara Junction.