Youth against plastic pollution

Nazneen Suraiya | Published: 00:00, Jan 12,2020

Nazneen Suraiya, Climate Conservation Foundation, National Geographic, Plastic Initiative Network, PIN, CCF, climate change, single-use plastic, plastic pollution, ocean pollution, recycle, plastic recycle, Bangladesh environmental pollution, environmental sustainability, voluntary work, environmental sustainability, eco-tourism, American Center Dhaka, Dhaka University, Daffodil International University, Bangladesh University of Professionals, Khulna University, Begum Rokeya University, #OneMonthChallengeForPlanet, environmental social action project, environmental youth advocates

Campus session in Khulna

Plastic is perhaps the single most responsible catalyst for environmental pollution. Many concerned groups have advocated reducing the use of single-use plastic to curb on plastic pollution. Plastic Initiative Network is a platform for youth environmental activists that works for environmental sustainability focusing on reducing plastic pollution by means of voluntary works in order to create an eco-friendly generation, writes Nazneen Suraiya

‘PLASTIC will be the main ingredient of all our grandchildren’s recipes’, said Anthony T Hincks. Yes, you read it right. It is expected that there will be more plastic in the oceans than fishes by the year 2050, found in a research by National Geographic.

Most of us will be consuming plastic as the main ingredient. Being a versatile and highly durable product with low-cost, yet plastic is one of the main reasons for climate change. The use of plastic is creating an environmental crisis by its pollution.

Here is the reason why, once the single-use plastic is dumped on land or in water there is a 99.99 per cent chance of not getting them back in any state, be it in any shape. Whereas, plastic that is dumped in dustbins can be recycled up to 10 times, leading to the reduction of landfill waste and protection of the seas and oceans.

Sumon Chowdhury is the president and founder of Plastic Initiative Network which was started in 2018. This organisation aims to ultimately build a plastic pollution-free nation. As of now, they are working to ensure proper recycling and reusing of plastic in order to save the environment.

Sumon is a 23 year old fresh business graduate from National University of Bangladesh, who loves to travel. ‘While travelling, we get to see the use and wastage of plastic the most. This is why it is important to create awareness in tourist spots, through campaigns, stickers and posters,’ he says. With these things keeping in mind, he took an initiative first in Natore to raise awareness among students on plastic pollution last year as a returned volunteer of voluntary service overseas after coming back from a three-month community development project.

In the feedback of the program, he used to study about it in depth to find the real scenario of plastic pollution that how it affects us and the planet. After getting the findings he officially formed the platform on December 1, 2018 with the name of Plastic Initiative Network where 19 young volunteers from eleven different universities took part.

Plastic Initiative Network is a youth wing and voluntary platform of Climate Conservation Foundation that works for the environmental sustainability focusing on plastic pollution by means of voluntary exertions in order to create an eco-friendly generation throughout the globe with the slogan of ‘moving towards an eco-friendly future’ until or unless the application of highly scientific plastic decomposition of in general affordability comes to an actualisation.

‘While working for the environment, we come across different perspectives to protect the green planet where we work not only against plastic pollution but also against the climate change,’ added Sumon.

It engages youths to make a pollution free liveable world for our future generation who wish to play a critical and competitive role in sustainable social development.

In response to the marine life the diversified projects are designed to make a positive impact on people’s mind and creating awareness against plastic pollution. Now it is actively working in seven districts, Dhaka, Natore, Khulna, Rangpur, Cox's Bazar, Dinajpur and Rajshahi, with 376 volunteers.

Initially, it used to raise awareness by nine different activities — sticker campaign, campus check-in campaign, school session and workshop, signature collection campaign, human chain and rally, eco-tourism campaign, video documentation and research and publications. It worked with 38 institutions including American Center Dhaka, Dhaka University, Daffodil International University, Bangladesh University of Professionals, Khulna University, Begum Rokeya University where more than 2500 students were educated on the environmental sustainability and sustainable development goals by its campus session.

With the campus session, sticker campaign was a core work that used to stick stickers in public places, campus and local transportations where it reaches directly more than 15,000 people to raise awareness by last one year campaign so far and it collected 2000 plus signatures against plastic pollution. ‘Initially, we created awareness about plastic pollution and had a signature campaign, where we encouraged them to throw plastic wastes in bins,’ explains Sumon.

Plastic Initiative Network also ran effective sticker campaigns with the campus check-in campaigns for the first time in India with Himali Boarding School that is situated in Kurseong, Darjeeling, West Bengal. Now it plans for more campaigns in India in near future with the institute.

Beside this, it moves with social media campaign and workshop to create an eco-friendly generation as youth advocates who would help the environment. These advocates will serve the purpose of spreading knowledge about the sustainable development goals, climate change and other global challenges in order to create an eco-friendly generation.

Plastic Initiative Network and CCF organised a workshop together on climate literacy and sustainable development goals in collaboration with American Center Dhaka recently to create environmental youth advocates in Bangladesh. The purpose of the workshop is spreading knowledge about the sustainable development goals, climate change and other global challenges focusing on plastic pollution in order to create an eco-friendly generation.

At the workshop the participants took the #OneMonthChallengeForPlanet as an environmental social action project to act in their community. After the successful completion of the challenge they will get a certificate on their social work. ‘The purpose of the workshop was to provide a platform to exchange experiences and ideas. It also encourages the cooperation between youth and activists for environmental sustainability’ asserts Sumon. 

The workshop was designed to engage youth in becoming environmental advocates in their communities where they plan to bring about a thousand environmental youth advocates throughout the country by 2020.

Their human chains and rallies in Natore, Cox’s Bazar and Khulna were successful as well. They have started to campaign through social media and radio shows, garnering largely positive responses. ‘Jute is an excellent, environmentally-friendly replacement for plastic. We are planning to find alternate ways and working on some modules to establish replacements for plastic in ways that will not economically affect the plastics industry,’ said Sumon.

Plastic Initiative Network is dedicated to work for a sustainable environment ensuring proper recycling and use of plastic where it plans for national events as conference of parties and working for entrepreneurship development to help underprivileged women on recycling and jute diversified product as an alternative of plastic.

It creates a platform to connect with young leaders, international non-government organisations, government officials and policymakers, environmental activists, academicians and researchers to bring up a combined effort to ensure a better planet.

The objectives of Plastic Initiative Network are to spread the root-level knowledge of plastic pollution from the primary school level to the general public, to emphasise more on public awareness campaign and behavioural change against plastic pollution, to install a stable continuation of plastic pollution free activities throughout the country and aim to establish their associations globally in the future.

Nazneen Suraiya is the human resource director of Plastic Initiative Network

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