Interns from the Netherlands were invited to the Isa Viswa Vidyalayam, the Education for Total Consciousness Pilot School, to share a Plastic Awareness Program on 22nd January. Mick Valentin and Laurens Lammers taught the children about the uses of plastic, how long different types of waste take to degrade in water (a water bottle takes 450 years; plastic bag 20; cardboard 2 months), and the multiple threats of plastic waste to the environment (i.e., air, water, agriculture, soil, and wildlife).
Finally, they shared some methods of recycling. Students made posters about the topic and interacted freely about their concerns and questions.
These engineering students from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands are on an internship in Trivandrum to design a system that cleans waste from rivers. After two months, they felt compelled to work on the root of the problem (which is always education). In December, they visited Swami Isa and the GEP to discuss ideas for creating awareness in young people.
Swami Isa emphasized that the problem of waste management has multiple sources, and will take a multi-pronged effort to combat it for long term solutions. Working with habits, culture, scarcity of land, and new technologies requires sensitivity, resources, and long-term commitment.
Swamiji also shared his views that “Waste is actually a resource—but one that someone doesn’t know how to use properly. Everything has a proper use,” he said, “but we must deeply understand Nature and our relationship to her resources in order to understand the utility of a thing.”
The 8th graders of Isa Viswa Vidyalayam had also researched the problem of plastic and found that most Trivandrum households burn waste, even plastic. 12% of plastics in the world are burnt, releasing very toxic fumes. Many people do not know the hazards to their health and the environment of this terrible practice. The students made a commitment to stop this practice in their neighbourhoods, and to start a recycling program operated by the Environment Club.
The school is now conducting a competition for who can collect the most plastic waste. It will be sent to the Waste Collection Centre operated by the Corporation of Trivandrum.
Mick from Delft University of Technology asking how many years it will take for this bottle to degrade. (Ans: 450!)
8th grade students of Isa Viswa Vidyalayam presenting about the dangers of burning plastic