This article originally appeared on VICE India.
In the last couple of months, India was on the brink of imposing a blanket ban on all single-use plastics (SUP). But on October 2, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India would phase out SUP by 2022 instead. Government officials also said that the proposed blanket ban is “too disruptive” for the industry currently in the light of economic slowdown and rising unemployment.
But one district has decided to take matters into its own hands and act on plastic pollution.
In a plan to ban the use of SUP, Mulugu District Collector C Narayan Reddy came up with an initiative to allow people to swap 1 kg of plastic for 1 kg of rice, The News Minute reports.
The initiative ran from October 16 to 26 and aimed to encourage citizens across 174 villages to collect single-use plastics and hand it in for rice. 33,200 kg of plastic has been collected from the initiative.
Authorities also handed out free cloth bags made by tailors so people can avoid using plastic bags when shopping. 35,000 cloth bags have been handed out.
Single-use plastic collection points were set up in every Gram Panchayat (self-governed village council) office, where people could make the barter for rice. The plastic was then sent to cement manufacturing units.
Reddy told The Better India that “rice is only an incentive to educate people about plastic waste… our district is famous for wildlife sanctuaries and temples … Though the authorities try to maintain cleanliness, the plastic menace still thrives. This initiative is our commitment to make India free from single-use plastic by 2020.”
The idea for the initiative came at a school competition “in Jakaram village...We promised them a cricket kit if they collected 1,000 kgs of plastic and they performed the task. So, we thought that if we give some incentive, people would actively participate in the programme.”
Sponsors pitched in with money and rice to support the initiative.
The district of Mulugu is set to officially ban single-use plastics, with measures to be put in place to penalise offenders. With this, Reddy said Mulugu will be the first single-use plastic-free district of Telangana state.
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