A year after beach warrior Afroz Shah turned his attention to clean up the Mithi river, the concept of circular economy aimed at minimising plastic waste has gained momentum. Every Sunday, from 9am to 11.30am, around 50 students from an academy, run by the Dawoodi Bohra community in Marol, go door-to-door to collect waste from the shanties in Filterpada.
‘Nearly 35,000 slum dwellers living close to the Vihar Lake, the source of Mithi, have been trained for the past one year on the circular economy — on how to reduce garbage and segregate dry and wet waste. We told 4,000 households to wash the plastic items because dirty plastic cannot go for recycling;’ said Shah, adding that the waste is then taken to Versova beach for further sorting.
‘We segregate plastic bottles, multi-layer packaging, clear plastic, coloured plastic, flip flops and even clothes every month before sending them to the recycling centre,’ he said.
Professor Mustafa Feeroz, Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah Academy, Marol, said that the institution has been sending students every Sunday to take part in the clean-up and waste management drive. ‘It’s a two-pronged strategy involving the cleaning up of the river by removing items that choke Mithi and encouraging circular economy. The students are trained by Shah’s team before they approach the slum dwellers to collect the pre-litter from their homes,’ he said.
Feeroz said that the students also write about their experiences and how their participation has made them aware of the damage caused to the river. ‘They now think about how to deal with garbage at home and outside. They also feel they are contributing towards the upliftment of the slum colony,’ he said.
It is on the instructions of the community’s spiritual leader, Dr Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, that Bohras strive to reduce plastic and food waste.
Adam Mustafa, a Class VII student of the Academy, said that the students have gained practical knowledge from this weekly exercise. ‘After finishing our morning prayers and breakfast by 8.45am, we head for Mithi. Earlier, our task was to clean the river. Now we have gone one step ahead where we are divided into groups and asked to visit different parts of the slum to create awareness about waste management. We have to prevent littering at the source of the river,’ he said. After work, the students have lunch with Shah.
Husain Najmi, 22, another student who was part of the drive last Sunday, said: ‘We went door to door with a huge bag and asked residents to handover plastic. We also persuaded them not to throw plastic on the river bank.’
Every Sunday, on an average, Shah and the Dawoodi Bohra volunteers send 25 gunny bags of plastic to the recycling units. ‘It took nine months of rigorous counselling and pleading with the slum dwellers for them to realise that keeping the Mithi clean is as much their responsibility as ours,’ said Shah.
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