Abu Dhabi: When he first went to distribute paper bags made of Gulf News pages to grocers in his locality early in 2010, Abdul Mugeeth was a little bit hesitant whether they would understand its importance.
But when grocers and customers saw him accompanied by Gulf News photographer, they realised he was doing something very important and started asking questions about paper bags, Abdul Mugeeth, an Indian, told Gulf News on Wednesday, recollecting his anti-plastic campaign.
He and his mother Andaleep Mannan said the support from Gulf News to his campaign began with the presence of its photographer in the outset and subsequent news reports.
Abdul Mugeeth received the prestigious Abu Dhabi Award on Tuesday evening from Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Commander of the UAE armed forces and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, for his contributions towards environmental conservation. The ten-year-old boy was the youngest among the 10 awardees who were recognised for their contributions to the society in various fields.
"We were hesitant about distributing paper bags because most of the people, including grocers, were not aware of the ill-effects of plastic bags. Even if grocers accept the paper bags as an alternative, there are many uneducated workers in our area [Al Mina] who may reject them," they said.
But when people saw Gulf News photographer, Abdul Mugeeth was well-received and people were willing to hear the ill-effects of plastic bags, Mannan said.
The news story and photograph of Abdul Mugeeth distributing plastic bags appeared in the daily and subsequent follow-up stories about his classes on how to make paper bags made him popular in the community, they said.
It all started when Abdul Mugeeth's school asked him to collect plastic bags for recycling. "He asked me what are the problems with plastic bags. When I explained what I know, he said, then he would ask the grocer to stop putting his chocolates in plastic bags," Mannan explained.
"But the question what else the grocer would use to pack chocolates led him to think about alternatives," she said. Abdul Mugeeth picked up Gulf News classified pages and started trying to make bags out of them. "I encouraged him and he started making nice paper bags," Mannan said.
The campaign helped him attend several national and international events on environmental conservation. As Gulf News reported on September 21, 2011, he was invited to attend the Tunza International Children and Youth Conference on Environment, organised by the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) in collaboration with the Government of Indonesia, from September 27-October 1, 2011.
"We are grateful to Gulf News not only for the support to Abdul Mugeeth but also for its efforts to highlight the cause of environmental conservation," Mannan said.