- Expatriate takes inspiration from a bingo card post on Instagram to help pick up litter around the city
- From plastic, glass bottles, vintage shoes, to trailer wrecks, Alison Sriparam says picking up trash wherever she goes has become a daily routine
- Worst litter in Bur Dubai are plastic cups and visiting cards from massage parlours, the woman says
We all need that spark of inspiration to start something new.
And one British expatriate found hers on an Instagram post. It was a bingo challenge posted by an eco-warrior living in the UK, who encourages people to reduce plastic consumption, that became life-changing for Alison Sriparam.
Bingo is a popular game in which players cross out numbers on their card once they are called out by a gamemaster.
The numbers are drawn at random, and the winner is the first person to mark all numbers. In the case of this Instagram bingo post, however, there were no numbers.
Instead, there was a set of 'tasks to complete'. The challenge: People would need to pick up litter corresponding to the numbers and products on the card and once done, they would need to tick it.
Sriparam, 58, who works as a director at the British Council in Dubai, said this particular Instagram post was made by a British woman in the UK and called "make litter picking cool".
It encourages people to volunteer picking litter from the street and reduce plastic consumption.
“Every month, the lady runs a competition where she posts a bingo card on her page. People have to find everything posted on the bingo card and the first one to do so wins a prize. The first month I took up the challenge, I won the prize — a Martin Dorey book titled No More Plastic.”
Collecting trash is fun
For Sriparam, the bingo card game kickstarted a gratifying journey.
“My winning bingo card required me to collect chocolate wrappers, plastic forks and cups, glass bottles, bottle tops and caps, cigarette butts, drinking cans and empty crisp packets. It is fun and at the same very gratifying because it gives me a sense of accomplishment.”
Sriparam said another inspiring Instagrammer organises photo challenges for people to post pictures of the litter they pick and write a story on it. “Once I found a wreck of a boat trailer on a sandy patch in Dubailand. I made up a story on it and received an overwhelming response from Instagram followers.”
“The key take-away from all this is how social media is encouraging people to become environment conscious. For someone like me who is new to the whole concept – it was very inspiring for me to come across some of these environment enthusiasts on social media.
Speaking to Gulf News in an exclusive interview, she urged people living in the UAE to become more conscious of their surroundings and not litter the environment.
How it all began
Sriparam said she took the positive step as part of her 2018 New Year’s resolution. “A friend said she would resolve to do something for the environment and I thought, 'Why not do the same?”
Little did she realise her initiative would go such a long way.
Sriparam lived in Dubailand area two years ago and she decided to make small beginnings from there.
At first she would look around her community where she lived at The Villa in Dubailand. “It is a well-maintained development so there was not much for me to do here. An Emirates bypass road runs behind my villa development where the Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club and St. Regis hotel are located. I would cycle this road and look out for litter. There are many desert patches here and I would go there every day to pick up trash,” she said.
“I carry different bags for the waste generated. For example, in one bag I collect plastic, glass, empty food containers, cigarette butts and aluminum things. In another I collect construction debris dumped in the desert. One time I found things like hard hats, gloves, socks, hard shoes, shirts and jackets. I also carry a separate bag for food waste on the streets which is usually a lot especially around construction areas. Workers eat their food and leave their plates and cutlery and food packets and leave it sometimes on the street.”
Sriparam said: “It is never fun picking up someone else’s rubbish that too every day. But what keeps me going is Instagram posts by environment enthusiasts who are encouraging people to make a positive difference to the community around them.”
Sriparam recycles most of the waste she collects from cardboard, plastic cans, bottles and aluminium cans.
“As for glass bottles, my husband takes them to the Karama Recycling Centre. Regarding the construction debris, I try and give away the hats and shoes I find. I discard the cable wires if they are in a bad shape or I give them to some small electronic shops.”
“I live in Bur Dubai now and the worst litter I see in this area are plastic cups and bottles from coffee shops and those awful visiting cards from massage parlours. The last time I travelled I found people left plastic bottles on their seats in Dubai airport right at the gate before take off. It is sad that people cannot even manage to get their cups into bins as you will see in some pictures I have taken.
Sriparam has joined as a volunteer with Azraq and Zero Level Gravity and recently did a beach clean up with them.
“If only people would feel more responsible about reducing plastic usage. A simple thing that people can do is make a New Year’s resolution to pick up at least three pieces of plastic litter daily. This way they will make small beginnings.”