If plastic is so harmful to the environment, then why are we even using it? Image Credit: Pia Deven Vashi

Dubai: Plastic bags aren’t just at the grocery stores, they are everywhere. These bags are not biodegradable. So, wherever people leave them, they will stay for what seems like forever. This also means that, the first plastic bag created on this earth might still exist somewhere on this planet.

Frequently hearing this question – paper or plastic? – piqued my interest. One day, I decided to ask my mother why we need to stop the use of plastic at all. She explained its harmful effects and I was shocked.

I thought, if plastic bags are so harmful to the environment, then why are we even using them? Can’t we instead use paper? So, the birth of an idea took place, to use waste papers to make paper bags, which instead can be recycled and reused and can serve my intention of stopping the use of plastic.

I collected newspapers from my friends and neighbours. I even went door-to-door in my neighbourhood to collect as many newspapers that would otherwise be thrown away.

This has since turned into a habit. I donate half my collection to the Emirates Environmental Group (EEG) and use the other half to make paper bags. I have termed my creation, Eco-Friendly Bags.

At first I went to local grocery stores and stationery shops close to my home, explained the harmful effects of plastic to them and requested them to use paper bags instead. At first they were hesitant on using these bags mainly because they feared their customers won’t accept them. But, I persisted with my motive and now, gradually, my efforts have started showing colours. These shop owners happily accept these bags and use them for handing over products to customers.

I make other things out of the collected newspapers, too, such as flower vases, envelopes, pencil stands and last but not least, my eco-friendly garbage bags.

I felt the need to raise awareness about this amongst people. So, I conducted workshops on paper bags with parents and students.

In the UAE, the workshops were held at branches of a local institute located in Sharjah’s Rolla Square, Al Butina area, Al Nahda area, Abu Shagara area, Al Qasimiya area, Dubai’s Al Nahda and Al Qusais areas.

I also conducted workshops in a school in India. At the school, 91 students along with a few teachers joined hands to support and save the environment. I also spread the message through social media.

Preetha Kiran Anchan, a nutrionist consultant based in Dubai, is glad to be a part of this social change and hopes to contribute towards the planet.

She said: “The use of plastic turns resources into rubbish and threatens the life of people in general. Plastic ending up in ocean is consumed by marine life. I read a news report about fish being sold in Indonesia having plastic debris within them. As a nutritionist, it is the biggest challenge to suggest the right kind of food if this is the case.”

Shreya Khunger, a homemaker based in Dubai, also feels strongly about the subject.

She said: “We all do our bit to do something for our environment in our daily lives, but for a 12-year-old to think a step ahead and create awareness amongst people to replace plastic with paper bags is truly inspiring. I will definitely put my best efforts to get her to do workshops in as many schools as possible so that she has more and more tiny hands supporting her cause.”

Hari Prasad Timilsing, who runs a stationery store in Dubai, is one of the people who has decided to use these bags in their stores.

He said: “At first we were hesitant to use these kinds of bags. We thought customers won’t like it. But, this girl insisted on trying once. Customers liked the idea and now we use them wherever it is possible. We feel satisfied to be a part in bringing the change and smile on people’s face by trying this innovation.”

And to think, all this began with a simple question.

I wish someday, people turn to green inspiration. For that I am planning to open an eco-club. Under this we can spread messages about not throwing rubbish or plastic in underdesignated places, like the sea. Take the action before time runs out. Save the planet.

 

— The reader is a pupil based in Dubai.

 

Be a community reporter. Tell us what is happening in your community. Send us your videos and pictures at readers@gulfnews.com