When Chakravorty, a 31-year-old journalist at the Indian Express, discovered that plastic pollution is so pervasive that it affects our food supply, he was shocked.
“I was staggered to say the least,” he explains. “I felt that writing about the issue was not enough, so I decided to embark on a plogging journey—a combination of jogging with picking up litter.”
India was the global host for the 2018 World Environment Day, and Chakravorty felt it made perfect sense to add more momentum to the global movement against plastic pollution by adding his own inputs to it.
First, he started off plogging close to home. Soon, running in his neighbourhood and picking up plastic trash led him to think about a larger issue: that of improper waste management practices and the social stigma behind picking up trash.
Seeing the positive results from his trash cleanups and the conversations he sparked among his peer groups and on social media, Chakravorty was encouraged to have a larger goal in mind, and started planning a region-wide trip to spread awareness.
Today, he has travelled across six countries with one goal: to help communities think differently about trash, especially how they dispose of single-use plastics. Having identified similar issues in India, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Nepal, he decided to travel to these countries and understand how they perceive plastic pollution, while promoting his #pledgetoplog campaign.
Ultimately, says Chakravorty, 60 per cent of all plastic trash originates from Southeast Asia, and his campaign aims to #solvedifferent by documenting the challenge and outlining solutions communities are employing to tackle waste.
Through his campaign, Chakravorty gives presentations in schools and local non-governmental organization to spread awareness about what India is doing with regards to waste management and plastic pollution. He provides examples of some Indian cities who streamline their own waste management systems.
Alappuzha, a city in Kerala, is showing the way forward in waste management—at least 80 per cent of households are equipped with their own biogas plants and decentralized composting systems. Indore, in Madhya Pradesh, organizes a door-to-door waste collection system and in Meghalaya, roads are being built with plastic waste.
Chakravorty also engages with the local population of the places he visits by asking them about their thoughts on plastic pollution. He organizes plogging sessions to help communities take affirmative action against trash.
From farmers in India to school students in Cambodia, the people he has met along the way agree on one thing: single-use plastics are cheap and convenient, but they have a damaging effect on land and sea.
They noted that while plastic is useful as a product, more thought should be given to what happens to it at the end of its life cycle and that it should be used more carefully in the future. Now, they are organizing their own clean-up initiatives to combat plastic waste. Two of the schools he worked with, one in Assam and other in Nagaland, India, have formed plogging teams for their students, for instance.
Having started his trip on 12 September, he aims to be back in Delhi on 15 December 2018. He has documented his observations on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Follow his project on our social media platforms, Instagram and Twitter, during the next few days. His gallery documents his travels and activities around Southeast Asia, working to think beyond for a future without plastic.