We are generating 56,00,000 ton of plastic waste annually. We can’t even imagine how much that is. The plastic waste in India is just as much a problem as price rise or the lack of clean drinking water. We have a 7,500-km coastline where we dump the nation’s plastic waste. If we do not stop this, in 2025, the result will be about 10 bags full of plastic per foot of our coastline. This plastic waste includes plastic carry bags, water bottles, milk bags, medicine bottles, tea cups, wrapping materials, shopping and garbage bags, fluid containers, clothing, toys, industrial products and much more. Wherever we look, we can always find garbage. There is plastic waste everywhere!
We do not like to see this waste around us, but we are doing a lot less compared to the plastic waste we each contribute to. To start, we can replace plastic plates & cups with plates made out of leaves which are bio degradable and when disposed off, do not create any pollution.
In one of our teacher training workshops, Balaka Dey, a teacher from Kedarnath Girls School told us how when she was young, there were different kind of leaf plates available in the market. Slowly, the market was full with plastic & thermocal plates. She believes we should use eco-friendly products and she herself wore a saree made out of recycled bamboo leaves.
The challenge is India is vast, and so are the leaves and trees we can use to make plates. There are Areca trees in Karnataka which are dried and pressed to be made into plates and as we travel towards north India, we find Sal trees which are used to make plates too. Sal leaves are small, thus are dried and stitched together to be made into strong plates. There can always be different kinds of leaves, and they can be useful as long as we put our natural resources to the right use.
Archana, a hero entrepreneur is solving India’s biggest problem, one leaf plate at a time. For every person who across India uses a plastic cup or plate and disposes it to form the big dump of trash all around us. Archana makes leaf plates using Areca leaves that are commonly available in her village.
There is another young entrepreneur who is contributing to this green revolution. His name is Jitesh. He is 23 years old and is the proud owner of Siya traders who make leaf plates out of Sal leaves, in Bihar.
We’ve told Archana’s amazing story in many ways. As a movie, (watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlOhpWyPE7s ) and last year as a graphic novel.
Over 150,000 kids in Grade 9 across Bihar and Jharkhand read her epic story about making leaf plates to create jobs for 85 women where she lives and increase farmers’ profit, as well as replacing over 500,000 plastic plates every year with biodegradable leaves.
After reading Archana’s story kids were set a skills challenge:
We asked children to go home and make plates out of leaves like Archana did. Archana used locally available Areca leaves, which otherwise were waste for the farmers, to create eco-friendly disposable plates. These plates are now widely used in her village and the neighboring villages. It was their turn to find an environmentally kind (eco friendly) replacement for plastic plates, bowls and cups where they lived.
Children across schools participated in this activity and made different kinds of leaf plates. They didn’t only make plates, but we were surprised to see all the quirky, fun things children submitted as their project.
What’s new this year?
We’re fusing Archana’s story with Jitesh’s, a new leaf-plate entrepreneur in Bihar. This time the story has been made with an interesting twist. Children will be reading Archana’s story inside Jitesh’s story. The protagonists of the story read Archana’s book – One World Many Leaves and set on a journey to find a hero who is using local resources to solve a problem. Ayesha & Riya identify Jitesh, a hero entrepreneur who uses Sal leaves and makes leaf plates to replace plastic & thermocal plates. As part of the skills challenge for this book, children are asked to go home and identify resources with which they can make something out of nothing. Children are being challenged to become young innovators that will also solve a problem for someone- maybe their own, their family’s problem or even their entire communities. We have a new line up for this year with 5 new skills stories for children. We are super excited and like Archana & Jitesh, we hope to create many new entrepreneurs driving change across India. Till then, use eco-friendly plates and say no to plastic!