Zero Waste project Sidhpur

Pollution in the foothills of the Himalayas is caused by the mindless disposal of waste thrown onto the ground or into rivers and lakes. Due to a lack of proper waste management in the Himalayas, pollution is becoming a major problem. Historically, most communities used organic materials made of plant products. Now materials like, plastic, glass, and aluminum are synthetic materials, which means that they do not degrade easily in the environment and often release harmful chemicals into the air if they do degrade, which leads to long-term pollution. Many countries in the world sent their garbage to India in the past, which brought in income for India and its people, but also a big headache to solve the ever-growing garbage problem.

Thosamling is proactive in helping to solve some of these problems "at home", within and around our own community.

Recycled plastic is a relatively new idea in the foothills of the Himalayas. Plastic as a waste product won’t disappear by itself without leaving imprints in our environment and for our fellow sentient beings. The government of Himachal Pradesh is very aware of the problem and has banned plastic bags; this policy has been followed by several other States in India.

For products like glass, hard plastics, metals and aluminum there are ways to re-use or recycle in India. But soft plastics, tetrapacks, foil and cartons often stay behind in the streets and rivers, field’s lakes etc. So in Thosamling we aimed to find a solution to re-use these specific waste products. We designed our Thosamling Zero Waste model to make sure we will not contribute to further pollution of our area.

THOSAMLING’S ZERO WASTE MODEL

Thosamling has developed an effective way for 100% of our waste to be re-used or recycled. The longer-term aim is to transfer this successful model to other small communities and similar institutions.

Thosamling’s Zero Waste Model contains the following elements:
• Organic waste is used for cow food and garden compost.
• Glass jars and bottles are re-used for our peanut butter and jam, or sold for local income.
• Hard plastic bottles and metal objects are sold for local income.
• Tetrapacks (e.g. milk containers) are used to make money wallets and purses.
• Soft plastic is cut into thin strips and used to stuff handmade meditation cushions.
• Paper is either reused as writing material, composted for use in the garden, or burned (non-toxic paper materials only)
Residents are encouraged to reduce their purchase and consumption of plastic goods, and to re-use waste wherever possible.

COMMUNITY EDUCATION

In 2011, Thosamling staff and residents commenced a program of community education, which started with awareness-raising visits to several local schools and colleges. The activities at each school included:
• Raising awareness of the local and global problems of waste management and developing an understanding of the need for everyone to play a role in protecting the environment.
• Encouraging students and their families to reduce, re-use and recycle household waste.
• Practical demonstration of how to make attractive and useful items from household waste.
Currently we are looking into the possibilities of income generating projects from recycled materials; we hope to train more locals who have interest in this project.

INCOME GENERATION FROM RECYCLED MATERIALS

Thosamling recently purchased a sewing machine for our Zero Waste project. We recruited a sewing teacher who trained three local women in sewing bags from foil and plastic.

Sarita Rana, the sewing teacher, is very dedicated and even convinced her husband to learn these specials skills. Her sewing training includes items such as: large, durable multi-purpose shopping bags; stylish hand-bag; toiletry bag; wallets; purses; and meditation cushions. Soon we hope to design small meditation chairs we can sell during the teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

There are numerous overseas shops that sell items produced from recycled garbage. With our mind focused on the idea: "India’s beautiful plastic products are coming West", we are determined to continue this project and make it a big success. Just think...maybe there are some Christmas presents for under your family’s tree!

All income from this project goes back to the project and workers. It is our hope that eventually more new jobs will be created and Sarita Rana can train locals from other villages to clean up their area.

 

Thosamling Nunnery, Institute and Retreat Center.