My Story: ” My Search For An Ecofriendly Dustbin Liner Ended With greenBUG “

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There used to be one waste bin at home which we would keep outside every day and a sanitation worker would come and collect it. We never lined it and in the evening after parents came back from work, we would wash it and keep it inside and we repeated the process. Somewhere during the early 2000s the invention of plastic trash bags happened. In no time they flooded the markets and had very many takers. This just compounded the problem of trash collection and disposal.

In the last 10-15 years with the advent of plastic, I see plastic around me like never before. Just as plastic is all-pervasive, it has entered the dustbins as liners as well. Dustbin liners make sure there is less smell and mess to deal with. 

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Dustbin liner made of upcycled newspaper.

I had a child a few years back and my perspective about waste started changing. I noticed that the waste in my house phenomenally increased and I kept thinking this is just one house in Bangalore city. What would happen if every house across Bangalore and India generated a lot of waste? Will we be giving a livable planet to our children and the future generations? This uneasy question kept disturbing me.

One day I took my daughter to a plantation drive as we were digging the pits to plant our saplings. I noticed that the land was full of plastic waste such as toothbrushes, disposable plastic covers, shampoo bottles, chocolate wrappers etc., nearby there were some old trees and trees had plastic jetting out of them. This shattered my heart and made me wonder. What kind of planet am I leaving behind for my future generations?

I decided to take steps to tackle this menace staring at us. I have been segregating waste into wet (kitchen waste), dry (recyclable waste) and reject waste (goes to landfills). I have been able to reduce reject waste to almost zero. I have started taking vegetables and fruits directly from the farm thereby reducing plastic from this to zero. However, groceries and other consumables still do bring plastic waste. I also noticed that I was lining my dustbins with plastic liners and these needed to go as well.  While we may or may not be able to do much for packaging of the products we can definitely do something about the plastic dustbin liners.

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Why are plastic dustbin liners bad?

Plastic dust bin liners go hand in hand with the lack of segregation of waste at source. Combined kitchen waste, reject waste such as diapers and recyclable waste such as bottles, papers etc., in the same dustbin with plastic liners means that municipal workers take away waste in knotted up plastic liners which get transported to landfills and thus we have mountains of landfills around our cities. This is extremely detrimental to our environment and our country. 

Some cities such as Bangalore are attempting to impose garbage segregation at source and minimise the waste that goes into landfills. Plastic liners are not compostable and hence even if garbage segregation does happen and kitchen waste is kept in dustbins with plastic liners it leads to them not being able to be composted. 

Search for a solution?

One thing that plastic liners had taught me is that cleaning the dustbins is easier to manage in this fast-paced world with dustbin liners. I tried eco-friendly dustbin liners seen in the market, however, they are not really eco-friendly, they also take a long time to decompose you see. I tried spreading newspapers dustbin as liners but the domestic helper would find it difficult to line it herself, I would have to keep showing her or do it myself and this wasn’t practical for me on a day to day basis. If the dustbins weren’t lined properly there would be leakage and spillage. While I was grappling with this problem and trying to find a sustainable solution I came to know about greenBUG which makes eco-friendly newspaper liners which are completely decomposable. 

I came to know that Arun was dealing with a similar problem and hence designed a dustbin liner bag out of newspapers. It is essentially made out of newspaper and starch. My own experience of using these dustbin liners has been that it is indeed very helpful to manage waste disposal using dustbin liners. 

Birth of greenBUG

Arun Balachander and Jyoti Pahadsingh thought of spreading this meaningful invention to as many people around them as possible so that they could play a crucial part in reducing plastic wastage. Thus, began the journey of greenBUG. This truly eco-friendly newspaper liners are available on Amazon as well as on their website. They also offer a subscription option so that you never run out of them.

Empowering women

Interestingly, buying greenBUG dustbin liners also empowers poor women who make these dustbin liner bags. Shifting to eco-friendly newspaper liners gives me peace of mind as I am not contributing towards polluting the environment. At the same time, the disposal of wet and reject waste has never been easier. It also helps me in ensuring that I do garbage segregation effectively and in reducing the waste that goes to the landfills while empowering women.

The story behind this is that while looking to scale this model to reach many customers they made a choice to train and allow women to make these dustbin liner bags. They have chosen women who are unable to step out of home and don’t have a fixed amount of time available every day. They give these very poor women training and every week a person gives them newspapers and gum, and the women give them dustbin liner bags at the end of the week. They make these bags whenever they have time during the week. This opportunity to work from home with flexible options helps these women get some much needed financial support for themselves, their family and some much-needed respect. 

While I chose greenBUG as an assistant in my journey to manage, segregate and dispose of waste. What are you doing to tackle the growing problem of plastic, plastic liners and reduction of waste generation? Tell us. We would like to gladly hear more such stories.

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

MyStory: “Two Months After I Joined IIT For My PhD I Was Diagnosed With TB”

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A person suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) not only battles the ‘Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ bacteria inside his lungs but also from the stigma attached to the disease. It weakens the patients in many different ways in their fight against the dreaded disease.  

My fight with TB was also filled with stigma. I joined IIT Kharagpur for my PhD in January 2015. Two months later, in March 2015, I was diagnosed with TB. I had to take sick leave from March 2015 that eventually lasted till June 2016. Initially, I did not respond well to medication. Further tests revealed that I had multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB). This meant that the type of TB I had was resistant to two or more of the antitubercular medication I was taking.

About a year after the intensive phase of my treatment, I felt better and applied for readmission to IIT in July 2016. A prerequisite for rejoining was that my faculty members had to verify my application. With the formalities completed, I resumed my education, but I felt that something was amiss. 

My guide indicated that he did not want his work to suffer on account of my illness. I also heard from a senior colleague that my guide had said that I would spread the disease like an ‘infested animal’. I was disheartened at being subjected to this indignity by my supposed mentor.

However, my primary concern was defeating TB, so I didn’t dwell on it. Today, as I reflect on it, I realise the reasons behind the stigma were ignorance as well as fear.

Even among the educated, there are misconceptions about TB. People think all forms of TB are contagious. Others believe the patient is infectious for the entire length of the treatment. Some even believe that TB spreads through touch. This breeds the fear of contracting the illness.

As we know, people stigmatise and discriminate when they fear. I felt the impact of the stigma on two levels – in my professional life and my personal life.

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Professionally, the reluctance of my supervisor to mentor me and his discouragement affected me. I could not decide whether I should wait for the IIT authorities to tell me to leave or drop out. That decision was made for me by luck when I found out that my CSIR grant application was never processed. 

This meant that I would have to pay for my education. Given the expenditure on my treatment, this was unaffordable for me. This was the final nail in the coffin. I was forced to drop out and could not go back to completing my PhD.

What I faced was not technically illegal. I was discouraged from doing my PhD, but it was still a form of stigma. The external stigma I faced led to depression and isolation. 

Eventually, I realised I had to fight. The treatment for TB is difficult, requiring strict compliance and the management of side effects, and these demands resolve. I began motivating myself. I began following a proper diet and completing my treatment to ensure I could recover. I also turned to books as they transported me to other worlds and helped with my isolation. I also focused on reviving my old relationships.

Gradually, things improved. I could not proceed on my desired career path, but I am an educator now. I constantly realise that I have a role to play in shaping young minds. 

Workplace stigma has tangible consequences. It affects an individual’s career, financial opportunities and their right to work with dignity. So what can we do to address this stigma? 

First, we need to sensitise people by educating them about TB, and the impact stigma has on patients.

Another measure is group counselling involving the patient, the employer and the immediate supervisor. Informal versions of these sessions happen in the workplace in the context of illnesses like cancer. Why should it be any different for TB? 

The goal of this session would be to ensure that the patient is in a supportive environment. 

Finally, at a systemic level, there needs to be a workplace policy on stigma mitigation and a mechanism where the patients can anonymously register their concerns about stigma at the workplace.

A person’s career or job is often their calling and a provider of financial security. Workplace stigma creates a hostile work environment, affecting a person’s ability to do their job and their financial security. Financial insecurity and stigma make it harder for the patient to fight TB both in terms of means and motivation. Therefore, addressing stigma in the workplace is critical to patient well-being and recovery but also to their right to work with dignity.

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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