Plastic waste used as tuition fee payment in Indian school

Plastic waste used as tuition fee payment in Indian school

By Kristelle Bechayda

With the issue of plastic waste becoming a big concern, one school in northeast India came up with a creative way of addressing it by making its collection as a means to pay the tuition fee.

Every week, the 110 students of Akshar Forum school outside Dispur in Assam state are required to bring up to 20 items of plastic gathered from their homes and the local area.

“The use of plastics is rampant across Assam,” said Parmita Sarma, who set up the project together with her New Yorker husband Mazin Mukhtar.

The school, which previously didn’t charge the students, was forced to introduce the said plastic fee after parents failed to take part in a recycle scheme.

Students must collect bags full of plastic to take to school, as part of a new project to cut waste in the local area.

“We tell (the parents) to send the plastics to the school as fees if you want your children to study here for free,” explained Mukhtar.

Apart from the mandated collection, Sarma added that parents also have to pledge not to burn plastics.

An increased awareness in the community

The school’s plastic fee project is starting to show its desired effect. With the school children now going door-to-door to ask for plastics, it has raised an awareness on the waste management issue in the local area.

In Dispur city alone, about 37 tonnes of waste material are being produced daily even if its population is only less than a million, according to a local non-government organization Environ.

“Earlier, we used to burn the plastics and we had no idea that the gas emitted from that was harmful to our health and environment,” said Menu Bora, the mother of one pupil.

“We also threw these away in the neighborhood. But that would never happen again…This is a good step initiated by the school.”

The school makes good use of the plastic waste collected. Plastic bags are being stuffed inside plastic bottles to make ‘eco-bricks,’ which can be used in constructing new buildings or pathways.

In addition, the students are also being paid to do this, which also addresses the school’s aim to get them out of the local stone quarries and into pursuing their education.

“The parents of most of our school students cannot afford to send them to school,” Mukhtar said. “It was tough but we have motivated them and brought them back to the school.”

Story and photos from AFP.