GADAG: One thing you can do is: Know your plastics. And a farmer did just that. Learnt all about cutting plastic pollution from bottle to bin and beyond. Around a year back, this farmer from Kotumachagi village started a project to collect plastic items and unused trays from various sources, which he uses to plant saplings. Now, with a great response to his experiment, he has extended his project to the neighbouring Naregal town.
Veeresh Negali, is an organic farmer with many years of experience. Wanting to do his bit to protect the environment, he started visiting hotels, pan shops and grocery stores, asking for plastic bags, bottles and unused trays. He would clean these, fill them with mud and organic manure and grow plants. For interested students and others, he also distributes these repurposed grow bags for free. To help him collect, he has placed an empty box in all shops and shop vendors are asked to put all waste plastic in the box.
He visits all the shops in the evening every day and brings the plastics home. All plastics are useful, Negali says. “Bottles, trays, plastic bags used to transport supari and pan masala packets, chocolate bags and others. I collect everything,” he says.
Negali ties the bottles to the plastic bags which contain seeds. He then makes a hole in the bottom of the bottle and fills it with water to create a drip irrigation system. Seeing his method, schoolchildren and people from surrounding villages are now lining up to visit his small garden. He uses the opportunity to educate visitors and ask them not to throw plastic everywhere.
“It is a small step from my end. My idea is to tell people that throwing away plastics is not the right option as they can be utilised. I collect hundreds of bags daily so that they don’t mix with the soil. I distribute the saplings on birthdays, marriages and school functions. Earlier, shop vendors laughed at me but they started encouraging me after a few days,” he says.
Parasappa Jodagambali, a villager of Kotumachagi, says, “When we saw his work, we thought he might do it for one or two months. But he started gifting hundreds of plants to others. It is a good move and if many people follow suit, we can reduce plastic pollution to some extent.”
Agreeing with him, Mailarappa Mudhol, a pan shop owner from Kotumachagi, says, “When Veeresh first came to ask for plastic bags, I gave two small ones. He said he will be collecting them in large numbers. First I thought, he may do it for some days and drop the whole idea. But he continued for more than a year and has been successful. We have put up a big cotton bag outside our pan shop. We put all plastic waste in it and Veeresh collects it daily.”
It’s no surprise then that Veeresh has become quite popular among the officials there as well. Hema Marad of the Raita Samparka Kendra says, “He is a role model and his step towards waste management has received much appreciation. We can help save mother Earth with such simple steps as we avoid dumping poisonous items. He uses organic manure and also encourages others to use the same as well for better yields. We are proud of having such a farmer from our region.”
In neighbouring Naregal, Chandrakant Rathode, a member of the ‘Green Army’ group says, “We love Veeresh’s work as he has been using plastics to grow trees. If everybody follows the same, we can at least avoid some pollution. He has been giving lectures on organic manure and many farmers from Bagalkot and surrounding districts are visiting to get his guidance.