Ever noticed the bag that you carry before stepping out to shop for groceries? A number of people walk into stores empty-handed, expecting the shopkeeper to provide a plastic bag for grocery pickup. Though it may seem harmless, the inordinate amount of plastic used collectively creates waste that largely impacts the environment.
To discourage people from using single-use plastic bags while shopping in South Delhi’s local markets, Why Waste Wednesdays Foundation (WWWF)—a non-profit organisation founded by Navjeevan Vihar-based ophthalmologist Ruby Makhija, along with her husband and daughter—in collaboration with the South Delhi Municipal Corporation has established ‘Vikalp’ stalls, which offer cloth bags on rent to customers.
The first stall was established at the Madras Café in Green Park market on November 29. “We began by asking customers, who would forget to bring their own bags, to buy cloth bags for Rs 15. However, not many were willing to invest in purchasing cloth bags since they had it at home,” shares Makhija. Now, the foundation encourages shoppers to rent a cloth bag for Rs 20 from a Vikalp stall, and return it at their convenience. Aiming to create a sustainable alternative to single-use plastic bags, Makhija adds, “Instead of forcing people to buy bags, we now give them an environmentally-sound alternative that is pocket-friendly.”
Anantmala Potdar, a Saket-resident who joined WWWF four months ago, shares, “I have been segregating waste and composting at my home for five years now. But I realised, for a sustainable environment, I had to do something to inculcate this practice in others as well. This is my way to help save the environment.” These bags are created by self-help groups who use discarded fabric from boutiques in Delhi. “If you keep renting a bag, you get into the habit of using one [a cloth bag],” says Makhija.
A positive response
Vijay Purushotam, owner of Madras Café, shares, “I have had customers ask me why I don’t provide plastic bags at such a big shop. Sewers around the back lanes of the market were often blocked because of plastic dumps. The fact that this initiative is attempting to create some awareness made me realise that if not anyone, at least I should take this up.”
According to Purushotam, as many as 55 bags out of the 100 he had placed at the stall have already been rented out. With such a positive response, Vikalp stalls were established in SDA and Aurobindo Markets on Monday, and WWWF plans to expand this to Greater Kailash, Vasant Vihar, and Yusuf Sarai by the end of the month.