This Mysuru man is recycling kindness

As the pandemic ravaged the world, it threw up one little golden nugget of truth: that humanity is alive and well.

Published: 18th July 2021 04:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th July 2021 04:38 AM   |  A+A-

Researcher Syed Baker selling e-waste to help the underprivileged in Mysuru on Saturday | Udayshankar S

Express News Service

MYSURU: As the pandemic ravaged the world, it threw up one little golden nugget of truth: that humanity is alive and well. People reached out to each other, to offer succour and comfort. Many came forward to feed the needy, and one group of people in Mysuru went a step ahead and coupled their Good Samaritan efforts with recycling waste, thereby helping the planet too.

A 34-year-old researcher, Syed Baker, and his friends have been distributing groceries and food packets to many families since the first wave of Covid hit the country. Syed, who returned from Russia during the pandemic, said, “I came across two women who had lost their father to suicide years ago. They, along with their mother, were surviving by doing odd jobs with caterers, but were left with no work when the pandemic struck. We helped them by supplying grocery kits. It made us realise how badly people were struggling.”

However, the second wave made it worse for families like these. With more and more people getting affected by the pandemic, it became difficult as Syed’s own finances, along with that of his friends and donors, were drying up. “One day, we sold our old devices and gadgets to buy grocery kits. That is when we thought of using unwanted things as a source of funding,” he added.

The researcher, who has co-invented an AI-based social distancing and pandemic-detecting sensor, as well as a disinfecting device, says the initiative came into being in May 2021. The group reached out to their donors, friends and families to collect e-waste, old newspapers, books, packaging material and old clothes. “We would visit homes and collect recyclable goods. MB Roadways, a transport company, helped us with a vehicle. We segregated the items to sell them separately to vendors,” Syed added.

Since then, the group has been collecting recyclable waste — especially e-waste, paper and discarded online shopping packaging material and clothes.

Eventually, they started receiving help from many other friends, including Chethan Vishwanath of Rotary — that is taking the initiative forward with the help of Helping Hands, an NGO. Later, Nrisimha Datta Sai Peethika Seva Trust also pitched in to help.

Syed says this initiative made him realise the importance of recycling. “Yes, the money from selling recyclable material aided us in helping many others, but it also made us realise the excesses we take for granted. For example, among the items we collected, packaging material from e-commerce orders was one of the largest in quantity — a major part of it recyclable. They would otherwise be dumped as waste, that too unsegregated, with some of it clogging drains,” he added.

“People discard electronic devices easily, which end up constituting a huge part of waste generated in cities. Nowadays, people are quick to buy a new television when the old one develops even a minor snag. We were able to sell these discarded television sets at a good price as they were up and running after some repairs,” he said.

So far, the group has distributed food packets to over 600 families with the money from the recycling initiative, and regularly supply groceries to at least 24 families — some which had lost their breadwinner and others whose incomes were hit during the pandemic. When most of the lockdown restrictions were lifted, they were also able to buy large umbrellas for the vendors whom they had helped restart business.
They are also focusing on recycling material responsibly.

“As old books can’t always be sold to scrap paper vendors, we sometimes send them to second hand booksellers,” said Syed.


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