In this episode of Trash Talk, we speak with Odette Katrak, co-founder of ‘Beautiful Bengaluru’.
Three-and-a-half years ago, Odette had visited the famed Lalbagh Botanical Garden and found litter everywhere. “I was horrified at the sight. The whole park was covered in chips packets, biscuit packets, plastic bottles, etc. This issue became the main priority of Beautiful Bengaluru.”
Beautiful Bengaluru is a citizen-led initiative, driven by anyone who is unhappy with the present condition of the city. Beautiful Bengaluru’s logo states, ‘Be the Change’.
The group’s primary agenda includes any concern relating to ‘clean, green and safe’ living and cityscape. Raising awareness about the Lalbagh litter and cleaning up the messy flower show there became one of their key goals. “We have been to five flower shows so far and we have also been working closely with the Department of Horticulture. There are certain constraints from their side as well when trying to reach out to the visitors who visit the park.”
Beautiful Bengaluru has played a role in reaching out to the people/visitors by reminding them of their responsibilities when they come into the garden. “We welcome the people who come in but also remind them to keep the place clean. Over the years, we have seen some slow changes happen and this year, there has been a significant improvement in three things.”
The first major change at the 2019 festival was the absence of mineral water bottles, which were not allowed inside the park. It was a huge win for the green activists of the city because usually, these mineral water bottles generate the most significant amount of waste. “The Lalbagh authorities have set a wonderful example by ensuring that mineral water does not enter the premises; inside the premises, clean drinking water was made available. This can set an example for others who charge for mineral water at the events and generate waste; this is called water service with zero waste.”
The second change involved the demarcation of food zones – earlier, people could eat anything that was brought in from outside, but this year, almost ten demarcated food zones were created and the visitors were only allowed to buy food from there. A fine system was in place to punish the defaulters.
The third change concerned the dustbins. This year, the bins were colour-coded so that the waste was efficiently segregated. The credit for this goes to the team from Saahas Zero Waste. Every bin for dry waste was painted blue with the word ‘Dry’ mentioned on it; all food or organic waste had to go into the bins painted green, with the words ‘Wet’ painted on them. For the third category, the ‘reject waste’ usually consisting of things like used baby diapers, red bins were placed near the toilets. Other than these bins, periodic announcements reminded people to be responsible.
“When we spot anyone littering, we talk to them in a persuasive way or joke with them. This year, the Beautiful Bengaluru group has been trying to spread awareness in many ways, like messaging people about the dos and don’ts before entering the park. N.S Ramakanth has a big hand in making this year’s flower show a plastic-free show.”
Odette also talks about how in spite of Karnataka placing a ban on plastic, people continue to use plastic bags and NWPP bags at events. “But this year, the BBMP team has looked into making sure that these bags don’t enter the premises of the park; the vendors were made aware of not using plastic bags as well. The BBMP has been conducting raids to stop the sale of those bags.” Visitors to the show were checked at the gate to see if they were carrying any plastic bottles, and if they were, they had to drop it at the entrance itself.
Beautiful Bengaluru is pushing for zero waste across the city. Odette compares the percentage of people using plastic bags today with what it was three years ago and says that it has shown a relative reduction. She mentions that working together with the BBMP is the main way of achieving a plastic-free city. “One of the most important things to make a place like Lalbagh litter-free and plastic-free is to arrange for easy availability of alternatives to the customers. That makes shifting from one habit to another easier.”
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