Sending Plastic Back

Over 5 million tons of plastic waste is generated annually in India, clogging the country’s rivers and damaging its ecosystems. Nearly half of that waste comes from packaging. After learning about the environmental impact of their favorite snack foods’ packaging, students at the Subbiah Vidyalayam Girls’ middle school, decided to send the manufacturers a message—by sending the packaging back.

They collected snack wrappers from their school’s campus, the surrounding areas, and even from home. In just two weeks they amassed a mountain of over 20,000 wrappers. They sorted the piles and mailed wrappers back to each manufacturer along with this letter:

“We are happy with the taste and quality of your products, but unhappy with the plastic packaging. We want to ensure a safe environment for our future generations and minimize our plastic footprint. We have decided to collect used plastic wrappers of your products and send them to you for safe disposal. Please help us savor your products without guilt, by introducing eco-friendly packaging.”

Wafer company Nabati responded to the letters saying they understand the issue and are searching for a suitable substitution. They also sent 3,000 free wafers to the school and collected the wrappers afterwards.

In 2016 India passed new laws placing responsibility on manufacturers for collecting plastic waste left by their products, so the city councils also sent demands to create action plans to tackle their packaging trash.

These measures have been deemed successful and there are now plans to extend the program to more schools and cities, holding manufacturers accountable while educating students on what they can do to tackle pollution.

Meanwhile, the girls’ middle school has pledged to continue fighting pollution and spreading awareness. They’re currently expanding their recycling programs and reaching out to other schools to do the same, helping India and the planet one plastic wrapper at a time.