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E-waste to Educate!
This story appears in the December 2018 issue of School LIVE.
How much effort does it take to help make a difference in the lives of others? Sometimes a problem can seem so big that even when the solution lies right in front of our eyes, we are unable to act in any fruitful manner. When we think of ‘e-waste’, to many of us the concept itself seems incomprehensible. Let us break down what is this new big crisis that we have created for ourselves — electronic waste — and how a bunch of students from Mumbai are doing their bit at educating people about it, and educating children through it. Meet Soorya Balasubramanian and Trisha Bhattacharya, students of 10th standard (CAIE), Vibgyor School Goregaon, Mumbai.

We all know about the everyday wastes from our homes — leftover food, empty packets and what not — that the garbage collector takes away everyday. We also know of the agricultural and municipal solid wastes that our cities and towns tackle each day. Most of it goes into garbage landfills, but does that mean all that waste is taken care of? Unfortunately, not. Waste management is one of the biggest challenges that countries around the world face today. The challenge is not just the disposal of every kind of waste, but safe disposal of it.

Do you know that everytime we change our phones or change the batteries from our TV remote, we are creating a new type of waste? Electronic Waste (e-waste) refers to all those discarded electronics that are no longer in use and can neither be resold or recycled. With a sharp increase in the use of electronics and gadgets over the past few decades, most countries today face a crisis of safe disposal of e-waste. If not dealt with in a proper manner, e-waste can be hazardous for the environment as it releases harmful materials like lead, cadmium and bromium toxins into our surroundings.



So what can we do? One, we can educate ourselves about the problem. Two, we can learn about safe disposal of e-waste, and who better than the sharpest young minds to get you there. By collecting over 380 kgs of E-waste from schools and communities around them, and then donating it to an ngo, these students were able to educate thousands of children living in the slums. We spoke to Soorya and Trisha about their work, and this how our conversation went.  


From all types of waste we see around us, what prompted you to begin the conversation on E-waste?


We were actually contemplating about a variety of projects. During our research we found out that e-waste stood out for its uniqueness, probably because while much awareness is spread about wet waste and dry waste through campaigns, there is very little information spread about e-waste. If not managed properly, e-waste can wreak havoc. Because people are unaware of e-waste, they often stay in the dark about the dangers that are being caused to the environment because of their mismanagement. With this initiative of ours we hope to help support the safe disposal of e-waste strategically.



How did you educate people in the localities and schools about e-waste?

We created awareness by designing an educational video about the dangers of improper e-waste disposal. Along with this, we provided insights into our project and educated them about the safe disposal methods they could use.


Furthermore, we visited each class at all the Vibgyor School branches to teach students about this initiative, and we made our sessions more insightful with short role plays and active group discussions. These days, any new initiative can gain more momentum with the help of social networks available and we are all well aware of the power and impact that social media can have. Hence, we set up an Instagram account ‘@ewaste2knowledge’ to further our efforts.


How do you plan to educate more people about this initiative?

Awareness is the key to our success. We have begun expanding this mission at all the other Vibgyor school branches. Besides our school, we have also received calls from some individuals, who want to do their bit by supporting us. With our dedication and efforts to educate more people as times go, we hope to make more children a part of our project. We also plan to take this up over the summers, so that we can put in more time and make a better impact.


What was the kind of role that your teachers and fellow students played in helping you to drive this mission successfully?

Our teachers at Vibgyor High were incredibly supportive and guided us throughout this project. They contributed immensely to the collection of e-waste and gave us critical advice on how to keep the momentum going and not let our determination dip. Our fellow students have also played a crucial role to see this project through. Since the time we started this project, our fellow students have been eager to take part in it.


How did the concept of collecting e-waste convert to providing an education for the underprivileged children?   

When we initially partnered up with the Indian Development Foundation (IDF), we learnt of the dual nature of the initiative. There were 2 layers to it, one which involves the safe disposal of waste, and the second which uses the funds from this sale for the education of nearly 17,000 slum children. The very unique nature of this initiative drew us in and we actively started our drives, to fulfill both parts of this initiative.


How does it feel to be able to help the less privileged from the society and especially with their education?

We are yet to meet the children whose education we have helped fund. Hopefully, we would be able to meet them soon. This initiative has definitely given us a feeling of exhilaration. To be able to make a difference by doing something for the underprivileged, has given us immense satisfaction. Even something as pure as funding their education, gave us the understanding of how every little effort counts. It brings us joy just knowing that everyone is getting their fair rights, and they are being educated, rather than being thrust into laborious work.




What would your message be for the other youngsters like you?

No dream is too big, no vision too small. As long as you are passionate about your goal, and are fired up to see it succeed, everything will work out. With so much harm already caused to our environment, honestly, our world is in tatters. It is up to us to now make a difference by rectifying our previous mistakes. Only if we start today, will we be able to ensure a better tomorrow for the coming generations.



In a country starved, one girls efforts to feed the poor.



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