Students collect over 30kg of waste plastic bottles to make DIY hydroponic planters

ON A bottle of chilled cold drink on a sultry summer’s day seems like a harmless idea when viewed in isolation. But what if we told you that there are a million such bottles being bought worldwide every minute?

This becomes important because each and every one of them is made of plastic.

Most plastic is made by turning petroleum into a material that cannot be recognized by microorganisms, making it difficult for them to break down. Because of this, it takes years for the material to naturally decompose. Your travel-friendly PET bottles, for example, take 450 years to decompose and pollute the environment throughout their lifespan.

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While this information may seem overwhelming, our dedicated youth are taking matters into their own hands and tackling the problem – bottle at a time.

Ten students from the Universal Business School (UBS), Mumbai, started the ROOP project for the upcycling of plastic bottles under the wing of ENACTUS-UBS in August 2020. Recycle Our Own Plastic, or ROOP, is working on an inexpensive model that will reuse PET bottles to make hydroponic planters. Unlike recycling waste, upcycling allows the team to use the bottles as they are without the expense of disassembling them to build something completely new.

“We use four to five plastic bottles and cut them in half. The top of the bottle is turned over and inserted into the bottle. The upper part is filled with a jute cloth. This is where the plant is placed. On opposite sides of each bottle, two holes are drilled in the lower part through which a pipe is passed. This will connect all the bottles together to ensure that they all get a flow of water, ”explains ENACTUS President Sudharma Kambhamettu.

This unique prototype not only reuses plastic, but also eliminates the use of soil in agriculture. The head of this project is Het Gor, who says: “After testing the planters internally, we even found it practical to use less water. I was able to water the plants two to three days apart and still get a great yield. “

“Redesign for reuse”

ENACTUS is a not-for-profit social enterprise and experience-based learning platform. The aim is to support student members in setting up business models in accordance with the universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These students used this platform as an opportunity and decided to develop a product that is not only environmentally friendly, but also helps society.

“Funding can be a cause for concern in such a case, but the students’ creativity is sufficient to combat the problem,” says Sudharma. To get Project ROOP up and running, these student entrepreneurs hosted a fundraising event called “Redesign to Reuse,” which was attended by over 50 members. The team even held two cleanliness drives in Mumbai and Chennai to collect plastic garbage bottles needed for the project.

Through these trips alone they were able to collect 30 kg of plastic waste.

The pandemic outbreak turned out to be a bump on the way, but they continued the cause from afar. There was no time for excuses and the project was immediately moved to a podcast channel called “Make it Green” to continue raising awareness while the action on the ground was pending.

During this time, these avid environmentalists worked consistently to refine and finalize their prototype to ensure that it was inexpensive, environmentally friendly, and unique.

When environmentalist Ruchi Jain from Mumbai heard of the initiative, she said, “I would definitely vouch for hydroponic pots. They are pocket friendly and a great innovation for more and more people to use. We need more creations like this in order to not only strengthen awareness, but also a green lifestyle, and everything that provides more fresh air is of course great! “

Be instruments of change

Waste management is not where these spirited people’s goals end. Their nifty innovation addresses the problem of single-use plastic disposal, offers a cost-effective solution for agriculture, and creates employment opportunities through targeted dissemination.

The students are currently working with Light of Life Trust, which has its network base among the rural people of Maharashtra. “With your support, we want to give disadvantaged communities the ability to produce upcycling hydroponic planters and thereby create jobs,” says the student president. The prototype is now ready for use and together the two organizations are initially aiming to train 10 rural women.

Unrestricted action and the passion to take responsibility wherever possible have brought these young changemakers advantages. Not only has her project received the full support of her college faculty, but also an enthusiastic response from her own colleagues who have campaigned for these planters in various cities.

Despite the dynamic extent of plastic consumption, these students started a cycle of change and put the simple principle “Be the change you want to see in the world” into practice.

Edited by Yoshita Rao

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