What Happened to the Amritapuri Swachhata Hi Seva Trash?

In a recent post, I talked about  Swachhata Hi Seva, a cleanliness campaign that was initiated by India’s Prime MInister Narendra Modi.  On September 15th,  Amma’s Amritapuri ashram residents and visitors, as well as students from Amrita University, participated in Swachhata Hi Seva by cleaning up six kilometers of land in communities near the ashram. More than 1600 people, including Amma herself, participated in the clean-up.

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Photo credit: Amritapuri.org

I had never thought about what would be done with the trash that was picked up that day. In the West, we would have either dropped it off at some waste management facility or city employees would have picked it up. A few days after Swachhata Hi Seva, I started seeing notices from the ashram’s recycling depot asking for volunteers to help sort the litter. It was then that I remembered there was no infrastructure in India to deal with garbage (or at least none that I know of) and that all of the trash that had been collected during the ashram work party would have been brought back to the ashram. I decided to help for a while.

There were many processing tables set up on the beach, with approximately eight volunteers at each station. One bag after another was brought to us and the contents were dumped onto the table. This photo shows what the garbage looked like, although the items in many of the bags were dirtier. Some of the bags contained the biggest ants I’ve ever seen.

We sorted the trash and put the items into new bags. There were bags for hard objects, soft plastic, metal, shoes,  plastic bottles, glass bottles and fabric. I was impressed by how fast we were able to sort each bag and be ready to move on to the next one.

When the bags of sorted items were full, they were moved to a separate area.

Next, someone sewed the bags shut.

After the bags were sewn, they were moved to another pile.

The sorting had already been going on for days. I don’t know how many bags of litter had been brought back to the ashram after the work party, but this photo shows how many bags still needed to be processed when I left the recycling depot that afternoon. The original pile must have been huge.

When I left the beach, I felt happy that I had participated in the work. A day or so later, I started to think about the situation again. What was going to happen with all of those bags? The ashram has had a recycling program for many years and I knew the recycling companies they sell to wouldn’t take dirty garbage.

Before I go on, let me say something about the ashram’s recycling program. There are recycling stations all over the ashram. Residents and visitors separate their garbage into many different bins- hard items, soft plastic, yard waste, fabric, metal, dirt and hair, sanitary items such as toilet paper, cardboard, paper, food waste, and soiled plastic.

The garbage bins are picked up daily and taken to the recycling depot. Volunteers do a second sorting there. They move any items that were put in the wrong bin and separate recyclables from non-recyclables. After the second sorting is done, the yard and food waste is taken to the composting facility and objects that need to be washed are washed.

Then, an even more detailed sorting process occurs. For example, there are at least 10 types of recyclable paper and many types of plastic and metal.

The day after I worked with the trash, I found myself sitting next to the person who is charge of the recycling depot. She confirmed that the more in depth sorting will need to be done and that the recycled items will have to be cleaned before they can be turned in. The thought of doing that work, in addition to all the regular ashram recycling, has got to be overwhelming; I imagine it will take all year. Maybe the next time I’m in Amritapuri, I will help them again.

Found in the Greenbelt

In the year that we have been doing forest restoration work in Seattle’s Greenbelt, we have found many interesting types of trash. During one of the work parties last week, a participant brought a much dirtier version of this bottle to me.

I thought it might be a decanter. I only had a vague idea of what a decanter was, but that was the word that came to my mind. I looked on the internet for photos of decanters from various decades, but didn’t see any that looked like this one.

When I showed the bottle to a neighbor later in the week, he pointed out that the top part didn’t belong to the bottom part. He thought the top was a cologne bottle, pointing out that it had a screw-on plastic top.

I felt embarrassed. I had noticed that the orange part was plastic when I cleaned the bottles but hadn’t thought about the implication of that fact. I wonder if the two parts were together when the work party participant found it. I believe they were, but I have no way to know for sure. Without the top, the bottle looks like this:

(By the way, the cork has decomposed enough that it is hollow.)

Here is a closeup of the top part of the bottle:

It is probably just a wine bottle but I’ve never seen one shaped like this. Have you? Do any of you have any idea how old it is? It could be current or it could be as far back as the 50’s.

Below are photos of some of the other trash we’ve found in the Greenbelt. We have also found more than 50 golf balls and three golf clubs! (Click on the gallery to enlarge the photos.)

You can learn more about this project by going to Greenbelt Restoration Project Update.

Repurposing Plastic Waste

I have been interested in crafting for as long as I can remember. One of my favorite projects was working with a group of Embracing the World volunteers to create beautiful bags and baskets by crocheting and weaving discarded grocery bags, strapping, newspaper wrappers, snack bags and other forms of waste.

Below are photos of some of the items I made during that time in my life. If you click on the gallery you will be able to see what each article was made from.

Here is a more detailed listing for one of the items.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Repurpose

 

Recycling: A Model for the World

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There have been recycling efforts of one kind or another at Amma’s Amritapuri ashram since 1999.  Over the years, the program has enlarged and become more refined. The Recycling Center moved to its current location in 2012 and is a model for all of India and the world. Continue reading “Recycling: A Model for the World”

Making Crocheted and Woven Items from Trash

In my young adult years, I loved to knit and crochet. I remember making blankets, sweaters and vests. Decades later I worked with a group of Amma devotees knitting and crocheting hats and scarves for Seattle’s homeless.  We also crocheted quilts for poor women who were moving from the street to transitional housing.

In 2007 or 2008, we started crocheting purses, hats, bags, and other items from materials that would normally be thrown into the garbage.  Some of the trash could also be woven into baskets.  By making crafts such as these, we could, in a small way, reduce the amount of garbage going into a landfill and polluting the earth.  Below you can see pictures of some of the items I made during that time.  (If you hover your cursor over a picture, you will be able to see what the item was made from.  If you click on any of the pictures, they will become a slide show.) Continue reading “Making Crocheted and Woven Items from Trash”