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A School in India is Charging Plastic Waste as “Tuition” | Our Daily Planet

The Akshar School Image: The Sentinel, Assam

by Alexandra Patel

A school in Assam, India is rethinking the cost of education by requiring students to pay in the form of collected plastic waste. At the Akshar Forum School, this initiative of using plastic as school fees was devised to confront the staggering amounts of plastic waste in the region, as well as create greater environmental awareness among students and their families. Mazin Mukhtar, one of the school’s founder explained that, “We realized that education had to be socially, economically and environmentally relevant for these children.” The results have been really positive, as many families are now putting up signs in their homes and shops to spread awareness

The Environmental Cost: Assam is home to 1 million residents and produces around 37 tons of plastic garbage each day. Families often burn plastic for heat during the winter, exposing themselves and those around them to the toxic chemicals that are emitted.  

A New Idea: The plastic hauls brought in each day are then transformed by students into ecobricks – compacted plastic bottles and other plastic waste dense enough to be used for construction. These materials can then be used to build infrastructure throughout the community, such as new schools and road paths. As Time explained, attendance to the school was “previously free, but the initiative was started after a request for parents to participate in a recycling program failed, according to AFP. Parents have also been asked to promise not to burn plastics.”

Why This Matters: Getting families and entire communities involved in sustainable practices can help normalize them but more specifically teach children from a young age to be more cognizant of their impact on the planet. Across India, local governments have been working to ban single-use plastics especially after Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed to abolish them by 2022. However, bans must also be accompanied by cultural shifts as plastic use is so ingrained in the lives of people across the world and all of us need to reshift our relationship with single-use plastics. 

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