A beautiful, isolated, 600 year old community is just beginning to recognize the extent of a modern problem: plastic waste. With no understanding about the impact of single-use and semi-durable plastic when it was wholeheartedly adopted, residents have treated plastic waste the same way they traditionally disposed of non-plastic garbage, by dumping it in scattered piles on mountain farms or on embankments falling into rivers and streams. While many community leaders have recognized the impact of waste on the environment and the accompanying health impact, the average resident has yet to realize the implications of their own personal behavior. Now that the community is looking to increase tourism as a means of supporting economic growth, waste is also seen as a hinderance to development. Our project, “Creating a Clean Community,” has an overarching goal of ending plastic pollution by first educating children. A series of two-day workshops on pollution will be held at the nine schools in the district with a target participation of 20 children per group. Using games, videos, activities, and discussion, the children will learn about the impact of plastic pollution, strategies to solve the problem, and shared personal responsibility. They will be asked to brainstorm workable community-specific ideas and be invited to participate in a contest that will produce posters to be distributed throughout the district. By educating the children, the community will become educated, with an ultimate goal of zero trash along the roadsides and in stream beds.
As discussions continued, more individuals, groups and government departments came to agree that it was time for the community to tackle the problem of waste and pollution in a more systematic way. To formulate ideas, meetings were held with key individuals. These discussions led to refinements of the proposed project such as the duration and timing of the workshops, and enlisting local teachers as coordinators at the various locations, teachers who could then reinforce the lessons with additional students at the schools. Current barriers to recycling have also been discussed in depth. (At this time, no recycling company can be induced to travel to the community over the long and disintegrating loop road.) At every turn, groups and individuals have been willing to join the planning efforts and support the project. A Planning Group has thus been formed.