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17 Feb 2020, Edition - 1679, Monday

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Coimbatore

Ban on single-use plastic pen

Umaima Shafiq

Arts college in Coimbatore first in the state to ban plastic ballpoint pens for its students. Here’s how a professor leading this ‘movement’.

The Government Arts College at Race Course road in Coimbatore has adopted novel ways to ban single use plastic in the campus and is among the first in Tamil Nadu to ban plastic ballpoint pens for its 5,300 students to write their exams, class notes or thesis.

Dr. K Vasanti, an assistant professor of economics and captain of the college NCC cadre in the college, has been leading this movement since January 2018.

She tells The Covai Post, “I have always conducted rallies and awareness programmes for plastic ban, rainwater harvesting and other eco-friendly measures. Then deciding to put thought to action, we spread the message through wall paintings on our campus compound. We pooled in funds of Rs.10,000 with Coimbatore Cosmopolitan Rotary Club and did the work. Similarly NCC cadets put up stickers throughout the campus listing the non-degradable items. We have also replaced plastic water bottles, tumblers and plastic flex banners with stainless steel and cloth respectively.”

After successfully initiating all this, Vasanti turned to replace plastic stationery with cardboard and paper. So instead of plastic ID cards the 2019 academic students got paper cards. Then spiral binding of thesis and textbooks with plastic covers was replaced with craft paper and cardboard. Also plastic dusters in all classrooms were replaced with cloth wipes.

Vasanti said, “Banning plastic pens was our last initiative and so far 90 per cent of the college has shifted to ink pens. Students are advised to bring two pens during exams as we cannot afford to provide ink bottles for refill. It is a slow start but we hope to achieve 100 per cent success next year. So far our plastic-free module has been emulated by Mettupalayam and Ooty Arts College and Kongu Arts College in Erode. I also continue to advise friends, colleagues and acquaintances about using ink pens when attending seminars and rallies. We even had an exhibition for alternative to plastic items last year.”

Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi initiated a ban on single-use plastic on October 2, 2019, single use throw ballpoint alternatives are flooding the internet.

At least 10 eco-friendly alternatives like recyclable paper pens, corn pens, recycled newspaper pens, recycled water bottle pens, inkless pens (where the casing and ink are metal), seed-encrusted pencils, refill bamboo pens and the ink pens of old can be found on the internet.

Many of these alternatives are costlier than plastic ballpoints but have minimum environmental hazard. Many are also in the prototype stage in India, but with activists like Dr. K Vasanti, change may not be far.

Further details of these pen alternatives are available at https://ethical.net/sustainability/sustainable-writing-utensils/.

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