Taking Out The Trash

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By Mehedi Hossain

Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka has been ranked as the most polluted city in the world this year. Dhaka scored 339 in the US Air Quality Index (AQI) and was classified as “very unhealthy.” As per experts, five of the top 10 causes of deaths in Bangladesh are related to air pollution. So unlike Trump, we can say climate change and pollution is a pretty serious issue for us. And it is not only air pollution, but we are also one of the top 10 polluters of world oceans because we hardly care about waste management. But this is not just a problem in Bangladesh. It’s a big problem globally as well. We, humans, are slowly destroying planet Earth, either to ensure Terminators take over or for us to leave earth ASAP and move to Mars. Some of us are realists, and therefore in order to achieve our final goal – a clean and healthy planet, 129 delegates from 57 countries gathered in Bali on 13th June 2019 to discuss the ways to tackle environmental and social problems related to mismanaged solid waste by mobilizing millions of positive-minded, action-orientated people, using innovative technological solutions to map and deal with waste, and engaging communities to clean the planet.

The bootcamp or as we call it, LEADERS ACADEMY was organized by “Let’s do It”, an Estonia based organization who are continuing their work towards a waste-free world following the Keep It Clean Plan. Based on the principles of the circular economy, and embedding Zero Waste practices their focuses in 2019-2020 are:
· education for sustainable development: cross-sector behavioral change projects (learning by doing approaches);
· municipalities: stakeholder consultation and process facilitation for adopting or enforcing most sustainable Resource Management systems;
· awareness raising through massive civic actions (e.g, waste mapping, brand audit, cleanups).

Their biggest ever civic action happened in 2018. On 15 September 2018, they organized the biggest ever civic action against waste – World Cleanup Day – an epic 36-hour green wave of cleanups. 17 million people in 157 countries came out to say loud and clear that they wanted to live in a clean world. One of the most amazing things that this organization is doing is creating a global trash map and trying to clean those trash. You can see the map: www.opendata.letsdoitworld.org.
Bangladesh too was part of the movement in 2018 among those 150 countries. More than 166 million people live in Bangladesh. The total waste produced throughout the year is 22,528,901 tonnes which makes almost 150 kilos per person. The shocking part is that the recycling percentage is zero. With help from local city corporation, 200 volunteers from JCI Bangladesh participated in the wave of cleaning. Arman Khan, team leader for World Cleanup Day in Bangladesh says: ’if we all do a little, we can do a lot’. And they did clean a lot.
But then the realization came to share the knowledge and be more effective in achieving a zero waste world. So for the first time “LEADERS ACADEMY’ was introduced, which took place in Bali, Indonesia. Indonesia too is one of the global contributors of waste in both ocean and landfill, but their government is determined to decrease 70% of waste by 2025. With millions of “Trash Heroes” running throughout the country, the dream doesn’t seem unreal. I, Mehedi Hossain, was lucky enough to be able to represent Bangladesh in the LEADERS ACADEMY. It was a four-day academy with over about 12 hours of rigorous training every day.

THEIR BIGGEST EVER CIVIC ACTION HAPPENED IN 2018. ON 15 SEPTEMBER 2018, THEY ORGANIZED THE BIGGEST EVER CIVIC ACTION AGAINST WASTE – WORLD CLEANUP DAY – AN EPIC 36-HOUR GREEN WAVE OF CLEANUPS. 17 MILLION PEOPLE IN 157 COUNTRIES CAME OUT TO SAY LOUD AND CLEAR THAT THEY WANTED TO LIVE IN A CLEAN WORLD.

The Academy focused on multiple aspects of waste management mostly focusing on waste mapping and sorting before managing it. Inspiring waste management and zero waste day celebrations from multiple countries were shared which gave new perspectives to everyone on how to become more impactful. The story of Bangladesh was inspiring for others as well. It was agreed by everyone that if we really want to make people aware and to realize the impacts of waste on their everyday life, World Cleanup Day has to happen on a much bigger scale to create that awareness and most importantly, the government has to play a role in it as well. The Prime Minister of Romania and the governor of Bali cleaning the roads on World Clean Up day 2018 only showed how much they can motivate people to do the same.
The experience was really good with so many newer aspects of mitigating waste. This year too we will celebrate World Cleanup Day on 21st September 2019. If you want to be a part of it, feel free to knock me at mehedi.hossain101@gmail.com.
Let’s all create awareness for cleaning up our neighborhood and let’s not keep any trash left unattended.

The writer works in business development of an MNC and is 2019 National Director of JCI Bangladesh and can be directly reached at mehedi.hossain101@gmail.com

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