“What can we do so people stop using plastic and paper cutlery? Why don’t we give them some steel and melamine cutlery to use and return later?” thought Rishita Sharma and Lakshmi Sankaran who began one of the first sustainable ‘Cutlery Bank’ in Bengaluru in June 2016.
Birthday parties, get-togethers, and all occasions are happier only if they don’t end up with heaps of trash eventually ending up in local landfills that take decades to degrade. Though many types of plastic can be recycled, 91 percent of plastic is not. And even the meager amounts we do recycle are in jeopardy.
With a similar thought, these two women began their own ‘Cutlery Bank’ with 100 sets of steel plates, bowls, glasses, and spoons. They provided cutlery for occasions on rent available for around Rs 15 per set which customers returned once they used them. Initially, they charged Rs 1500 as a security deposit in case of any damage.
After five years the group has grown bigger with more than 25 women across different areas of the IT city, and they are actively participating in the initiative known as ‘Rent-A-Cutlery’. The members are keenly focused on the cause- ‘Reduce and Reuse’ and if in case, one of them cannot lend their cutlery to a customer they try and find another nearest person who can make it available.
With this ‘unusual appetite’, these women feel a sense of pride with every rental order as they stopped one couple from littering and unnecessary usage of plastic. Every time a cutlery set is back, it is cleaned, sterilized and wiped neatly to be used once again. Several customers who have been regularly renting the cutlery are not charged any deposit amount in order to encourage them to go ahead with the cause.
The group also happily rents out cutlery to events at government schools and community programs. Till today, none of them have complained about the rental fare for the cutlery and there are a few customers who also clean before returning. “We give them a discount as well”, says Rishita Sharma.
The women have encouraged others as well to open Cutlery banks themselves. Hyderabad and Chennai have begun their own Rent-A-Cutlery now. Though it is not a big success there, it definitely looks hopeful for the future, she adds.
Researchers estimated in 2017 that humanity has produced 8.3 billion tons of plastic since the material was invented. We are so hooked on the stuff that annual plastic production is expected to triple by 2050.