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Saturday May 5, 2012

Wesak Day green initiative

EVERY year, thousands of devotees visit the Buddhist Maha Vihara to celebrate Wesak Day but at the end of the day they leave the usual mess of used paper cups, plastic bottles, candles, flowers and food waste strewn all over the temple grounds.

Last year, the temple’s Dhamma-duta Development Youth (D2Y) group came up with an environmentally-friendly solution to the problem together with non-governmental organisation, Treat Every Environ-ment Special (TrEES).

They collected all recyclable items found in the rubbish for recycling.

The NGO suggested that three bins made of used cardboard boxes and gunny sacks be placed at different stations around the temple to collect discarded plastic and paper products and aluminium cans.

All systems go: (from left) Buddhist Maha Vihara president Leslie Tilak, Lim and Leela getting ready to collect rubbish to be recycled at this year’s Wesak celebrations in Buddhist Maha Vihara in Brickfields.

“We did not know what to expect, whether people would notice the bins or how they would respond to the initiative when we put the bins out,” said TrEES director Leela Panikkar.

Throughout the day, Leela who was supervising the project together with D2Y members, had to tweak and change their plans to suit the crowd flow and the different types of rubbish that came along.

She said they also had to teach and guide the public to throw their rubbish into the right bins as many were not aware of their initiative.

At the cooking area, large oil drums were placed to collect used oil and food waste.

Leela said the initiative was very successful.

“We collected more than two oil drums filled with used cooking oil and leftovers in the oil lamps. There was also a truck-load of food waste that was sent to an organic farm,” she said.

Besides that, two truck-loads of used paper was collected together with 15 gunny sacks of used candles, plastic bottles and aluminium cans.

D2Y committee member Lim Su Jin said her team had fun being involved in the project last year.

“I hope we can do better this year. We will be assigning our team of volunteers to each of the 50 sites where the bins will be placed, to guide the public in disposing their rubbish,” she said.

Lim also hopes that the public will bring their own food boxes and reusable bags when they visit the temple.

Other challenges that the team faced was to educate the public to dispose of the used food boxes in the right place.

“We handed out some 10,000 free food packs; which were snapped up within minutes but after an hour, one could see these boxes thrown everywhere.

“Some of them were not even touched at all. We hope those who do not want the food will let others who need a meal, have it,” said temple president Leslie Tilak.

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