“The birds of hope are everywhere, listen to them sing.” The aforementioned phrase enlivens in its truest sense when one encounters such individuals, who are found humming the melody of sustainability even in times of despair because ultimately, they are the ones who light the lamp of hope and keep it burning forever. Bittu John, a Kothamangalam native hailing from Kerala is, fortunately, one such individual who thinks beyond fulfilling his own desires.
Deeply ardent in curbing down plastic consumption and production to the best of his capacities, Bittu runs a ‘7 to 9 Greenstore’ in Kolencherry, Kerala, which is not a prototype of your regular grocery store at all. This store runs on a no plastic pathway where absolutely zero plastic is deployed in the functioning of the entire shop, from storage to selling. The customers who visit this shop are instructed to bring their own containers and get them refilled from here, absolutely eliminating the façade of packaging and thereby plastic usage. The commodities to be sold are stored within specially designed high-quality glass storage equipment, imported exclusively from London and Germany.
A majority of the commodities are sold unpackaged which are stored in tight steel jars and cases. With the policy of ‘Bring Your Own Containers’ people are getting the deep motivation to employ the ideas of reuse and refuse, in their individual lives. Since a large fraction of domestic plastic waste finds its way from grocery and multi-purpose stores, Bittu came up with this innovative idea and established this ‘Zero Plastic Tolerant Store’ in Kolencherry at the beginning of 2019.
Bittu says that he was deeply moved when he first visited and saw such a store in London and it is from there that he was inspired to take up a similar initiative in his land. Initially, the store did not receive much appraise, fairly below than what was expected, but gradually it did see the light of the day and has been sprawling since then.
There are regularly about three hundred loyal customers who visit the store for their regular purchase. To make things even better, the shop offers straight 2% off on all commodities if customers carry their containers. But for some reason, if a customer fails to carry individual container(s) or paper and cloth carry bags then it can be bought from the store itself at prices ranging between Rupees 20-150. This amount is in fact fully refundable given the customer returns the containers and carry bags without any damage.
Bittu is an M.Tech graduate and was working with an MNC at Bengaluru who stumbled upon this idea of an environment centric startup. In the beginning, running the store was challenging and economically exhaustive since he had invested a very huge amount in this project but when the train got its track, he was deeply motivated to expand this noble initiative. “Malayalis dump approximately 4,80,000 kilograms of plastic waste every day. Only 7% of plastic waste is being recycled.
The aftereffects of our activity will be so hazardous,” – stated Bittu in one of his interviews with a local newspaper. With this idea in his mind, he wishes to open more than a hundred such ‘Bring Your Own Container Stores’ all across the country. But to start with, under his guidance he is on the verge of opening fifty such shops, in the very first phase.
Bittu has been recognized by the local authorities for this one-of-a-kind initiative and has been invited as a motivational speaker at various schools and other institutions. Withstanding the humongous positive response, Bittu urges the state and central authorities to invest monetarily and intellectually within this noble venture.