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Unilever and YPSA initiate a youth-lead plastic awareness campaign in Chattogram


The Bangladeshi River system is gradually losing its vitality due to several man-made factors, such as unplanned development and pollution.

Photo collage of volunteers engaging in cleaning activities

The Bangladeshi River system is gradually losing its vitality due to several man-made factors, such as unplanned development and pollution. The Karnaphuli River in the port city of Chattogram, is a significant river that is currently in grave danger. Unilever Bangladesh Limited (UBL) and YPSA (Young Power in Social Action) have teamed up in a campaign dubbed "Not throwing the Plastic in River'' to conserve the once-powerful Karnaphuli and raise awareness of plastic pollution, particularly among young people.

On Saturday, December 10, to initiate the campaign, YPSA and UBL organised a plastic cleanup and awareness-raising programme at Chattogram by involving 100 youth volunteers and UBL employees. This timely and much-needed initiative was taken to encourage volunteers for their effort to reduce plastic from the natural ecosystem and to celebrate 'International Volunteer Day 2022', which was observed in December.

In the presence of Hazi Nurul Hoque, Counselor - ward 35, Md. Arifur Rahman, Chief Executive YPSA and Md. Sanaullah Mallick, Employee Relations Lead, Unilever Bangladesh Limited, the cleanup initiative started from Karnaphuli Bridge location of the port city and volunteers engaged with local people to raise awareness on the harmful aspects of throwing polythene and other plastic in the river and environment. Despite being referred to as the "lifeline of economic operations in Bangladesh," the Karnaphuli river is the deadliest victim of unchecked pollution.

Regrettably, it has been observed that many people gather near Karnaphuli New Bridge on holidays and weekends to take in the beauty of the river and spend time. The visitors frequently discard single-use plastic goods (SUPs) into rivers, including food packaging, water bottles, chip bags, and other trash items. This impolite activity contributes significantly to river pollution and clogs the riverbed with plastic. In response, UBL and YPSA together launched the "Plastic-Free Karnaphuli River'' campaign. This initiative directly contacted several thousand city residents, volunteers, and visitors on appropriate plastic trash management and the significance of a pollution-free Karnaphuli.

Unilever Bangladesh has launched a Plastic Waste Management project in collaboration with YPSA and working in 41 wards of the port city and collected 3200 tonnes of post-consumer used plastic waste from the city.

On this occasion, Shamima Akhter, Director of Corporate Affairs, Partnership and Communications, Unilever Bangladesh said, "In Bangladesh, we are seeing a rapid increase in plastic waste. At Unilever, our global target is to collect more plastic than we produce by 2025 and strive to create a waste-free world. Since 2021 we have been working in different city corporations in Bangladesh to develop a sustainable plastic waste collection value chain.

Unilever Bangladesh and YPSA initiated plastic waste collection from 41 wards of Chattogram City Corporation from the beginning of 2022. Raising awareness of plastic waste is another important step to bringing a sustainable solution; hence we have launched the youth-led awareness programme with the help of our partner organisation, YPSA. Today 100 plus volunteers, including our employees, demonstrated their commitment to keeping our environment plastic pollution free, and we hope to take this campaign across Chattogram city in the coming year."

Md. Arifur Rahman, Chief Executive, YPSA said, "Our Chattogram city has lost its beauty due to various pollution including the dumping of plastic waste everywhere. The major lifeline of Chattogram, the Karnaphuli riverbed, is being filled with plastic, endangering our ecology as a whole and contaminating water. Additionally, waterlogging is being worsened by plastic waste in Chattogram City. I thus ask all volunteer friends and organisations in attendance to do our civic responsibility by being aware of the plastic catastrophe and spreading the awareness to others. We shall be able to rid Chattogram city and Karnaphuli river of plastic with everyone's help.”

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