It’s World Environment Week, in view of which we put Peru’s Backpack Ponchilas, an innovation to Beat Plastic Pollution in the spotlight. The ponchila is made from 80% recycled plastic for a noble cause; to keep a child in school. We celebrate Peru for taking the initiative to protect the environment via this innovative product which has benefited the environment, the poorest in society and the economy at large. This holistic innovation has turned garbage into goodies!

According to the UN environment, every minute, people around the world use one million plastic bottles, and most of them end up in water bodies and the ground posing a major threat to life. In 2016 there was a disturbing concern of plastic pollution and the alarming rates of school dropouts in Peru’s Andes highlands. This attracted the attention of Cencosud, Agua San Luis (owned by Coca-Cola) and Pacífico Seguros, who formed a partnership to find a lasting solution to the menace. This marked the birth of Peru’s famous backpack ponchila – a backpack made from recycled plastic designed with an inbuilt poncho to protect the scholars from the extreme weather conditions on their several kilometer treks to school. It all started with an innovative recycling campaign tagged “Trash is not Garbage” which has become a norm today in Peru.

Credit: UN Environment

About 13,000 ponchos have been made to date and have been distributed to children in the provinces of Puno, Cusco, Arequipa, Huancavelica, Ayacucho, and Apurímac before the beginning of every school year. Miguel Nárvaez, head of social and business responsibility at Cencosud, a supermarket chain and one of the companies that leads the campaign was quoted saying, “With this initiative, we are recovering a lot of plastic that could end up in landfills, dumps or in the oceans.” In 2018, the Ministry of Environment of Peru joined the campaign. The national government is currently promoting a bill in Congress to boost the circular economy by reducing the consumption of plastics and promoting the use of recycled materials.

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This innovation reminds me of the joy I got whenever I shot 3 mangoes from a tree with just one stone-throw on my way to school. I mean with Peru’s backpack ponchilas, a child is kept in school, the economy is growing and above all, plastic pollution is being beaten! What are you doing this World Environment Week? #BeatPlasticPollution #Rewordit.

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