“Only 9% of the plastic gets recycled”

3 min readAug 4, 2020


Divya with Al Gore, on a panel discussion about climate change

“Our origin is of the earth,” wrote nature writer Rachel Carson and what befalls our earth befalls us. Doing her bit and more, to save the earth is Divya Nawale, who made a switch from being a Mechanical Engineer to an environmentalist when she was 22. Divya gives us a sneak peek into being a climate protector

You are an eco-warrior. What makes you one?

I love nature. I love the environment. I am aware that everything I do has an impact on nature. So, I have consciously made an effort to move away from undertaking activities that cause harm to the environment. I am very vocal about environmental rights, animal rights, and similar topics. I make sure to combine my actions and words to help guide people in this direction.

You say you combine your actions with words. So what are the actions you undertake in your daily life to conserve the environment?

Multiple things. Like when I visit a restaurant, I carry my tupperware box to pack the leftovers. I carry a bamboo straw everywhere I go. I carry a spare one for any companion I could have. I try to use stuff that is not one-time use and can be repurposed. When I purchase, I follow the Refuse-Reuse-Recycle math. Every few months, I conduct a plastic audit in my house to reduce plastic usage.

I use a wooden hair brush. I also use bars instead of bottles like in the case of soap bars and conditioner bars. When I buy stuff, I avoid purchasing smaller quantities in tiny containers. Tiny containers, say anything, smaller than the size of the palm, is hard to recycle. Say a toothbrush doesn’t get recycled because it is hard to sort such tiny stuff. The global sorting and recycling mechanism is not efficient. Therefore, only 9 percent of the plastic gets recycled.

You just mentioned “a toothbrush doesn’t get recycled”. But it is a necessity. So, is there an alternative?

Yes. Bamboo toothbrush.

How do you stay updated about what the environment needs and what is being done to it?

That’s my life. I am constantly researching it. Reading up about it. I work with Asian Development Bank where my job is to focus on energy efficiency policy and rural electrification using solar power. Energy efficiency is the key to climate conservation. Basically, I live climate conservation all day through.

Is it expensive to be an eco-conscious human?

It’s a two way street. In some cases, the cost goes down. In other cases, the cost may go up because the economics has not shifted yet. We, as consumers, have the power to shift the economics. If one buys a bamboo toothbrush now, it could be more expensive than the regular toothbrush. But if we all ask for bamboo toothbrushes, the manufacturing and cost will shift to accommodate the demand at a lower price. Also, the whole idea of sustainable development is that we use our resources such that there is nothing deficient for our future generation.

But how easy is it to use alternative measures?

It depends. It is human nature to resist change. Initially one may find it difficult to move towards using alternative products and measures. However, after a point of time, it becomes a habit. If you take up the initiative of carrying a Tupperware box to the restaurant, in the beginning you may forget to carry the box or find the process too much effort; however, with time your system gets used to the change.

What really got you interested in being an environmentalist?

Back in 2008, I watched the movie Inconvenient Truth. I had just graduated from college and watching the movie shook my life. I suddenly became aware that we, as people, took the climate for granted. That was the turning point in my life.

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