Shashank puts the pedal to the metal

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Shashank Bhosale has so far cycled for around 1000 kilometres across the state picking up littered masks. He shares more with  NT BUZZ

CHRISTINE MACHADO NT BUZZ

When the pandemic forced Mumbai-based Shashank Bhosale to return home to Goa last year, the avid cyclist and environment enthusiast decided to continue his fitness activities here. He joined cycling groups on trips around the state and took part in virtual cycling events.

He cycled through the dense forests, the Western Ghats, beaches and across rivers to different islands of Goa.

“However, wherever I went, I saw used disposable masks thrown everywhere – near water bodies, at the beach side, on the main roads,” says Bhosale.

Troubled by this, Bhosale began clicking pictures of these used masks and sharing them on social media with the aim of educating people about the ill effects of disposing these one-time use surgical masks in this manner, while urging them to shift to reusable, cloth masks which were better for the environment.

He also began picking these up with a stick and putting them in the nearest bin. “But then I noticed that animals would dig into these bins and the masks would end up on the ground again,” he says.

In January, Bhosale began going on solo cycling rides and at the same time began picking up used masks lying around and placing these in a bag he carried with him. These, he then sterilised in the sun and handed over to the unit handling biomedical waste at St Inez. “I avoided using synthetic gloves because each time I got back on the cycle I would then have to discard these. And gloves would only add to the problem when it came to discarding. The easiest way was to just pick these used masks up with a stick,” he says, adding that a lot of people aren’t aware of what happens to these surgical masks once they dispose of them.

“These single-use masks are made of polypropylene, a type of plastic and can take more than 500 years to break down, turning into microplastics. These then end up in the ocean and marine life is then affected, and with time human food. If not you, then the future generations will definitely be impacted by this,” he says.

Of course, in the process of cleaning up this litter, Bhosale was met with varied reactions. “I was near Old Goa when a man who noticed me picking these up asked me why I was taking the risk and to let the cleaners handle it instead. I told him that I will do my part,” says Bhosale. On another occasion, a man stopped his bike and observed Bhosale at work for a long time without saying anything.

And to create more awareness about this, Bhosale, who has so far cycled for around 1000 kilometres across the state, recently made a one-minute video documenting himself in the process of picking up these masks. “I was taking part in this Firefox Firestorm 2021 event and so I decided to start an environment cum fitness trend in this way,” he says, adding that he has also sent this video to the organisers so that they can share it with others who can start similar initiatives in other cities as well.