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Polina Kosobokova - mother and leader of eco-movement Nevalyashka sharing

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

“I try to convey the idea that children often have more toys than they need. Toys get in the way. They have a finished form, so no imagination is needed. The development of the child progresses better if the whole room is not littered with toys. Toy manufacturers claim otherwise."

Tell us a little about your background?

Polina: It was hard for me to imagine that I would work in the field of environmental education, without special education. I have a basic education in economics and I worked in the field of property valuation. Then, there was a break because of birth and upbringing of children. This led me to the idea that I needed to change the direction of my career so that there would be more meaning and satisfaction in the work. With that attitude, I switched over to activism. I already had some circular practices, I developed them and gradually added something new. It can be said that I gained experience gradually and did not immediately jump into a new profession.

How did it all start?

Polina: It all started with a separate collection (for convenience, abbreviated SC), in 2015-2016. I saw information somewhere on social networks and suggested to my husband that we try SC in our home. He supported me. At first I did everything wrong. I decided that I would hand over everything at once, all the plastic needs to be saved from the trash! There was a lack of understanding that not everything is in demand by the processor, for example, the film from sausages and cheese. There are people who get to the point where they did everything according to the instructions and they quit, but I didn’t quit. We collected large amounts, and when the collection campaign was held, we handed those in, we didn’t go far on purpose. It is another good environmental habit - not to waste gasoline, even for such a noble goal as SC.

What was your motivation?

Polina: My main motivation comes from having children. Somehow you begin to think whether the world will be pleasant for them to live.

And now I understand that the problem of garbage will not be solved, they will still have to deal with it, but while they are very small, you just feel more responsible and want to do something to make it easier for them to survive. This is such a strong motive, and I see in many other women that it is after the birth of children that you begin to be more conscious about consumption. This, of course, is not a universal story, it does not cover everyone in the maternity ward, someone shows care through other things.

Have you tried to disseminate information, to form a community around you?

Polina: Humans are social beings in general and it is difficult to be without a community. On the one hand, you want to communicate with people who understand and support you, even though this does not mean that all my friends and acquaintances are “green”.

There is also a reverse “bubble effect”, and in my case it's a “green” bubble. Within the community, it starts to seem that everyone knows what a separate collection is, a recycle map, that this is basic information, but this is not so, people really may not know, they just focus on other things. Therefore, it is necessary to develop readiness, a calm attitude, that others may not know this and may not be aware of this, and it is normal.

How did your personal transition from home SC to community building happen?

Polina: This happened thanks to my participation in the project of the youth accelerator of the design academy. I thought that I have SC at home, I have children, they have plastic toys and they break periodically. Plastic is such a valuable material and I'm already looking at it as a resource. I came up with such a project “Nevalyashka”, plastic that does not roll underfoot.

The purpose of plastic recycling is that homogeneous raw materials are collected and equipment is purchased for it, and the appropriate settings are set. And there are so many impurities in toys to achieve a certain texture, flexibility, and so on. And the toy, unlike a plastic bottle, is much less standardized, respectively, there can be a mixture of plastic and any kind of parts, metal, fabric, electronic elements, etc. Thus, there is no recycling icon directly on the toy.

During the project, we tested every step of the recycling cycle and made a business plan. Then I called a lot of recyclers and they all answered, girl, if you don’t have a truckload of the same broken toys, then no one needs them individually. It turned out by chance that one processor lives in the house next to me, and as a result we met on the street and he told how to color, smell, to break one type of plastic from another. I brought him samples and he said that, as an exception, he was ready to buy 100 kg of polystyrene and 100 kg of polypropylene toys. Because the usual batches are from 500 kg, for 14 rubles per kilogram.

The next step was that I tried to take apart all the toys that just lay in my house. How many hours it took me, I don't know. My husband came at night, asked if you could bring a hammer or a screwdriver? This invaluable experience showed me how difficult it is with the raw material.

When calculating the business plan, I also realized that this is a low-income area that requires a large turnover of raw materials. And again, I'm not talking about risks, such as oil has fallen in price and it has become unprofitable to buy recycled plastic, because primary is cheaper. So I didn't go for it. As a result, I redesigned the project, it is called Nevalyashka Sharing. Then I met Roman Sablin and through him I entered the community of environmentalists. Therefore, I got a symbiosis with sharing.

Tell us more about the idea that project?

Polina: The project is basically about sharing and giving a second life. When I announced the collection of toys, they often brought me new toys, with tags, and here the question is more about hyperconsumption. There is a lot of psychology here. I try to convey the idea that even if you are an eco-friendly parent, children still have more toys than they need. There is an idea that toys, in a sense, interfere with development; they have a finished form and do not contribute to the development of imagination. This means that the development of the child is better than when the whole room is not littered with toys, despite the fact that toy manufacturers claim the opposite.

Here just reduce, reuse, recycle. At the first stage: do I really need a toy, the second stage: do I really need a new toy or can I take one from a neighbor or friend. Thridly; can I fix what is broken? It is better to make the maximum reduction in purchases than to decide what to do with the toy and where to recycle it.


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