A Plastic Ocean

two manta rays and a trash bag floating in front of them

Teaching Freediving, I am in the ocean nearly every day and experience first hand the huge amounts of trash that float by. Especially in rainy season there is so much trash that when coming up from a dive you have to navigate through several meters of plastic floating around. Even though I see it very often, every time it is still a very shocking experience. Even more when I have been guiding day trips to Manta Point where at times there has been far more plastic around than manta rays and it has been impossible for them to avoid the trash. And these are only the bigger pieces that are still visible to the eye. I can not estimate the amount of micro plastics plankton feeders must ingest.

Therefore it is crucial that we reduce the amount of plastic that we consume. For the plastic that we still use we need to make sure it will be disposed and recycled properly. Unfortunately this is not the reality in most developing countries, including Indonesia where I lived for one and a half years, which still is lacking a proper waste management system.

To make a tiny difference I have been regularly organizing and leading beach clean-ups for Trash Hero Nusa Penida during my time on Nusa Penida. Trash Hero is a community of volunteers that take actions for the environment through organizing beach clean-ups. Kirill, the owner of Freedive Nusa, started the local chapter on Nusa Penida and since the end of 2017 has been organizing weekly clean-ups.

It is very motivating to see the enthusiasm of local children who are helping with the clean-ups. Also local restaurants and other dive centers helping together with their guests. The idea is to free the beach and streets from trash before it can enter the sea.

But during the one and a half years I have been on Nusa Penida I also have to admit that at times it is really hard to stay motivated as the problem with plastic trash is becoming bigger and bigger. So far Penida is lacking an efficient and enforced trash management system and efforts to establish an island wide systems hopefully will start soon. Besides that an educational program will be needed to convince the local people to properly dispose of their trash and not throw it away or burn it along the streets or the sea.

So I am very happy to see that initiatives on Nusa Penida start to happen. First there is Ministry of Waste, which is working with the local government and community to start an island wide trash collection and processing facility for further recycling, so that trash does not end in the environment or the trash dump anymore. Secondly there is Save the Plastic an initiative that is focusing on clean-ups while collecting data about amount of trash on beach but also collecting samples and estimating the amount of micro plastics in the ocean. Both initiatives are lead by two very encouraging women, who are dedicated to make a difference in the local community and leading by a very positive example. Furthermore there is Nomads Diving on Nusa Penida, who facilitate a lot of conservation projects.

I will take with me the idea of organizing and leading beach clean-ups in Zanzibar and wherever I go and hope to start making a little difference in other regions too. Thankfully the awareness about the pollution of landscapes and the ocean with plastic is growing. I will continue to be an ambassador for the environment we live in.

If everyone reduces the amount of plastics we use every day, and makes sure the ones we consume are properly disposed and recycled, we all can make a positive influence day by day.

Let’s keep our oceans clean,