After spending two months on the beach and actively participating in beach cleanups, it is difficult not to get disheartened by the amount of plastic out there. We find ourselves surrounded by friends, family and colleagues, who all do their part, whether it is avoiding single use plastics, participating in local cleanup efforts, or something more. Yet our efforts, sometimes may feel like a drop in a bucket.
So why do we keep doing what we do? And why will we continue to do so?
In 2016, Eunomia estimated that out of the annual 12.2 million tonnes of plastic waste dumped into oceans, only 1% remains floating on the surface and 5% ends up on our beaches. The remaining 94% sinks to the ocean floor, where it will remain. Science magazine estimates up to 1.9 million fibers and fragments PER SQUARE METER of ocean bed!
Many will argue that cleaning up plastic pollution, without first reducing the amount of plastic we produce, is like mopping up a floor without first turning off the faucet. And the reality of the situation is that beach cleanups only remove a fraction of the plastic pollution out there.
The main reason we got into beach cleanups was for awareness and educational purposes, mostly for the sake of our kids. Seeing first hand what items are polluting our beaches and oceans allows us to reflect upon our own habits. What better way to demonstrate to our kids the amount of trash that gets discarded, than by actually showing them what is out there, with the hope that this might instill more responsible habits.
What we were not expecting was the camaraderie that a beach cleanup brings, when a group of people come together with a shared interest of protecting the environment. We have seen this firsthand, when other beach goers spontaneously join in to help out!
Phuket Beach Cleanup is another great example of how a good deed can mobilize a growing group.
Starting as a handful of people getting together on weekends here in Phuket to tackle a certain problem area at a time, we have seen this group rapidly grow; in number of volunteers to the amount of following they have amassed. From one beach cleanup a week, they now organize several cleanups weekly, and have expanded their efforts throughout the island.
Take this formula, and apply it today's impressionable children, our Little Ocean Heroes, and the next generation's decision makers. Not only will they be aware of the issues that we are currently facing, but they will be the ones to scale it up to a degree that we are not able to.
So get out there, bring your kids, family and friends, spread some awareness and have a great time on the beach!