That was, at some point along the ZEP, what I was known as. And rightfully so, as my three personal projects which culminated into one big project, centred around trash, and reducing the creation of it.
Minimalising waste is the first step and probably the best step towards better solid waste management. And if you really have to create that trash, the next considerations would be to segregate and manage your trash: Biodegradable/ compostable; recyclable; non-recyclable – which goes into landfills here.
After the research and case study done in Puerto Galera (PG) on the ban of plastic bags and also what I have observed in terms of the communities’ diligence and commitment the segregation and recycling, they do seem to be on the right track. In Moalboal (MB), segregation is pretty much for biodegradables and non biodegradables. Recycling is not so common place. However the town has put in some previous effort in starting a ‘Say no to Plastic” campaign (evident in some old street signs we see around) and from what we have heard from the Local Government Unit (LGU) they are reviving this effort and even started hearings to implement it as a regulated Ordinance. This brings me back to my first personal project in PG… the MB LGU asked for the Ordinance document and also was interested to read my report and find out what PG did for their “brown revolution” to be so successful. Hooorayyyy!
I pretty much spent the rest of three weeks in MB walking around speaking with local shops and minimarts spreading the message of trash management, marine debris and encouraging them to remind their customers to not take a plastic bag if they did not have to – sharing from educational information as well as Green Fins’ ‘Say no to Plastic’ posters. I brought along some ecobags from PG and passed it on to them as well, hoping that by sharing the convenience and wonders of the ecobags, they too become advocates and share the message.
Dive centres were also my target. With divers making up quite a large community here. We shared the posters with dive centres and also engaged them to put them up to remind their divers when they go shopping.
* The oceans make up 70% of our planet… think about that. That makes us land creatures a minority doesn’t it? The sea hence plays a larger role that you can imagine in terms of regulating the environment, our weather and providing our source of protein (in Philippines, 70% of the population gets their protein from fish).
* 80% of marine debris, AKA trash in the sea, comes from land… which yes, makes sense. And naturally, since we eat seafood, what goes into the ocean, will come back to us eventually.
* Did you know that plastics, even the bio-degradable ones, do not ever break down. They just remain as micro plastics in our environment. The scary part is that they are magnets to harmful chemicals which threaten human lives, such as Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs), commonly found in pesticides and industrial by-products. These chemicals get released into the ocean, leaches onto plastics/ micro plastics and get transported around the world in the sea. Marine life eat it, dies or gets choked. When we eventually end up eating the others fishes that are not dead, we end up absorbing the EDCs. I think I don’t need to go into detail on what happens next.
* If we continue discharging more trash and chemicals into the ocean, we are threatening living things underwater (more than 230,000 species) that take up more of Earth than we do!
… so think twice before you create trash/ plastic trash – use ecobags, buy refillable items, use reusable containers, buy items with minimal packing. If you can’t help it, think about your options with regards to recycling. If not, please dispose of your trash responsibly for a trash-free ocean!
My final big bang was the beach and reef clean up. Coming in cold to a new environment, I had to do a quick study of where a clean up would be impactful. White Beach turned out pretty clean despite all the comments how it’s littered with consumer trash after each week end. But after numerous visits to our friendly member dive centres, the conclusion is… let’s do it closer to the ‘homes’ of our Green Fins’ members – the stretch of Panagsama beach and reef! I really must thank our members for sharing their local knowledge and suggestions. The idea of getting each dive centre to clean their respective beach and house reef area was also a result from speaking with Rudy of Seaquest and also a Green Fins Ambassador. Rather than combined effort in just one area, the effort was spread to cover most of the Panagsama stretch and really helped increased the impact of the clean up.
After the planning for the event was completed, another round of visits and engagement started, with the help of trusty and reliable Gerlinde, Tiffany and Duncan, who explained the event to dive centres, what to do and some even convinced the not-so-sure ones to be a part of the clean up. I even had a chance to carry out one of my favourite past times – shopping – in town for equipment, first aid and snacks for clean up.
Event day was planned for the first Saturday of 2014. I thought it was a great date as I too want to go into the New Year achieving something BIG and doing something meaningful. All went pretty smoothly. How could it not with the dedicated support of the entire ZEP Batch 7 on ground? =) We had 10 participating dive centres, one of which was not located at Panagsama but wanted to also clean their house reef as well. A total of 155kg of trash was collected, of which 60kg was driftwood and other natural items. The rest were largely fishing line and hooks, rubber, plastics (bottles and bags) and consumer by-products (sweets/ chip wrappers, foil packs etc).
I am a believer of how every bit counts and recounting the locals, dive centres and businesses I’ve interacted and shared the message with, I feel that I have played a part and I hope they continue to carry the message forward.
The programme concludes in just a day. It is really hard to say good bye to Batch 7, as well as Sam, JJ and Chloe. You guys have all been great and after all we have been through together, I feel the bond. Thank you for being a part of this very unique part of my life – my first volunteer experience, my first extended stay away from home and the first time I’m actually doing something real for two things that I feel are important – the ocean and conservation.