Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Random thoughts on beach cleanup

Every month, we help to run a Community Beach Cleanup. I say "help" because although our NGO Robertsport Community Works organizes it, we're opening up leadership of the Saturday event to the wider community: local surfers, expatriate surfers, weekend beachgoers -- pretty much anyone who wants to volunteer.

Only here's the thing. After 30+ members of the community come together under the hot sun and walk down the beach picking up plastic with each other, here's what actually happens. We pile the rice bags, bulging with marine debris and local plastic waste, into the bag of the Nana's Lodge pick-up truck and it drives away.

Here's the thing. We take it to the local dump and...we dump it. We're picking up trash in one place and putting it someplace else. True, it's better in a dump than washing around the ocean, suffocating sea turtles who think plastic bags are jellyfish and clogging up fish gills. And to our credit, we separate the plastic marine debris from the other garbage.

It's that separation that, in a few months, just might pay off. I heard the World Bank is starting to fund a plastic recycling program. I'm not sure of the details, but it sounds like Chinese companies might be buying plastic waste to recycle. Our plastic would be almost perfect: sorted, clean and dry.

A big thank you to Nana's, who also pay for the meal our volunteers then enjoy -- usually a spicy mix of cassava leaf and dried fish served with rice in giant pots. Really, they're as wide as my sink -- I'll photograph the women cooking sometime.

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