Submitted by Reef Check Malaysia
On September 21st, Reef Check Malaysia, Yinson Holdings Berhad and Trash Hero Malaysia, along with other partners joined forces with thousands of people across Malaysia to participate in a nationwide clean-up effort. This was done in conjunction with the 33rd International Coastal Clean-up (ICC) Day 2019, as well as World Clean-up Day (WCD), which fell on the same day this year.
The ICC is the world’s biggest annual volunteer effort to protect the oceans. Every year, millions of people around the world gather to collect trash along beaches and record information on the types of trash they collect, which provides insights into ways to tackle the ever-growing problem of marine debris.
In previous years, Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) has conducted clean-ups and educational programs in conjunction with ICC on Tioman and Mantanani Islands, but on a much smaller scale. In 2018, RCM organized the first large scale clean-up, which attracted nearly 5,000 volunteers across all states in Malaysia. RCM’s Theresa Ng, who coordinated the event, commented: “This year, expected turn-out was even higher than last year, with clean-ups planned in all 13 states plus Labuan Federal Territory. Some locations postponed their events into October due to the haze, so we will have final figures towards the end of October. But this year, 11,900 people participated, so that’s already more than last year.” According to Faisal Abdur Rani, leader of Trash Hero Kuala Lumpur, most locations had too much trash, which made it difficult for the volunteers to gather and record data.
Staff from our social media partner for this year, Coca-Cola, were also actively involved in the beach clean-ups. “We are glad to be partnering with RCM again for this year’s ICC program. Apart from running beach clean-up events with our associates and partners nationwide, we run social media campaigns with Reef Check Malaysia to invite more Malaysians to be part of this event. Our efforts are in line with our World Without Waste vision, which is to collect and recycle a bottle or can for every one sold by 2030,” said Khairul Anwar Bin Ab. Gahani, Head of Public Affairs, Communications & Sustainability, Coca-Cola Malaysia.
These beach clean-ups are part of RCM’s long term campaign to reduce marine debris, specifically plastic waste. Ng added: “We are currently part of a multi-stakeholder group that is working to develop a Malaysian Plastics Pact (led by MESTECC) to reduce plastic waste in our landfills and environment. As part of that, we are conducting a recycling pilot project in a neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur to better understand why households are not segregating recyclables from general waste – in accordance with Act 672. We want to find mechanisms to incentivize households to segregate waste so that it can be available for recycling – rather than being dumped into landfills and then escaping into the environment.”
The clean-up was conducted at more than 100 locations around Malaysia. Almost 37,000 kg of trash were removed from beaches, with the most common items being plastic beverage bottles, food wrappers and cigarette butts. Plastic grocery bags were also listed in the top five most common items found, besides plastic bottle caps. Some organizers have not recorded the number of individual items, as some locations had a lot of trash and it was very difficult to count them. These volunteers had to shovel the trash along the beach into bags instead of picking them up one by one. They reported a net close to 200kg and more than 1500 polystyrene chips. The amount of trash collected in this location filled a 3-ton skip.
Julian Hyde, General Manager of RCM, added: “It is rewarding to see this event attracting even more people this year than last. Marine debris has widespread impacts on life in the ocean, and much of it is plastic and other trash that we discard without thinking. We would like to thank our sponsors and the thousands of volunteers who participated in the event this year; let’s make next year bigger again, raise awareness about the problem to a new level, and make sure that government takes note – and takes action.”