October 31, 2018

Reef Check Malaysia Participates in Nationwide Coastal Clean-up

A beach clean-up in progress in Pulau Kalapuan; Photo credit – TRACC

Submitted by Reef Check Malaysia

On September 22nd, Reef Check Malaysia joined numerous partners across Malaysia to participate in the 32nd International Coastal Clean-up Day 2018. Nearly 4,000 volunteers joined the effort, which covered all of Malaysia’s states. A star studded cast included Tengku Zatashah from Selangor, YB Yeo Bee Yin of the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change, H.E. Victoria Treadell, British High Commissioner, and many celebrities.

International Coastal Clean-up Day 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 types of trash, which gives insight into ways to tackle the ever growing problem of marine debris.

In previous years, Reef Check Malaysia conducted clean-ups in conjunction with International Coastal Clean-up on Tioman and Mantanani Islands, but on a much smaller scale than this year. In conjunction with the 3rd International Year of the Reef 2018, Reef Check Malaysia planned for a clean- up on a much wider scale. Reef Check Malaysia’s Theresa Ng, who coordinated the event, commented: “The Body Shop is the custodian for International Coastal Clean-up in Malaysia, and we approached them to offer our help to arrange a national-scale event to coincide with the International Year of the Reef and to gather data for our campaign to reduce marine debris. Teams were self-organizing and we provided briefing materials on how to conduct clean-ups and collect data. The effort has been tremendous, and we would like to thank the thousands of people who have taken part.”

Baki Zainal, who organized a series of events on Tioman island, including both beach and underwater clean-ups said: “It was good to see that there are many who are eco-conscious and understand the importance of such clean-ups. We have got to keep this up so that one day more and more people will realize what damage these plastic materials are doing to our waters.”

Tengku Zatashah leading one of the clean-ups in Selangor; Photo credit – Tengku Zatashah

Meanwhile, Tengku Zatashah, who led a clean-up effort in Selangor, pointed to the need to change attitudes and habits. “I’m thrilled by the massive turnout of volunteers coming to Selangor Beach Cleanup and elsewhere in the country for International Coastal Clean-up. The amount of trash and plastic pollution we picked up is mind-boggling. But the point of a clean-up is not the act itself but the awareness that we are creating and causing this pollution clogging up our oceans and killing our marine wildlife. It’s our daily habits that need to change. We can’t blame others but we must look to ourselves. We must #sayno2plastic, #stopsingleuseplastic and #reducewaste #reusereducerecycle. I hope that after this huge beach clean-up in Selangor, the hundreds of volunteers will go back and spread the word to their community that we must do more to change our daily lifestyle. Thank you to everyone who came to support. This is just the start.”

These beach clean-ups are part of Reef Check Malaysia’s long-term campaign to reduce marine debris, specifically plastic waste. Reef Check Malaysia has teamed up with Coca-Cola and other industry players to try to find real, lasting solutions. Julian Hyde, General Manager of Reef Check Malaysia, provided the context. “Marine debris is one of those things where everyone knows there’s a problem, but no-one really knows what to do about it. So we approached some of the big players in industry and Coca-Cola responded positively. Now here we are, 12 months later, working with a wide group of stakeholders including the brands, waste management companies, recyclers and government – all working hard to find out just where the problems lie, and find real, lasting solutions – so that hopefully in the future we won’t have to do any more beach clean-ups. That’s our goal: no more beach clean-ups in 10 years.”

The clean-up was conducted at 84 locations around Malaysia. Nearly 7,500 kg (16,534 lbs) of trash was removed from beaches. The most common items collected were plastic bottles, cigarette butts and plastic bags. Hyde added: “Plastic has all sorts of harmful effects on the marine environment, from smothering corals to killing sea turtles. We are the cause; we all need to take responsibility.”

Some of the participants in Desaru; Photo credit – Coca-Cola The group that came together in Tanjung Piai Klang; Photo credit – Trash Hero