Beach Clean Up: What It’s Really Like

April Green shares her experience of a beach clean up in Bali with us.

A person can achieve very little in 60 seconds.

For example, you cannot take a shower in 60 seconds, nor make your morning coffee. In 60 seconds, you cannot brush your teeth, nor de-ice the windscreen of your car.

But look at this time on a wider scale and it is incredible how much is happening around us every minute of every day.

In the next 60 seconds, 1 million plastic bottles will be produced. Each of which will take 450 years to decompose.

Equally, 1 million plastic bags will be used. Each bag on average, will have a lifespan of 15 minutes but will take up to 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill.

In the next 60 seconds, the equivalent of a truckload of plastic will be dumped into our oceans and 190 marine animals will die from contact with plastic waste.

Indonesia is the second biggest contributor to ocean plastic worldwide. So, whilst enjoying a bit of sun on the beautiful island of Bali, I decided to prise myself from my beach towel and dedicate 1 hour of my day to help remove rubbish from our oceans and take part in a beach clean up. The reactions I received from bystanders would surprise me.

A team effort

I gathered alongside my husband and at least 30 strangers at the popular ‘Old Man’s Bar’ in the coastal village of Canggu. As the organisers of the beach clean-up, Ocean Mimic, handed out litter pickers, sacks and gloves I was already dripping with sweat from the humidity that comes with Bali’s wet season.

It had only been days earlier that I had witnessed a local woman throwing a plastic wrapper out of a boat window into the ocean. My jaw dropped and I was furious. You may be thinking, why should I have bothered giving my time to clean an island which was not my own and for people that seemed to have such little regard for the environment?

It was only when I decided to open my laptop and do a little research that I found some very surprising facts. A staggering 50 per cent of Indonesians do not have access to waste collection, so they are left with two options. To burn their rubbish, or to throw it into the rivers where it will eventually ends up in the ocean.

Like in many countries, local people have been denied the education to understand the full consequences of rubbish pollution. Even if such education had been accessible, there are few facilities in place which give locals the choice to recycle.

Educational impact

This is where charities like Ocean Mimic come into play, who not only help to collect beach waste, but also educate Indonesian children on the importance of recycling and looking after our oceans. By educating the younger generations, there is hope that access to better recycling facilities will develop in the future.

Our hour began and the group spread out on Batu Bolong Beach to search for non-biodegradable rubbish. The sun beat down fiercely on our backs and as I leaned forward to poke at the sand with my litter picker, sweat pooled into my eyes.

Engrossed in our task, I began to creep around deckchairs, possibly a little too close to tourists working on their suntans. Suddenly an Australian man sat up, turned to me and said: “That’s really nice what you are doing”. I grinned, thanked him and walked away with a spring in my step whilst I continued to scour the sand for more rubbish.

Appreciation

A little later and along with other plastic wrappers and glass bottles, we had picked over 400 cigarette butts. We spotted a group of local men sat smoking at a table and began to work around them.

Once again, we were surprised by the gratitude received when one of the local men turned to my husband and said “Thank you for looking after Bali” before putting his cigarette butts into our bin sack. Another local even offered us a drink while we worked!

A little later when we had moved away to a new spot, we were so humbled when the men continued one by one to walk over to us with their cigarette butts and litter, placing them into our bin sack. Clearly, they were some of the 50 per cent that had no access to rubbish collection, but they wanted to help.

When our hour was up, we returned to our starting point. We handed over the filled sack and were treated to a cold local beer to cool down, courtesy of the Old Man’s Bar.

It surprised me that offering just one hour of my time filled me with so much pride and had given me a fresh understanding of the issues of waste pollution.

Talking to the experts

I decided to speak with Emma Sparrow, CEO and founder of Ocean Mimic. I wanted to find out more about what we can do as tourists to reduce our impact on the planet and this is what she had to say:

“A tourist in Bali produces 3.5 times as much waste as a local person and we have very little control of where that waste goes. We have a responsibility, but it can be so hard to know what to do to help.

Taking part in clean-ups or volunteering your time to a local organisation like Ocean Mimic is a great way to give back to the community.

Beyond that and even more importantly is to cut down on the plastic and waste you produce. Travel with a reusable bottle, bag, cutlery set, bar of soap, plastic free cosmetics. There are so many innovative products out there now to cut down on your waste. Every little change makes a difference.

There are also amazing initiatives like Nomads Giving Back, Travel Gives and Impact Nomads which provide travellers with ways they can help local communities while enjoying their culture and natural beauty.”

Can’t make a beach clean up? Use these eco-friendly travel essentials:

  • Cosmetics: Visit Lush. A zero packaging, 100 per cent vegetarian cosmetics company. Not only are their products eco-friendly, they also smell delicious!
  • Ditch the plastic bottles – Invest in a SteriPEN water purifier. Perfectly compact for travelling, their UV light will purify tap water anywhere in the world. SteriPEN’s are not cheap, they are an investment and in the long run it will save you money and more importantly, 1000’s of plastic bottles.
  • Reef safe sun cream – When you swim, your sun cream washes away, transferring the chemicals into the ocean. The chemicals are harmful to coral reefs and eventually kill them, along with the wildlife living there. Try a Reef Safe Sunscreen. Green People provide affordable eco-friendly sun cream.
  • Travel cutlery set – The in UK, it’s is extremely rare to see a plastic straw and cutlery, but sadly in many countries it is still quite the norm. Check out Amazon for a huge range of compact, travel cutlery sets.

For more from April, visit her YouTube here.