Environmental issues aren’t new; we have been aware of the devastating damage that marine litter has on our oceans and marine life for quite some time. 80% of marine litter originates from land, whether it has been swept out from the coastline, the streets or sewers, or simply dumped there. The time that litter takes to degrade is staggering; 600 years for a fishing line, 500 years for a plastic bag, 200 years for an aluminum can. Plastic is carried all around the globe through the ocean’s currents, and litter originating from other countries (especially ghost nets) get washed through the Maldives, into our oceans and on to our beaches. This is incredibly dangerous for our marine wildlife. A recent study by The Marine Conservation Society found that more than 280 marine species have been found with microplastics in their stomachs, including all species of sea turtles.
But this month, the world came together took action. Saturday 16th September was International Coastal Clean Up day. All across the world, millions of people came together and made a collected stand to protect our oceans. However, the Maldives wasn’t satisfied with just one day, and a national coastal clean up WEEK was organized instead! From Saturday 16th September to Saturday 23rd September, thousands of people all across the Maldives volunteered their time each morning to clean up their islands. This was a monumental task! Not only does the Maldives have a significant waste management problem as it is; we are also a group of over 1000 small islands, and so we are pretty much nothing but coast!
On our island of Naifaru the costal clean up events were organized by the Naifaru Council in association with Naifaru Juvenile, and support from Atoll Volunteers and the community. The community of Naifaru were incredible! Every morning the community gathered at 6am and spent three hours gathering all the waste and litter from our beaches. Using recycled cement bags to collect the litter, it was then taken to the island’s waste management plant to be sorted and disposed of sustainably. The sheer amount of litter we collected was staggering and included all kinds of items including; straws, toothbrushes, clothes, plastic bottles, nappies, tin cans, fishing line, broken bikes, computers, cutlery, batteries, shampoo bottles, metal pipes, ceramic tiles, the list goes on and on.
We had such an amazing and heartwarming experience being a part of a community wide effort to improve our island and raise awareness at the same time. The amount of rubbish we collected was staggering, so a huge thankyou and congratulations to all involved!
As well as action, Atoll Volunteers is passionate about community education. During our weekly nature club with the local school children we turned our focus to waste management. The children learnt about how long different items they use on a daily basis take to degrade, the threats to marine life, and actions they can take in their own lives to reduce, reuse and recycle!
There are some truly inspiring projects happening all across the world to help tackle this issue and raise awareness, including art installations, banning of single use plastics, and the 2 minute beach clean movement. It’s a humongous problem, Atoll Volunteers will be organizing a monthly beach clean up with our volunteers. To get involved and make a real difference to our island community, join one of our volunteering programmes today.