On 3rd March 2018, over 500 people from 20 organisations in 15 locations around Malaysia participated in beach clean-ups to collect data on the scale of the marine debris problem facing Malaysia. Clean-ups were led by Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) and participants included dive operators, resorts, community members, school kids, NGOs, government agencies, the private sector and tourists.
Analysis of the data collected reveals that nearly 2,700kg of trash was cleared from 15km of coastline, filling nearly 400 trash bags. Plastic bottles (nearly 14,000) and other plastic items (6,200 plastic bags and 1,700 straws) accounted for a significant proportion of the trash collected, providing further evidence that urgent action is needed to address plastic pollution in our seas.
These clean-ups are the first in a series of activities celebrating the International Year of the Reef 2018 (IYOR 2018), and will hopefully raise awareness of the problem of marine debris, and plastics in particular. Further events are being prepared for World Oceans Day (8th June) and Coral Triangle Day (9th June), and in September RCM hopes to organise a nationwide clean-up event, with partners and participants around Malaysia.
The next step is to encourage all stakeholders to get together and start looking for solutions. RCM plans to meet with the relevant government departments, including the National Solid Waste Management Department. We are also talking with big food and drink companies – Coca Cola and F&N, as well as the industry body Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association. We need to find technologies to deal with the plastic and economic incentives to make it more likely that people will recycle.