AWARE week & World Cleanup Day

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AWARE week & World Cleanup Day


This month Master Divers celebrated AWARE week, a global movement started by a partnership between Project AWARE & PADI to encourage more divers to take action. Throughout the week of 14th-22nd of September thousands of dedicated ocean lovers took part in beach cleans & clean up dives across the globe, all committed to help and preserve our environment. Koh Tao was certainly no exception!


World Cleanup Day 2019 on Koh Tao

During this week, on World Cleanup Day (21st of September), we teamed up with multiple schools in the area, French Kiss Divers (who kindly hosted the event), La Bombona Diving, Golden Divers and Scuba Birds. Together we tackled a 100 meter stretch of Mae Haad, including the beach and back street. On the beach we found the usual suspects, water bottles, plastic wrappers, rice bags, old fishing line and nets. A very common item used to be plastic straws, but the islands initiative to slowly phase out single use plastic appears to be making some progress.

beach-cleanup-briefing

However, the biggest culprit now found is cigarette butts! There appears to be a massive misconception that cigarettes are biodegradable and do not need to be properly disposed. But cigarette filters are made from a form of plastic fibres called cellulose acetate, within a single filter there can be up to 12,000 fibres which slowly breakdown into micro-plastics. Please, encourage anyone you see throwing a cigarette on the ground to dispose of it properly!

Back on the road our volunteers were finding everything from polystyrene cooler boxes to discarded brooms. Plastic bags and wrappers from a multitude of brands were also found stuffed into tiny corners, obviously long forgotten by who ever dropped them. Even some old rotten furniture was cleared away! One by one volunteers had to keep coming back to the dive shop to drop off full bags and collect new empty ones, as more and more trash was discovered. The majority of the trash collected that entire day was found on the side of the road and would easily have washed into the ocean during the next rain storm. This just goes to show that land clean ups are just as important as beach clean ups, as everything will eventually find its way to the ocean.

beach-cleanup-koh-tao

After only an hour of searching the beaches and streets, all of the rubbish was weighed and placed into rubbish bags. The grand total was a staggering 101kg. All of this came from just a single stretch of road and beach around 100 meters long. There is no telling how long all of that waste would take to degrade on its on, with at least 90% of it destined to pollute the ocean. Unfortunately due to the state of the plastic items we found, very few items could actually be recycled. This is an example of how important it is that we start reducing plastic consumption as much as we can. For now, its inspiring to see so many people get involved to help clean up our little island and make it a better place for both us and the local wildlife.

group-of-people-on-a-beachclean

But the day is not over yet, there was still a clean up dive to look forward. After a lunch break volunteers were ready to leave Mae Head Pier and head towards the dive site Twins for a dive against debris. After a briefing on safety procedures, armed with gloves and collection bags teams jumped in and split up to cover as much of the site as possible. Teams based around the pinnacles found smaller items such as hair bands, entangled fishing line and coffee sachets. One group fortunately ventured north of the site and returned with three full bags of ghost gear.

Ghost gear is defined as any fishing gear that has been abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded. This is just as harmful if not more then actively used gear as it can still catch marine life and smother coral. Of course, every dive should be treated as a clean up dive. If you ever see any debris in the water and its safe for you to remove it, please do so.

We can all be part of the solution. Lead the way for your student divers or friends and family to become ocean activists. Provide them with the tools and knowledge they need to protect our ocean planet on every dive or at home. Our collective actions add up to big results and take us one step closer to a clean ocean.

Danna Moore, Project AWARE Global Operations Director

world-cleanup-day-group-picture

A massive thank you to everyone who took the time to take part in the clean up and help protect our oceans! Each individual action helps contribute to the global impact, and we must not be disheartened thinking one person can not make a difference. When we band together, great things truly happen and we should be proud of what we can achieve.

Photo credits: Billy Cloud (WTC Productions)

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