2019 International Coastal Clean-up Malaysia Hailed a Great Success
This year's collaboration between Reef Check Malaysia and Trash Hero Malaysia on International Coastal Clean-up Day (ICC) Day has been hailed as a great success, with an even larger turnout than 2018.
Falling on 21 September, the same day as World Clean-up Day (WCD), some 11,900 people participated in tackling the ever-growing problem of marine debris, almost 7,000 more than last year's event. According to Theresa Ng, who coordinated the event for RCM, the total turnout may well be even larger. 'Some locations postponed their events into October due to the haze,' she said, referencing the annual slash-and-burn practice by farmers which generates vast amounts of air pollution, 'so we will only have final figures towards the end of October.'
The clean-up was conducted at more than 100 locations around Malaysia. Almost 37,000 kg of trash was removed from beaches, with the most common items being plastic beverage bottles (137,865), food wrappers (77,075) cigarette butts (59,418), plastic grocery bags (44,621) and plastic bottle caps (20,041). The total recorded figures, however, do not reflect the whole picture.
The amount of litter in some locations was so heavy that it was difficult to count individual pieces. Volunteers had to shovel the trash along the beach into bags instead of picking them up one by one. The amount of trash collected in one such location filled a three-tonne skip. Faisal Abdur Rani, leader of Trash Hero Kuala Lumpur, which also conducted urban cleanups for WCD, said: 'We have a long way to create a cleaner Malaysia as the littering issue is far from being solved.'
The cleanups were sponsored in part by Coca-Cola Malaysia, who ran a social media campaign on behalf of RCM to attract more citizens to the events, a notable move in light of plastic bottles being overwhelmingly the most collected item from Malaysia's beaches. A number of the manufacturer's staff were actively involved in the cleanups. 'We are glad to be partnering RCM again for this year’s ICC programme,' said Khairul Anwar Bin Ab. Gahani, Head of Public Affairs, Communications & Sustainability, Coca-Cola Malaysia. 'As we journey towards becoming a total beverage company that grows the right way, we believe that this is the right thing to do for our planet, our communities and our business,' he said.
Beach clean-ups are part of RCM’s long term campaign to reduce marine debris, and specifically plastic waste. 'We are currently part of a multi-stakeholder group that is working to develop a Malaysian Plastics Pact (led by MESTECC) to reduce plastic waste in our landfills and environment,' said Theresa Ng. 'We want to find mechanisms to incentivise households to segregate waste so that it can be available for recycling – rather than being dumped into landfills and then escaping into the environment.'
Julian Hyde, General Manager of RCM, added: 'It is rewarding to see this event attracting even more people this year than last. Marine debris has widespread impacts on life in the ocean, and much of it is plastic and other trash that we discard without thinking. We would like to thank our sponsors and the thousands of volunteers who participated in the event this year; let’s make next year bigger again, raise awareness about the problem to a new level, and make sure that government takes note – and takes action.'