For the foreseeable future, we’re on lock down 24-7 when it comes to living on earth, so let’s help Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) out a bit and chip in to keep our water free of garbage and clean.
Hands down, enemy number one are petroleum-based products, namely plastic. Now, I’d be the first in line to kick Deepwater Horizon and BP square in the tenders for their record setting oil spill, but let’s not point the finger just yet. After all, every year a substantial amount of oil is simply poured down the drain.
The problem I’d like to address is plastic, which comes in a variety of types.
Yes, there are recyclable plastics but let’s face it, we recycle diddly squat. The plastic producing industry has created photo-degradable and biodegradable plastics, but neither are a solution.
Photo-degradable plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces as it is exposed to sunlight, but the problem, just like with biodegradable plastics, is that plastic never really goes away. Eventually the degradable plastics become so small they are carried away by surface runoff (rainwater).
I’m not writing this article to be all gloom and doom. Too many of us will question what difference we can make. After all, we’re not all divers and not all of us are willing to pick up trash.
Most of us are content with going about our day-to-day life of buying what we want and discarding the rest. This throw away mentality has to change if we are to leave behind a world worth inheriting to our children and grandchildren.
If possible, let’s set aside our carbon footprint heebie jeebies and global warming for a moment and think about simply reducing our trash. While beach clean-ups are probably the best proactive approach to dealing with our ocean garbage, it’s likened to a band-aid cure for a compound fracture problem.
Governments cannot be tasked with cleaning the oceans. Even if they attempted to dredge the ocean for trash, no one is certain how much of the sea life would be killed in the process.
The more I look into how to protect our local water sources and worldwide reefs, the more I am convinced that it has to start with each one of us.
Each one of us can make one lifestyle change at a time that will have an impact on our friends and family. Once you’ve mastered one change, move on to the next one.
Cut down on plastic bags
My first suggestion is to reduce the number of plastic bags you consume.
The ultimate goal is to boycott plastic bags altogether, something I haven’t mastered 100 per cent but is well worth the effort.
My wife and I have over a dozen cloth bags in the trunk of our car. We use them religiously when we shop. Many times new checkout girls at the supermarket look at us in dismay when we say we don’t want plastic. They’ll say they need to put a red ‘paid’ sticker on everything.
We have to explain that just one sticker is enough as the receipt is enough to prove our consumerism integrity should a product Gestapo stop us on our way to the car.
The benefit is less plastic bags make their way to Phuket’s incinerator, and a slightly fewer amount of toxic chemicals are stopped from being released into the atmosphere, which eventually make their way into the ocean.
Use steel cutlery and plates
Next, eat like a prisoner and drink coffee like a soldier.
It sounds ridiculous, but it’s the metal trays and cups I’m talking about. Purchase and use a collection of stainless steel plates, bowls, cups and cutlery for your monthly barbecues or family outings.
Buy only what you need to cover the head count and maintain your collection by washing and storing them properly. But wait! Metal transfers heat. So make sure you’re not serving boiling hot sausages and soup in these metal items.
With proper handling they are a viable and sustainable alternative to plastic, styrofoam and paper plates. When people ask you why you don’t use throw-away items, this is your chance to share and pass along what you’ve learned.
Always buy second hand goods
My next suggestion will probably fall on many a deaf ear, but please increase your buying of second hand clothing, furniture, used cars and televisions.
I’m sure all of us can think of someone we know who suffers from an obsession in always having the latest and greatest iPhone, computer or car.
Instead buy one-year old, second hand items as they probably have a lot of life left in them at a fraction of the cost. Not only will you save money, but you’ll save the world from one more product package and several plastic bags.
Grow your own fruit
My last suggestion this month is to plant a community fruit tree or orchard. We have a mango tree next to my office window. Every day I see employees and nearby residents picking ripe mangos off the ground. When people have access to trees that give away free fruit, there’s no bag monger in sight.
The end result is the same in that everyone gets something to eat, but with the tree, people carry away their goods in their hands.
There are plenty of other ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. I implore the exploration and implementation of all.
If on the other hand you would like to clean a beach or reef, drop me a line. I’d like to organise one of my own very soon. Having you along with me would be both an honour and a privilege.
Phuket resident Kevin Shupe is a keen composter, gardener and environmentalist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org