“No straw, please.” That’s what I say to any waiter at any bar. Well, most of the bars. Sometimes I forget and feel guilty or angry when my glass comes with 2 plastic straws. Other times I know this particular bar have paper or bamboo straws, and I enjoy stirring my drink with it. Recently, I even carry my own bamboo straw with me.
Some say plastic straws are not the main source of pollution you can find on earth. Maybe not, but it’s one of the most useless one (when you think about it, you don’t even really need one to drink, so why two?) and it became a symbol of all the single use plastic items that you find when you do beach clean-up, along with toothbrushes, cottons butts, plastic bottles and old flip flops.
Did you know that there are 5 huge floating Islands of Trash circling our oceans? the biggest one, drifting around the Pacific Ocean currents is much bigger than my country, France! It’s time to be aware that what we do have consequences worldwide.
When I was still living in Europe, I was less aware about plastic pollution. There, in most cities, you have several containers for trash: plastics, glass, organic, different containers colors for different items, and a little note on it to tell you what to throw where.
Then I started travelling and ended up in Indonesia. Amazing country, so diverse, and one of the top world’s spot for diving. The first time a cashier gives you a plastic bag for buying 2 bananas, you already think it’s a bit too much. When you end all your dives with your BCD jacket pockets full of trash, mainly plastic, you realize something went wrong with progress.
Here in Zanzibar, at least in Nungwi, most of the little shops will nicely give you a paper bag for your shopping, or a reusable plastic one. We pick up trash on the beach, but not that much underwater compared to other places in the world. It doesn’t mean Zanzibar and Tanzania generates less garbage than other countries or recycles more. It just means that the current is taking the pollution away from here, instead of bringing it to the shore, like it happens seasonally in Indonesia. But have a walk in the village, and you will see tracks of this pollution everywhere. All the plastic single use item you will use here in Zanzibar will either end up in the ocean or burn in the atmosphere.
Let’s not always blame the population alone. People use plastic items, but they are not the ones producing them, manufacturing them, more and more each year, just because it’s cheaper than reusable or eco-friendly ones. These big and powerful companies don’t care at all about the consequences, because profit is everything for them.
Plastic is a very resistant material. So, we started producing a lot of it in the 50’s, without thinking at that time about any type of recycling. But we can recycle plastic, at least part of it.
But what if recycling is not available in the country you live in? What if you don’t have different garbage bin for trash, or no bin at all? What if, for generations, your family just threw trashes on the ground, or in the ocean, thinking the nature will absorb it, like in old times when every piece of trash was organic? What if no one ever taught you that plastic pollution was killing our environment and our ocean, and that there’s probably microplastic in every little fish you catch to feed your family?
It takes about 400 years for a plastic straw to decompose in the nature. Probably around the same amount of time for any single use plastic item (plastic cutlery, bottles, glass, food containers, etc.). About 200 years for a soda can, 5 years for a cigarette butt.
Most of the components of your sunscreen are bad for the corals. Every change in temperature or change of Ph in the ocean can make coral bleach. And I’m not even talking about global warming, or the amount of CO2 released in the environment because of the way we eat, drink, buy, travel…
Of course, I’m part of it as well: I’m lucky enough to take planes to go back home or to travel around, I drive a car sometimes, forget my reusable box when I get take away…
I made a living of my passion, diving, and I’m taking tourists diving all year round. In all my briefings I speak about ocean conservation and environment awareness, because I think this is part of my job.
18% of the population worldwide travels. 0.45% of this tourist population scuba dive. That’s only a small amount of people witnessing daily the damages of pollution on coral reefs and aquatic life.
Being aware is the first step. Trying to reduce our impact on the environment is the second step.
That’s why we need to spread the word. Why we need to explain, again and again. Why, as divers, we can’t accept when people say, “oh it’s just one straw” Because millions of other people say the same, and these straws end up in a turtle nostril.
We try, at Spanish Dancer Divers, to be as eco responsible as possible. We stopped using plastic bottles on the boat. Instead, we provide reusable bottles for our divers and staff. This small little change, help us save on consumption of thousands of plastic bottles yearly!! We organize beach clean-ups. We adopted a dive site, our beloved House Reef, we do dive clean-ups there every month to collect the data for Project Aware, the environmental NGO from PADI.
All this is just a little drop in the ocean, but if we all do as much as we can, wherever we live, whatever job we do, we might be able to avoid the predicted catastrophe human beings as heading to.
Some associations are doing an awesome job in education and beach/ocean clean up, or even creating marine parks worldwide. For more information, or to get involved, check these links: Trash Hero, Project Aware, Mission Blue
To learn more about the islands of trash and the project created to get rid of it, it’s here: The Ocean Cleanup