By Teh Chi-Chang and Leong Wai Kuan
Photos by C.H. Ong

MNSPerhentian00125_treasure from the deep

Divers sorting out the debris – C.H. Ong

While it was very satisfying collecting loads of trash in the Dive against Debris activity during the June (1-4) MNS Marine Group trip to Perhentian Island, the cynical part of us feels this movement is really just another excuse to scuba dive, and create more debris!

Project AWARE, in Protecting our Ocean Planet – One Dive at a TimeSM, says “Collecting data about the debris found underwater is … critical to filling current data gaps that exist[1]” and goes on, “There would be a lot less marine debris if people were more careful with their waste.”

Dive against Debris downplays the root cause – the creation of waste in the first place. Let’s examine our own creations, just for this trip itself. What did we bring and consume? Really, for an island holiday, all you need are t-shirt and shorts. But so subsumed are we in consumerism that, for us, a holiday is not complete without bags of potato chips, 3-in-1 coffee packets, snack-sized chocolate bars, sweets, biscuits …

That’s the obvious new debris that we brought along ourselves. Besides that, the resort created waste too in the process of feeding and accommodating us: the numerous single-serve packets of butter and jam at breakfast; the thoughtfully provided small soap bars in the rooms – again, all individually wrapped; the packaging that accompanies all the other essentials – from laundry detergent to drums of diesel for the electricity generator….

How about modifying our behavior, and leading by example to show that it is possible to reduce waste and still have an enjoyable holiday? Yes, do have a bag of our favourite imported potato chips, but also, do buy munchies from our neighbourhood kacang puteh vendor, filling our own re-used plastic bags; let’s pre-mix our own 3 in 1 Milo/coffee at home and bring it in our own container; and bring our own soap bars and shampoo. On the island itself, those of us in groups could inform the resort operator that we are happy to share a big block of butter and a jar of jam at breakfast. And we can all use less air-conditioning and enjoy the fresh island air more.

MNSPerhentian00190_more arrived

More rubbish arrived (MNS-MIMA clean coast index study) – C.H. Ong

We don’t need to dive to know that marine debris is a problem. A beach survey and clean-up, which we also performed during the trip for the Clean Coast Index, may actually provide more accurate datapoints. It is certainly lower impact – just walk, collect and tabulate. Don’t forget – scuba diving generates waste too. The boat uses diesel and engine oil (where do the plastics go?); the electric air compressor is ultimately diesel powered, and needs frequent filter changes (hmm … where does the operator dump the old filters?).

So, let’s lead by example and strive against debris. Let’s refuse and reduce wherever we can; and let’s also communicate with our dive and resort operators so they create as little new waste as possible while catering to our holiday. As our children have shown, all that is essential for a good time is fresh air, sunshine and a clean beach.

[1] Source: http://www.projectaware.org/sites/default/files/ProjectAWAREFAQs.pdf Retrieved 10 June 2013

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