In February, the United Nations announced its new program, Clean Seas (http://www.cleanseas.org), with the goal of eliminating major sources of pollution that are choking our oceans and waterways across the globe. We are starting to see the significant impacts our trash problem has on the environment and human health. We are realizing that this is a worldwide problem, which isn’t constraint to political boundaries and will take the efforts of our global community to implement solutions.
The main concern is micro plastics that are the result of our single use consumer culture. Sand and seashells are being replaced by small plastic pieces – litter from local sources as well as trash that is carried many miles across the sea. The picture of a trash wave in Bali that went viral a few years ago (http://www.surfer.com/feature
s/bali-garbage/) was a needed call to the surfing community to take some action. Fortunately, here in Sri Lanka, at the beaches were we surf, the trash problem is not as bad as Bali and we are not surfing in trash waves or paddling out from trash filled beaches. However, illegal dumping, inadequate collection and disposal facilities, and the lack of education and resources for proper waste management are huge issues in Sri Lanka and as tourism continues to grow, the problem will surely get worse.
Soul and Surf are long time supporters of Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) (https://www.sas.org.uk), the Cornish organisation that has grown from a few local activists into an nation wide environmental charity protecting the UKs oceans, waves and beaches for all to enjoy safely and sustainably.
SAS are leading by example with campaigns such as Message in a Bottle, The Autumn & Spring Beach Clean series and Break the Bag Habit; and are constantly addressing issues through community action, campaigning, volunteering, conservation, education and scientific research.
By connecting with SAS, we remain rooted in simple strategies to see a reduction in marine litter and hope by setting up local beach cleans and educating our guests, we are providing an avenue for them to become marine activists themselves, making a positive impact for the waves and beaches they surf at home, and abroad.
Therefore, at Soul & Surf Sri Lanka, we realize we can be part of the solution for addressing trash and plastic pollution. Although we cannot change the system, we can do our small part to help out. Each week, before one of our afternoon surf sessions, our guests and staff do a short beach clean up, rotating through our local surf spots around the southwest coast. We spend 15-20 minutes cleaning the beach and its always incredible to see how much rubbish we are able to collect within such a short period of time. We generally reuse rice sacks to collecting the rubbish and we provide reusable gloves to everyone. We find all kinds of rubbish on the beach – most of it is plastic. We separate out the plastic bottles and glass bottles which get sent to be recycled and the rest of the rubbish goes to the municipal dump. This means that the rubbish is disposed of properly, rather than having the chance to wash into the ocean and kill marine life or end up joining us on our surf in the “green room”. Although we are only making a small dent in the overall global trash problem, each week, we are happy to be helping in our small way to keep our beaches and oceans clean, and set a good example for the local community.
Words by Annie Lovell & Nat Fox, Photos by DtlPhotographyBack to Journal