Let us each contribute towards reducing pollution

The Star , Monday September 19, 2011

A FEW months ago when I had to wait at a red traffic light near my home in Mont Kiara, I saw something being thrown out of the car in front of me — a plastic water bottle. I could not believe it.

Unfortunately the traffic light turned green too soon for me to get out of my car and give the plastic bottle back to the person who threw it out the car window.

Similar things happen with all sorts of rubbish. People throw away plastic bags, plastic bottles, those little plastic bags with a drinking straw fastened in with a rubber band, not to mention cigarette butts and soft drink cans.

Initially I was very angry seeing this thoughtless behaviour (and I still am), but I also thought: “Maybe they don’t know what damage they do to the environment, our planet, wildlife and ultimately to themselves.”

I read an article in the Sydney Morning Herald during my recent trip to Australia — ‘The world record-winning sailor Ian Thomson pulled a dead turtle onto the deck of his boat and took it for analysis because he just could not understand what had killed it. Inside the turtle they found a plastic bag, 12 cigarette butts, a plastic bottle cap and half a Coke can. Fish, turtles and sea birds are ingesting these plastic pollutants as they hunt for food, and it is killing them.’

Do you know that more than 80% of marine pollution comes from land-based activities?

The ocean currents then sweep all that plastic rubbish into one of five gyres — giant swirling whirl-pools in the sea.

According to Thomson, the rubbish in the North Pacific gyre would cover Australia completely in trash to a depth of three meters. That is really scary and we all must do something!

But what?

David, my husband, remembered a campaign initiated in Sydney, Australia, by a person called Ian Kiernan back in 1989 called “Clean Up Sydney Harbour Day”.

We googled Ian Kiernan and found out that in the meantime his initiative had grown into a worldwide organisation called “Clean Up the World” which is now supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

We also learned that you can become a member and be one of 35 million people in 130 countries participating every year in clean-up projects.

Wow, maybe that’s what we should do!

And we did. In May this year, we founded an organisation called Edu-Cat-Malaysia and applied for membership in “Clean Up the World”.

We were quickly accepted, but what now? Where to start? What do we want to clean up? How can we do it? Where?

During our recent sailing trips throughout the magnificent Malaysian waterways, we have seen lots of rubbish floating down the rivers into our oceans killing coral, fish, turtles, sea birds and other marine wildlife.

The oceans are being degraded and as they are the ultimate source of all water we must do everything in our power to nurture and look after this most precious resource on our planet.

We also got to know a number of marinas along the coastline of Malaysia and they all suffer pollution from trash floating into the marinas from rivers, canals, ocean currents and commercial shipping traffic.

Our closest marina, the Royal Selangor Yacht Club (RSYC) in Port Klang, is one of the marinas suffering particularly badly from all the rubbish coming down the Klang River from the towns and villages in the Klang Valley and, of course, from Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya.

So we decided to make the ‘RSYC Cleaner Marina Day’ as our first project, and this is now scheduled for October 15, 2011.

A lot has happened since. The management of the RSYC welcomed us with open arms when David and I presented our idea to them in June, the Rotary Club of Bandar Bukit Tinggi quickly became a very important and active partner, The Expat Group is our media partner and supports us with a lot of publicity, logistics and technical expertise, Mercedes-Benz-Malaysia, Neways Worldwide and Simpson Marine are some of our bigger sponsors.

We intend to mobilise about 500 volunteers to participate in this Clean Up campaign.

The volunteers will be equipped with rubber gloves, nets and scoops, and taken by fishing boats up and down the Klang River to catch and collect the floating rubbish for about three hours between 9am and noon.

We will also provide food and refreshments afterwards and will hopefully celebrate a successful clean up day together.

If you are interested to participate as a volunteer on the day or make a donation, go to our website, www.educatmalaysia.com, for more information, registration forms, donation details and regular updates.

In the meantime, you all can start doing something.

Last Saturday, I attended the opening of an exhibition called ‘River meets Light’ organised by ‘The River Art Project’ in Solaris Dutamas.

Their theme was a performance of our rivers with plastic trash turned into sculptures and installation with narratives to trace the past, present and future relationship between our rivers and communities.

Apart from the very interesting and artistic sculptures they displayed, mainly made out of plastic bottles and plastic bags, they articulated 10 ways to save our rivers:

1. Skip the plastic bag, keep the shopping bag;

2. Use certified biodegradable cleaning products that are made of natural ingredients;

3. Correctly dispose of hazardous household products;

4. Find beauty from recycled materials to enhance your lifestyle;

5. Avoid using pesticides or herbicides in your yard and garden;

6. Maintain your vehicle by servicing it regularly;

7. Cycle to work/play if you dare and care;

8. Help clean up litter wherever you are, not just in your backyard;

9. Be an activist and volunteer in any environmental projects; and

10. Recycle & transform trash to art. Then perform with, around or in it

Gudrun’s love for Malaysia brought her back from Germany three years ago after a nine year absence when she resided in KL holding a senior corporate position. She and her husband are serial entrepreneurs and are passionate about staying fit and healthy, promoting an environmentally sustainable lifestyle.



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