Muzammil Khan – In effect, the sea is feeding our rubbish back to us!
Come with me and take a walk into the future. The year is 2050. Extinction struck. No more sea-life. No more seafood. The apocalyptic effects of irresponsible disposal of plastic waste on our lovely beaches.
Rewind to present day. There is an eye sore awaiting as you take a stroll along the sandy beaches. The person ahead of you casually disposes off an empty bottle of soda. Few care where that wrapper or that bottle lands, as long as it is off their back.
You may have watched the movie “Happy Feet”. One of the penguins lives with a plastic ring around his neck. At he grows older and bigger, the plastic threatens to choke him. The movie illustrates how easily waste plastics can become entangled around the necks, beaks, feet, wings, flipper and fins of marines animals, chocking them or affecting their mobility and ability to catch food to feed themselves.
It is estimated that over 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in oceans each year. In addition, over 50% of sea turtles, sea birds, and fish are thought to have consumed little bits of plastic. Millions of animals are killed or endangered by plastic waste, after ingesting plastic or by being entangled by it. Let that sink in. The seafood you love may well contain quite a bit of plastic waste. So as you dig into your meal at your local fish joint or along Lake Victoria, you are taking bites of plastic too. And in the end if sea life is endangered, we are in trouble too!
The beach is a place of relaxation. Will it always be?
There is nothing better than the bliss of taking a stroll along the shores, feeling the salty sea breeze on your face and the soft sand filtering between your toes. For Muzammil Khan, a second year Financial Engineering student, the beach is a place of relaxation. The waters are soothing. But, it is much worse seeing this beauty spoilt by junk, rubbish and waste – especially plastic pollution!
2016 was a stepping-stone for Muzammil Khan into a journey where he started beach clean-ups with his schoolmates and neighbouring locals. Seeing the vast amounts of plastics and rubbish on the sandy beaches prompted him to create environmental awareness and to urge people to be mindful and ensure that both the shore and the sea were clean.
Last year, in conjunction with Rintz Industries, Vintz Plastics, Vintz International Pvt Ltd and Together for Better, he initiated a project to clean up the beaches in Kwale County. Despite the ongoing pandemic, he marshalled the support of all he could get to buy into his vision. Many came to support the cause. With gloves, shovels and buckets, they set out on a three-day beach clean-up exercise, picking up as much junk, rubbish and waste as they could. Tupperware containers, plastic packaging, glass bottles, potato chips bags – all the things that you would expect humans, without a care for the environment, left behind after a vacation – were collected. Three divers came along and swept up garbage found buried deep in the ocean as a result of the tides. Could the waste you disposed of in your environmentally irresponsible moment be floating somewhere along the shoreline of the Cape of Good Hope?
What if sea life could communicate with us?
It was alarming, Muzammil notes, that over 400kg of waste, both on the shore and in the sea, was collected! Poor fishes are suffering because of our poor decisions. If only they could talk, they would probably protest and strike saying; ‘no more fishing’ if the waters are not clean and safe.
The plastic waste and debris collected was transported to local workshops that recycled and transformed them into valuable goods such as; prototype bricks, DIY zipper cases, cleaning materials such as brooms, among others. Remember the Flipflopi Dhow; the fully functional sailing boat? It was made of 100% recycled plastics and flip-flops!
The sustainability of ocean life has become a buzzword word in today’s media. What have you done or will you do to ensure that the future will be a clean and sustainable world to live in?
Here are a few things you can do:
- Do not be a litterbug. Help keep the beach clean! The past cannot be changed, but we can do better going forward.
- Get into the habit of reducing your own environmental footprint. Soon, your efforts will begin to snowball and you will find more ways to live in an environmentally friendly way.
“Be a part of the solution, not part of the pollution.”
This article was written by Jemmy Kamau.
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