It seems like a fairly easy question. But that’s assuming that you bother to pick it up at all. For the vast majority of the population (of course it varies regionally), people don’t bother to pick it up. I remember having a friend that thought it was actually his duty to create rubbish. He would nonchalantly open the car door along some highway or another and causally lob fast food containers and plastic bottles out the side. In his mind he was doing a public service. His rational was that if there was no garbage to pick up then how on earth were people going to get employment as trash collectors?
Of course it seems like an absurd use of logic and deduction for the average environmentally responsible human being. But that is part of the problem, there just are not that many people that are approaching the issue of debris and refuse seriously enough. There will always be someone with a skewed sense of logic that makes them think it is justifiable or even obligatory to create waste.
Of course the packaging and habits of the manufacturer are always an issue, more responsibility needs to come from the consumer. We need to be more aware. And that is the problem a lot of the time. What kind of packaging do things come in? How is it disposed of? Where exactly does it go? It can’t just disappear. Look at the Pacific Trash Vortex. It is a huge area of the Pacific Ocean that is covered in our garbage. A vast majority of that debris comes in the form of plastics. Living here in the Philippines it is very clear how plastic accumulates. The Philippines is a country that thrives off of single serving portions of everything. Sachets of shampoo, soap, coffee, butter, oil and even single serving toothpaste. It is similar to living your life with airplane sized individual packets for everything, every day. With a consumer mindset like that there is bound to be an immense amount of extra packaging and waste created. Sadly the Philippines is not alone in its production of plastic waste.
But how do we address things like this? There is no way to tackle everything at once. How can such a huge problem be tackled? The answer could be as simple as “one dive at a time”. As dive professionals we have a huge impact on the mindset of the people that we lead. So sometimes it might really just come down to the simple things.
How do you pick up trash?
When you are diving along a reef and you spot some rubbish in the distance, what do you do? I know some people will cleverly steer their divers away from the refuse. Their hope is that they can divert attention away from the embarrassing mess that is ruining the reef. Others will try to covertly pick it up and secretively cart it away. We are all ashamed to have our premier dive spots cluttered up with garbage and don’t want people to see that there is trash on those sites. But what about taking a different approach? Personally I take trash underwater as a learning experience. If there are wrappers or refuse on my dive I make sure to take my divers right toward it. Then when I get to the offending piece of garbage I slowly and deliberately pick it up. Almost like I am demonstrating a skill, I pluck it up and brush off any sand and slowly and methodically fold it up or secure it into my pocket. Like a magician performing a trick, I want all eyes on me. Except I want people to see exactly how the trick is done. I am not ashamed. Rather I am proud. Yes there was crap on my reef. But I got rid of it.
I want people to know that it is something to be addressed not just swept under the rug and ignored. I usually have to talk about it after the dive as well. People remember that their divemaster or instructor spent half the dive carting around a load of garbage. That’s not a bad thing in my opinion. It’s something that needs to be talked about. I’m not embarrassed to clean up the reef and I don’t want anyone else to be either. As dive professionals we need to turn these moments to our advantage. People will remember that piece of plastic and what you did about it for many dives to come. If you ignore it, then you are teaching people that it is okay to do that. All that does is leave our reefs with heaps of trash to look at instead of coral and fish.
We at Liquid are proud to be 100% Project AWARE as such we do regular dive site clean ups. Contact us to find out more information on out upcoming clean up events and you can join us and be a part of protecting the reefs.
Think about it. How do you pick up trash?