Debris is the most visible expression of anthropogenic impacts on the marine environment because of its aesthetic issue. Debris is also a major threat to marine mammals, birds and turtles. The southwest coast of Madagascar is populated by small fishing villages, which have no access to rubbish collection. As a result and if not cleaned regularly, beaches become rapidly loaded with all sorts of debris.
Since February 2013, ReefDoctor team conducted monthly beach clean up in Ifaty, Southwest of Madagascar. This action aimed at gathering debris off the beach and gaining information on what people consumes the most (through their rubbish) to maybe implement adequate rubbish collection or recycling actions in the future.
The area of beach cleaned was delimited beforehand and remained the same throughout the cleanup events to allow data comparison on debris abundance over time. The total area cleaned covered approximately 31,161 m2. Clean-up teams consisted of ReefDoctor staff, interns and volunteers. Teams collected all pieces of rubbish walking down the stretch of delimited beach filling up large wooden baskets. Every time a basket was full, it was brought back to ReefDoctor, weighted and each piece of debris was counted and classified into the categories defined by Project Aware. Categories included plastic, glass & ceramic, metal, rubber, wood, cloth, paper/cardboard and mixed materials. Each category had detailed sub-categories (e.g. plastic materials included beverage bottles 2 litres or less, food wrappers, fishing nets & pieces of nets etc). This process was repeated until the delimited area of beach was entirely cleaned. During the debris collection, teams also recorded information on the number of local participants and their age (age groups 5-15, 15-30 and 30+) to assess our outreach on younger generation.
After seven months of data collection, our data showed interesting results (see graphs attached in the image gallery). We collected a total of 532.5 Kilograms. Despite our monthly effort, the weight of collected debris did not show any decrease. This shows that rubbish is constantly disposed on the beach.
Overall, the most abundant category of debris was plastic materials (52.2%) followed by cloth materials (20.6%). Within the plastic material category, plastic fragments followed by beverage bottle of 2 liters or less were found to be most frequent. Cloth fragments were the most abundant within cloth category.
The overall local participation has increased since the start of our monthly actions. More than seven local children (aged from 5 to 15) helped in the last 3 beach clean-ups.
From our data, any rubbish collection and recycling actions targeting plastic and cloth debris would reduce the abundance of rubbish on the beach by more than 70%.
Regarding the large amount of cloth fragments (20.6%) and beverage bottles (11.5%) found on the beach, collection actions targeting these could be put in place the village after an thorough informative campaign. Collected plastic bottles could be transported on weekly basis to Tulear to be recycled if that exists. Cloth fragments could be collected, washed and reused to make crafts products.
Whether, when and how these actions might be implemented remains to be seen but ReefDoctor continues to clean the beach and works towards keeping the oceans clean and communities healthy.