As divers we see the direct damage that marine debris, and in particular plastic, is causing our environment and the life in it. Every year tens of thousands of marine animals and seabirds die from eating or getting tangled in our trash that ends up in the ocean.
But the good news is people around the world are taking active steps both in and out of the water to help avert the marine debris crisis. From Dive Against Debris surveys to going plastic-free, every action you take is a positive step towards a healthier and cleaner ocean planet. I caught up with Brigit Jager (Educational Consultant for PADI Asia Pacific, Training and Quality Management) to hear about her Plastic-Free July experience.
Q: What made you take on the challenge of doing Plastic Free July?
BJ: When I saw this campaign on Facebook, I immediately registered to join. There’s just so much plastic around us! As a diver, you see first-hand where it all ends up – in the ocean. It really is suffocating all sorts of life, not just in the ocean but on land as well. We as consumers can be responsible in what we choose to buy but I think the manufacturers also have a responsibility – is it really necessary to package a single item two or three times in plastic?
Q: What was the hardest part?
BJ: Takeaway coffee – there was one occasion when I bought a coffee, walked away and realised I had a plastic lid on the cup. I was so annoyed! And before you ask, yes: I now use my own mug and will buy one of those reusable environment-friendly ones for sure! Throughout July (and forever since) I did try and reuse anything that I did buy that unavoidably had plastic packaging in one way or another – after all, this campaign was specific to single use plastic.
Q: What did you have in your dilemma bag at the end of the month?
BJ: More than I would have expected! The majority of the single use plastic was wrappers – everything is wrapped and double wrapped in plastic. Whenever I Dive Against Debris, wrappers are always the number one item collected in my experience. I bought a long bench pillow – that was wrapped in plastic (which I gave a second life and reused as my dilemma bag). Other items included things like a shampoo container – items that are used over a longer period of time but still packaged in plastic. Even if there are re-fills available, they are often packaged in plastic as well – it’s really very hard to avoid single use plastic altogether!
Q: What habits will you keep?
BJ: For a start, I won’t use straws and coffee lids. I’ll continue to use reusable items such as bags, drink bottles, containers etc. and steer clear of single use plastics. Picking up bits of plastic that I come across during walks or during dives is something I’ve always done and will continue to do – disposing of them appropriately. I think most importantly, I’ll keep trying to raise awareness – making it a point of discussion wherever possible, chatting to kids about it, sharing on social media, highlighting the issue to friends and family. Not just simply saying “don’t use plastics” but explaining why we shouldn’t and the ways we can help reduce the amount of plastics we consume.
Q: What have you learnt?
BJ: That there is too much plastic! For me, it was astonishing and surprising to see how much single use plastic you use even when you are actively trying not to use much – and that was just me, one person, during one month, where I was being extra careful. It’s scary, when you think about it on a larger scale. It was a really valuable experience for me and I think it’s a fantastic way to raise awareness – awareness is key.
Thanks Brigit, it’s awesome to have advocates like you doing great things to help raise awareness and protect the environment.
This September is Debris Month of Action and we are calling on all you ocean heroes out there to grab your fins, jump in and Dive Against Debris. Help stop trash choking our precious marine life. The rubbish you collect, the data you report and the photos you take all help portray the underwater perspective of the marine debris crisis – all of which will help inform policy and improve waste management stopping trash at the source. So what are you waiting for? Start your action by taking the pledge and become a Dive Against Debris Hero!