Gili Trawangan is one of the most up and coming popular diving and holiday destinations in Indonesia. Practically living on the beach is a perfect paradise for scuba divers and eco tourists alike. However each year, over 6 million tonnes of waste plastics get into our oceans through rivers, sewage outlets and dumping from ships. Living on a paradise island we have started to see an increase in the amount of debris washing up on our previously unspoiled beaches.
Plastic bags have become a dominant feature of the marine environment due to the ease of acquisition and thoughtless acceptance by consumers. The diving community are further aware due to plastic bags being predominantly present in the shallower depths most suited to recreational diving. They are easily transported via ocean currents and so the Gili Islands, with their notorious marine environment, are subjected to beach debris regularly. Disposable bags can take up to 20 years to eventually break up and degrade in the oceans and not only do they get ingested by aquatic life, they regularly get caught on corals causing them to suffocate and die. When it is small enough and broken down into microscopic particles, it stays in the water column where it could enter the food chain, or sink to the bottom and remain there indefinitely.
No one really knows for sure how much plastic waste there is in the sea, all we know is that we, as divers, are increasingly noticing the effects of marine pollution on our dive sites and pristine beaches.
For the last 3 years we have been carrying out weekly beach clean ups on Gili Trawangan through Trawangan Dive Reef Restoration Centre. It only takes half an hour a week, and its a great way to get a tan as well! Its popularity has grown so much on Gili Trawangan that now all the dive shops get involved and meet for a beer afterwards. We have been encouraging all of our customers in Trawangan Dive to join in after their final dive in the afternoon to earn that post dive beer.
After months of noticing the build up of debris on our dive sites, we not only took action to attempt to combat the problem by actively clearing the beaches and sites, but also to find a way to repurpose the materials we were collecting by creating sellable products. We created a marine debris project named SeaMade.
After our Debris Free Friday cleanup, the SeaMade team start to pore through the collected debris to sort it into re useable or recyclable items. The main focus of our upcycling efforts are using disposable plastic bags and cement and rice sacks. With an infinite resource found on Gilis beaches we have an array of colours and patterns to work with. Once washed, dried, sorted and fused together, the colourful bags are made into an array of cosmetics bags, purses and pencil cases ready to be sold to tourists, backpackers and divers visiting the island. These handcrafted gifts are totally unique to each other depending on what debris has washed up on the beach that day. We wanted to create products that are useful and that can be bought as environmentally friendly gifts or souvenirs for tourists visiting the island. They can leave the island knowing their purchase has contributed to cleaning one of the most beautiful islands in the world even if they don’t have the chance to attend a beach cleanup.
Eventually we would love Gili to be a plastic free paradise and ban the use of disposable bags in shops and takeaway restaurants; the more people that join in with a beach clean the more awareness we are bringing to tourists and local community around Gilis.
Trawangan Dive Centre takes an active role in reef restoration around Gilis and clearing our favourite dive sites of rubbish in frequent Dive Against Debris. Every week divers and environmental enthusiasts take mesh bags onto different dive sites to clear as much non organic rubbish off to document and record numbers and types of debris found to Project AWARE. Any rubbish that is intact enough can be cleaned, fused and turned into new bags to have a new life! SeaMade’s mission in creating a difference and raising awareness and supporting community efforts is made possible by our volunteers clearing up the beach and sorting the debris. If you make a trip to the beautiful island of Gili Trawangan, be sure to pop into Trawangan Dive and sign up for your Dive Against Debris and make your dive make a difference!
You can follow our work and find where we and when are cleaning the beach on our Facebook page under SeaMade or visit our website http://www.seamade.org.