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Meruntum Beach clean-up: Local community takes own initiative

20th September, 2019


PUTATAN: Equipped with gloves, garbage bags, and masks, a group of concerned community members have taken the initiative to conduct a beach clean-up along the coastline of Meruntum Beach.

Despite the presence of haze, it did not stop some 15 strong-spirited volunteers to work alongside each other to pick up trash at the beach, in hopes to make a change towards the environment.

Initiated for the first time, the “Save the Waves” project was conducted at Meruntum Beach due to its incredible amount of trash which mostly comprised plastic bottles.

“I pass by the beach on a daily basis. As days went by, the amount of pile-ups just kept growing. I could clearly see the stacks of trash from my car window. There were just so many plastic bottles,” said Ilona Andrew, the person behind the project.

“That was when it hit me. I needed to do something about it because no one seemed to care about the place,” she added.

Teaming up with her best friend of 14 years, Ilona called out to her friends and family to join their movement in the beach clean-up effort.

“We are not under any organisation but I have seen a lot of beach clean-ups on the net, albeit never participated in one before despite my keen interest. So I thought, why not do it here at Meruntum Beach?”

“I am extremely ecstatic because even though it is our very first, we managed to gather 15 volunteers comprising supportive family members and friends. I was also very touched because it was pretty hazy that time, yet people still turned up,” she expressed.

She explained that, although seen from afar, the beach does not look big but the amount of trash covering the beach was shockingly awful.

Therefore, on Sept 15, they all agreed to meet up at the beach at 4pm. Some of them arrived as early as 3pm and began picking up trash along the coastal area which is also frequently visited by the locals.

“We only managed to cover about 400 metres of the area but even so, we collected a total of 55 bags of trash! So imagine just how bad the place is. We found all kinds of trash like shampoo bottles, shoes, bags, a big bolster, and even bottles of urine!” Ilona exclaimed.

“The most challenging part about the clean-up is that we need to dig up the sand to take out the plastics. It was tiring, but definitely worth it,” she stated.

Although they only managed to clean a portion of the beach on that day, Ilona assured that they will be coming back to continue the clean-up in the near future and hope to see more volunteers to join their effort.

She believes that almost everyone is aware of the plastic pollution, but some just refuse to do their part in keeping the beaches clean.

“To them, there would always be somebody out there who are willing to help clean up their mess. This kind of mindset really needs to come to an abrupt stop; just because there are volunteers like us who are willing to clean up your mess, it does not make it alright for you to litter around,” she added.

“While we were busy picking up the trash, some visitors who were walking along the beach even had the audacity to litter their rubbish in front of our very own eyes. I don’t even know how to describe my feelings at that moment, but I was extremely disappointed.

“I don’t know what I can do to help change this kind of poisonous mindset, I am just a nobody so I may not be able to do a lot in this context, but I believe the clean-up is the least I can do. It’s a very small step, but small steps can lead to big changes,” she noted.

Meanwhile, Niola Vianni who co-organised the project disclosed that “Save the Waves” was her second beach clean-up.

“A group called 4ocean has been cleaning up our ocean and I realised that in order to do my part in saving the environment, I could at least start with the beach.

“I definitely think that this kind of event could make an impact towards both the society and environment. I have done a couple of beach-cleanings and my students actually urged me to do a beach clean-up with them. A little goes a long way, they say,” said the 26-year-old teacher.

Niola also believes that by instilling the awareness about plastic pollution, the actions will definitely come next. “It can all start with spreading the news about plastic pollution and how to overcome it, such as advertisements, talks, and actual implementation of the law of reducing plastic usage,” she explained.

The English teacher also revealed her plan to bring her students to participate in a beach-clean up this weekend, also expressing her delight over the amount of her students who excitedly signed up.

“This can be good exposure for my students; we need to educate them about the importance of preserving the environment. One of the things that I did to “educate” them is by telling them off whenever they buy excessive amounts of plastic bottled water unnecessarily,” she said, half-jokingly.

“Some of my students even suggested to have a beach clean-up of our own during our end of the year class trip. It awed me,” Niola expressed.

A gym instructor who volunteered for the “Save the Waves” project believes that such activities are a good start in conserving the environment, especially for youngsters.

“Instead of spending a lot of time on their gadgets, it would be good if more youngsters could volunteer in this project.

“Nowadays, plastic pollution has undeniably worsened and unfortunately, a lot of the youngsters are not aware of this. These kinds of activities, when promoted on a large scale, could bring a big impact,” said Artobelly Evali, 24, from Penampang.

He hoped that the “Save the Waves” project can be conducted once a week at Meruntum Beach with more volunteers participating, considering the amount of trash.

“I feel that this beach, which has a picturesque sunset view, has the potential to become one of Sabah’s tourism attractions,” he added.

For Artobelly, the clean-up activity has been fun because not only was he able to do his part to save the environment, the activity also served as a form of exercise for him while also allowing him to strengthen the bonds among the volunteers.

Another volunteer, a kindergarten teacher in Beaufort, believes that environmental habits must be instilled from a very young age and parents are the ones who play the most important role in making this a success.

“Parents must set a good example for their children and this exposure must start at home. This small impact can bring a very great impact on everyone,” said Norhayati Chin, 32.

She said the “Save the Waves” project is her third beach clean-up and she truly enjoys these kinds of activities though there were challenges that must be undertaken.

“Among the challenges in joining a beach clean-up movement is you have to endure hot weather and this time, the haze.

“Besides that, the trash we are collecting can come in different forms. Some of them can be very hazardous, so safety measures must be considered too,” she said.

For more details on the “Save the Waves” project and to sign up as a volunteer, contact Ilona at 01131668993 or Niola at 0146761351.

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