A couple of days ago, I participated in the annual beach cleanup right here in Ao Nang as part of Project AWARE’s international cleanup day. Altogether, volunteers have collected in total about 200 kilograms of debris. Ao Nang beach is a little over 1 kilometer long. I myself had only walked about 300 meters in one hour and collected up to 1 kilogram of rubbish, most of which consisted of cigarette butts. Cigarette butts are a major environmental problem and can be found in the stomachs of birds and many marine animals. They contain numerous carcinogenic materials, pesticides and nicotine and are continuously dumped into the environment every year. The heavy metals in cigarette butts leak into the marine environment when soaked in water and contrary to what people think, they are not biodegradable.
Aside from the hundreds of cigarette butts I found that day, there were also shards of glass everywhere, styrofoam, bottle caps, plastic bags and food wrappers and then interestingly enough, some fish tails and chicken bone.
I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the beach cleanup however I did feel somewhat ashamed that in 1 kilometer of beach, we picked up roughly 200 kilograms of garbage. As a Thai citizen, it is humiliating to witness such disarray in my own backyard. I (and I’m sure all tourists) would like to be able to sit on the beach and not have to see cigarette butts and small pieces of styrofoam sunbathing next to them.
With a little determination, this unique place can be close to perfect. I definitely support beach cleanup events, but I do feel as though it should not be limited to a single day of the year. Every time I walk on the beach or go diving, I have my hands full from picking up trash. People, especially young children, need to be educated about the effects of marine debris and the significance of having a clean and healthy ocean environment.