Updated: Apr 19
March 20th 2021, I went to Koh Tao on an eco-tour host by an activist Paewa, to learn about shark and turtle’s conservation and to help collect plastic on the beach.
On this trip I brought with me an upcycled Daisy mesh bag, made from left over fabric from the fabric factory. The goal is to make use of this thrown away unvalued fabric also to test the possibility of what this bag can be!
* The Beach Crawl *
We started the tour with "Koh Tao beach crawl", we visit different beaches and we found that some beaches has so many trash on it and some not so much. As explain by our tour guide Paewa she said "You see, trashes are always there, we just don't see it because it is floating in the ocean away from our eyes. When things get real, when the wind blows in, all the trashes comes with the tide and waves, it is washed onto our beach." I ask more, "So these trashes are not from the island?" She replied, "Yes, the trash you see on the beach are trash from the main lands."
As we collect trash on the beach I found plenty of ropes and fishing nets as well as small plastic particles, microplastic. Micro plastic are tiny plastic pieces from invisible to 1 centimeter. Microplastic comes from a variety of courses, including larger plastic that degrades into smaller and smaller pieces from the ocean tides, sun and wind.
Imagine you have to collect these small Styrofoam particle piece by piece.
I did it and it took up an amazing amount of time an energy. I also found empty glass bottles, small glass pieces, chip bags from other countries. You name it! Even if there are no tourist on the island the amount of plastic that are washed off shore are overwhelming. The more I dig into the sand the more plastic I found. Normally the islanders including locals and expats are the people who are responsible to do "beach clean up" as well as tourist who are interested in volunteering like myself. But since there are no more foreign tourist and expats the amount of work that needs to be done is too much for a small volunteer group.
Everything come from somewhere and ends up somewhere, now I see where it ended up, on the beautiful beach of Koh Tao.
* Making the indestructible waste useful : Eco-brick *
Eco brick are simple, low tech resolution to our plastic waste without the need of petrol-power. We can make these building blocks to build walls and furniture, most importantly because they are indestructible. If you would like to try it yourself, here are small easy steps.
Step 1 : Clean your plastic trash. Eco-bricks are made with clean and dry plastic. Start by segregating your plastic from all other materials. (We brought our daisy mech bag everywhere we go to collect our eco-brickable plastic waste.) If there is any food, oil or dirt on your plastic, be sure to wash it off. Dirty plastic inside an eco-brick will lead to microbiological growth and methane forming inside your eco-brick.
Step 2 : Choose your bottle. When it comes to building it is best to stick with 1 size and shape to make a strong building blocks.
Step 3: Get a magic wand. It makes the plastic disappear! Having the right stick will make a big difference to your eco-bricking. Bamboo and wood are recommended and the size of the stick depends on the type of bottle you go with.
Step 4 : No glass, no metal, no biodegradables. The reason we are putting plastic inside a bottle is to secure it– otherwise it would get loose into the environment and degrade into microplastics and toxins. Stuff like cotton cloth, metal, paper, cardboard, glass and organic material will not degrade into toxins so there is no need to secure them. Be especially careful not to pack sharp metal or glass into an ecobrick– they can rupture the sides and pose a danger for handling. There are other solutions for these materials:
Paper and cardboard can be safely industrially recycled, composted or burnt.
Biodegradables can be composted or left to biodegrade.
Metals and glass can be industrially recycled.
Step 5 : Pack the bottle tight, mix the plastic as you go. The smaller the pieces, the denser you’ll get! Fill the bottle up half way with loose plastic, then use your stick to push down around the sides of the bottle. Once compressed, add more loose plastics. To maximize the density, it’s good to mix soft, then hard plastic.
Step 6 : Weigh your eco-brick to ensure quality. The weight vs volume of your eco-brick is a good indicator of the quality of your eco-brick. Eco-bricks that are solid and strong are densely packed. The full volume is used for plastics and there is no air or spaces inside. The GEA has determined that an eco-brick’s density must be higher than 0.33 g/ml. This means that a 600ml bottle must be above 200 grams and a 1500ml bottle must be above a weight of 500 grams. Experienced eco-brickers tend to regard 0.37 g/ml and above as the range of a good eco-bricks.
Step 7 : Make sure to cap it!
Step 8 : Store your brick until it is enough to build.
Thank you for the steps, https://www.ecobricks.org/how/
In this eco-tour there was a lecture about Sea turtle and Sharks conservation our guest speaker works in New Heaven Conservation Center.
* Sea turtle, sharks, and other marine life will go extinct if we don't do something *
" I met sharks and a turtle while snorkeling in shark bay"
When you tell people, you meet sharks there are always mix feelings, one excited and another frighten for their life.
As a matter of fact, sharks kill 7 people on average yearly but people kill approximately 2 million sharks a year, this tally includes all kills both intentional and unintentional. The intentional kills are for its fin. The unintentional kills, by catch, mostly come from unethical fishing method such as trawling and long lining. Marine animals got caught in these nets and once they are found, most likely they are did not survive.
"I wish these beautiful creatures survive this 'fishing pandemic' for our future generations to admire and study them instead of having to imagine it from books."
There are 50 species of sharks but we only know 5 species because these few species are mention on the media. Dwarfs lantern shark is the smallest species of sharks as small as human hand! Sharks are species that rarely reproduce and also it is also difficult for them to reproduce once they are traumatize by human actions. I was shown a photo of a bycatch, it is a photo of a pregnant whale shark and its 20 baby who are all dead. I tried to search for these photos to show you but surprisingly there are very few photos on google.
** Because they can swim, doesn't mean that they will survive the by catch. **
There are 7 species of sea turtles which 2 of the species are found on the coast of Koh Tao island. Baby sea turtles are born with the size of 3-7 centimeters and grows as big as 2.5 meters. It's main diet is seaweed. Sea turtles make its nest on shore and lay about 40 to 200 eggs per nest in which only 80% will hatch. The remaining 80% after hatch will return to the sea.
Hatchlings sea turtle shell are still soft therefore, they are the main source of proteins for other animal in the ecosystem such as birds and crabs. The reason why sea turtles lay so many eggs is because of its survival instinct, the natural survival rate of a sea turtle is 1:1000 ratio of the eggs laid. Imagine how many sea turtle there are left in ocean if we include the number of bycatch from fishing.
Sea turtles cannot breathe underwater and need to come to the surface for air. They can hold their breath underwater for as long as 4-7 hours if they are resting or sleeping. That is the reason why sea turtle when found as bycatch mostly died from drowning.
Shark Bay, is a bay on the East side of Koh Tao island, a home to vast marine animals such as turtles and sharks, also it is the direction where the tides carries in the trash from main lands. This results, animals, especially sea turtles eating plastic because it gets confuse to their food. At The New Heaven Conservation Center I was able to visit a recued sea turtle. The sea turtle was pooping plastic.
Recent days, there are law enforced on these issues but I am very doubtful. Plastic recycling facilities are installed but how effective is it and where does the waste ends up really? Also with fishing, there are education on ethical fishing but who looks after them when they go to the sea?
Normal people like us won't be able to solve this global issue but we can choose. Choose to do better, choose to consume consciously, choose to care. Because like I said, everything comes from somewhere and it ends up somewhere. Let's get that somewhere off our beautiful ocean!