Ocean trash. Marine debris. You’ve heard it’s a problem. An ever-increasing amount of plastic pollution is entering our ocean every day. Surprisingly, many countries around the world lack the most basic trash collection services. As incomes rise, people are able to afford more and more plastic goods. But in many countries, the ability to collect and manage waste isn’t growing at nearly the same rate. As a result more plastic is ending up on beaches, in rivers and eventually the ocean.
We’re lucky at Ocean Conservancy to have an incredible network of passionate and devoted coordinators and volunteers through our International Coastal Cleanup who work tirelessly to keep their local beaches and waterways free of harmful plastic debris. Just last week, I had the honor of interviewing our Bangladesh Country Coordinator, Muntasir Mamun, about the problems with marine debris and how the Cleanups in his country have been successfully recruiting more and more volunteers.
OC: Why are you so invested in our ocean’s health?
Muntasir: Bangladesh is the biggest delta on Earth and has one of the largest natural sandy sea beaches. Due to over population, Bangladesh is heavily threatened by the impact of trash. Moreover, thousands of rivers are going across my country and ending up being at the ocean. So, the trash being in the rivers (intentionally or unintentionally) are going to be in the ocean. Not only that, geographically Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries from the impact of climate change.
OC: How did you first get started with the International Coastal Cleanup?
Muntasir: I heard about this program while I was attending an exchange program in Japan in 2005. One of the participants from the Philippines suggested that I become involved in Bangladesh since we have such a long coastal belt.
OC: What beaches have you helped clean up?
Muntasir: Cox’s Bazar and St. Martin’s Island
OC: Who did you work with during the Cleanup that inspired you?
Muntasir: I think the volunteers are the key inspiration factor for me.
OC: How has your Cleanup changed over the years?
Muntasir: When I first started this program in Bangladesh, 10 years ago, there were only four people involved. But now, it’s a program of more than thousands. Local government, corporations and educational institutions got involved in the program. The beach we used to see a long time ago, it’s cleaner than ever. The habit of littering was reduced and a number of trash bins have been installed.
OC: How would you describe your volunteers?
Muntasir: Volunteers are the heart of the International Coastal Cleanup. It’s the volunteers who keep the program running and successful.
OC: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve found during a Cleanup?
Muntasir: A huge abandoned fiberglass boat on the shore of St. Martin’s Island.
OC: Thanks for all your time, Muntasir, and for the tremendous effort you lead to keep the shores of Bangladesh free of trash!