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Two clean up weekends, 150 bags of plastic.


Pulau Mantanani, Sabah: Two recent weekend clean-up events on Pulau Mantanani, Sabah, yielded over 150 bags full of plastic bottles, weighing some 300kg, for recycling.


Reef Check Malaysia (RCM), together with 120 volunteers from CIMB, the village and the general public, conducted the clean ups as part of the launch of a programme to improve waste management on the island. The programme was funded by CIMB Foundation.


“Initially our goal was to conduct a general waste clean-up, but after the first session we realized that there are so many plastic bottles on the beaches and inland that we decided to focus on those”, commented RCM Programme Manager Nattelee Lim. “Even with all the effort we have put in, with all the volunteers who participated, there is still a lot of work to do.”


Located some 35 km off the coast of Kota Belud, Sabah, Mantanani is a tropical paradise – clear turquoise sea, green palms and white sand. For many years, Mantanani was a quiet backwater, with few visitors. In recent years it has become a popular tourist destination with hundreds of tourists visiting the island each day. Unfortunately, the island has no organized waste management system. “Walking around the island, you can see plastic waste almost everywhere – under bushes, in trees, in people’s gardens…it really is everywhere”, says Julian Hyde, RCM’s General Manager. “Villagers are using a ‘traditional’ approach to waste disposal – the sea. While this might have worked with just organic waste in the past, which would decompose or perhaps be eaten by marine life, the plastic content in waste from the village is increasing, and plastic is returning to the island on tides.” Growth in tourist numbers is adding to the problem.


CIMB Foundation has provided a baling machine to reduce the volume of plastic waste, making recycling economic. Plastic will be transported to the mainland with the assistance of tourism resorts on the island, and sent for recycling. “Revenue from sales of the plastic will hopefully mean the system will pay for itself”, says Hyde.


As part of the launch, RCM installed over 30 bins to be used by villagers and resorts to collect plastic waste. “Our local staff will continue to monitor the situation and collect the plastic generated by the village and resorts, for recycling.”


Further clean-up activities are planned, and the programme will be integrated with the Clean Coast Rangers programme established by Blue Life, an organization working on community development programmes on Mantanani.