During the season 2018, our Recycling and Waste Management team had many opportunities to engage stakeholders in waste and recycle management and collaborate with the local community in the Perhentian Islands.
Each of us has our own stories and shared memories, so let me give you some extracts of mine. From my point of view, progress has been like the “snowball effect”, one thing unexpectedly leading to the next.
The Plastic-Free Perhentian Map
I joined mid-season as intern on the Waste and Recycling Management team. I didn’t know what to expect but managed to meet previous interns for a general picture. Once the second team member arrived, our Project Leader introduced all of us to the project.
We would finalise the #PlasticFreePerhentian map project by gathering the last stakeholders from Pulau Besar. The aim was trying to attract those interested in lessening impacts of plastics and littering. We managed to do this by asking parties to provide water refill stations, recycling or minimising their own plastic use.
Waste Management Reader and Recyclables Separation
After the first weeks of gathering stakeholders, we realised that some establishments could use written documents to reach a standard for dealing with waste and littering. For this reason, we developed a reader (Responsible Waste Management) with posters illustrating good practices.
While meeting stakeholders we also tried to find ways for them to deal with their waste. The initial idea was to find storage spaces on the islands where separated recyclables could be kept until reaching such quantities to make it cost-beneficial, potentially profitable, for a big boat to come and pick up and sell to contractors at mainland. Our hope was, that bigger resorts would help provide a space they were not using.
When realising that finding storage space was not feasible at present, we searched another strategy for waste management. Our Project Leader suggested something used by conservation projects on other islands: Jumbo Bags – huge reusable bags (<1 m3) to fill with recyclable materials, ship to the mainland and give/sell to contractors.
The Recycling Competition
In order to attract stakeholders to this idea we needed to get some data on how this system worked. This led to organising a ‘Recycling Competition’ in a joint effort with the Perhentian Eco-Education Project for local school kids. The competition’s goal was see how much litter they were able to collect in a month. The teams that collected more litter had the opportunity to win prizes. While gathering data, the kids learned about the problems of plastics and littering. This was an important step for sensitising them about many environmental issues related to waste management. As result of this competiton, we ended the season with data ready for the 2019 team to bring to the discussions with stakeholders.
Conservation’s Life Lessons
What I have learned after a few months is that everything leads to another thing. When you find yourself in the smaller steps, it might feel like you’ve lost track of the end goals. What I’ve realised is that it’s the smaller steps you had not anticipated that lead you onwards. Conservation seems as much about patience as the ability to change your approach and go where it takes you. It’s a bit like a big puzzle, and last season we laid some pieces which will hopefully are helping the 2019 team.
By David Hallnäs , Recycling and Waste Management intern 2018