From rumors of a ban on plastic straws to the Queen cracking down on single-use plastic, I've been delighted to see how quickly plastic and marine trash have risen up the environmental agenda in my native UK.
But plastic trash is a global problem.
Luckily, from Taiwan cracking down on single-use plastics to Mumbai hosting the world's biggest beach cleanup, there are signs of people coming together all over the world to get a handle on this most pernicious of environmental challenges.
The Indonesian island of Bali is the latest to join the fray. Under the banner of One Island, One Voice, 20,000 people came together this past weekend to hold 120+ separate beach cleanups. The word is not yet out on how much trash was collected, but given that last years' event (see video below), which consisted of 12,000 people and about 55 locations, collected 40 tons of trash, we can expect the figure to be impressive indeed.
Importantly, as this article from The Guardian notes, the focus of the clean up is not simply addressing the symptoms. It is also being used as an opportunity to educate the crowds (which are about 80% local, 20% visitors) about the impact of single-use plastics and to start changing mindsets and influencing consumer behaviors.
And that, I think, is a key point about all of these clean up operations. Whether it's the social media-driven activism of #2MinuteBeachClean, the commerce-financed clean ups of United By Blue, or the high-tech, High Seas clean up arrays of Boylan Slat, we inevitably hear complaints that clean up is simply a band aid solution. I couldn't disagree more strongly.
Not only do we HAVE to address the waste that is already out there, but doing so is a powerful way to educate all of us—wherever we live—that there really is no 'away'. Every time I pick up a piece of litter as I walk my kids to school, it serves as a powerful reminder to think twice before using a straw or buying a bottle of water. The inspiring clean up efforts of One Island, One Voice are no different. Once you've spent some time digging through the mud to remove someone else's trash from a pristine beach, I'm willing to bet you're more determined than ever to hold politicians, corporations, tourists and your fellow citizens accountable for the mess they leave behind.