Cintai Tioman ~ Recycling efforts on Tioman Island

Hi all, I understand this space is mainly for volunteers to share about their experience in different environmental/conservation activities they have been involved in but I was asked to write a little something about the recycling efforts we are currently promoting on Tioman island.

All of us Malaysians have experienced that awful moment where a splendid scenery or moment of tranquility was disturbed by litter left by those that visited before us. Be it parks, streams, waterfalls or the beach the issue of litter is always present. For a country now 57 years old and supposedly on tract to being classified as a Developed nation in 6 years, we still seem to lack basic civilised attributes when it comes to dealing with our trash.

Tioman island experiences this same problem, receiving slightly more than 200 000 visitors last year of which 70% were Malaysians; the island lacks an efficient or environmentally friendly way of dealing with the large quantity of trash generated on the island. Trash was either burned or sent out to landfills on the mainland, absence the option to recycle.

In February 2014 as part of a wider programme to increase the ecological and social resilience of Tioman, Reef Check Malaysia started a recycling campaign. The campaign first started among school children in Sekolah Kebangsaan Tekek then spread among Dive shops and finally the general population. The idea of recycling was not completely new on the island because the locals collected aluminium cans to be sold to scrap collectors in the past, however the idea of segregating plastic from the general trash and giving it away to be recycled for no economic gain was something new.

We started by providing special bins for plastics and cans in the school and to give the campaign a boost we held a competition among the school kids to see who could collect the most plastic. The competition ran 6 months and some kids took it very seriously.

some students took it very seriously

A competition was help to see which student could collect the most amount of plastic

bins were placed in the school to collect tin and plastic

bins were placed in the school to collect tin and plastic

school kids collected plastic as part of a competition

Students brought the plastic they collected to school to be weighed

We decided to work with the dive shops next, simply because we thought they would hold the importance of conservation closer to heart. It, however, proved to be harder than expected, with many not wanting to take the trouble to sort their trash and others blaming their guest for the odd nasi lemak bungkus, left over teh tarik, and banana peel in our “Plastic Only” bins. It simply wasn’t worth their effort or time especially because they were not getting paid for it.  I must admit at first it was disappointing even annoying that these people many of whom were ‘highly’ educated refused to put in a little effort to protect the environment which is their bread and butter.

The only reason we kept on moving forward, was because of the positive response we received from some of the few environmentally aware dive operators. They were ever willing to support and help where possible and the volumes of plastic we received from them alone made it worth our effort to continue.

Plastick bins in dive shops

Plastic bins in dive shops

Dive shop operators supporting the recycling programme

Some dive shop operators have been very supporting towards the recycling programme

We later involved resorts, chalets and local businesses and now have bins and collections points in all the main villagers around the island. The system isn’t perfect and there is much to do, we still face issues like our bins going missing, our bins filled with other trash, having to clean maggots and other ekky yucky stuff off the plastic and so on but the results thus far have been encouraging. Last month we collected up to 550 kg of recyclables and though it is minute to the overall amount of waste generated on the island it is a good start.

Seeing the boat packed with all the trash heading to be recycled it was a great feeling something i don’t know how to explain in words. The fact that increasing number people are getting involved and even more are now aware of the efforts also makes it worth and drives us to keep on going. We are now in the midst of setting up a recycling center to collect plastic, aluminium cans, batteries, used cooking oil, glass and to start bio composting as well. This center yet still a dream, would truly help to keep Tioman clean and green.

Alvin Chelliah

Some resorts are now involved in the recycling effort

Some resorts are now involved in the recycling effort

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