10 Easy Ways Malaysians Can Do To Protect Our Ocean
“Two garbage trucks worth of plastic are dumped into our oceans every minute.”
Since coming to the island, I would spend 10-15 minutes every morning before my shift collecting trash that gets washed up on the beach near where I volunteered. It was a Sisyphean task. I knew the waves coming from the South China Sea would soon deliver more trash to the shore. If not today, then tomorrow.
Perhentian islands consist of Perhentian Besar, Perhentian Kecil, as well as five other uninhabited islands. Pre-pandemic, its turquoise blue sea, and incredible marine life attracted over one hundred thousand tourists every year. In addition to the 2,000 locals living there, the huge number of tourists that visit the islands produces another burden in terms of waste, which makes it challenging for Perhentian to maintain its environmental health.
The Besut District Council (MPB) selects a waste management company annually through a bidding process to collect waste and dispose of it at a landfill in Besut. The awarded contractor then picks up the trash directly from resort operators, restaurants and dive operators located all around the islands. At times, waste has occasionally piled up for extended periods due to poor contract management, raising complaints from both tourists and locals. This may be the reason for the high pollution index of 30.88% found by Reef Check Malaysia survey carried out in the year 2020. 
It is so easy to take the wonderful nature of our country, one like the Perhentian Islands, for granted. So easy to stroll along its pristine white-sand beaches, to snorkel and dive in its luxuriously clear sea water, to sip on ice-cold beers while enjoying the fire show, all without thinking about how our actions affect the lives of others and our environment.
With the rising occurrence of extreme drought, wildfires, and flooding in all parts of the world, we can no longer ignore the climate crisis. After two days of nonstop, torrential rain on December 2021, the Klang Valley area experienced the greatest flooding of its history, followed by two (smaller) floods on 2022 March 7 and April 25.
Yet, where is the urgency for climate justice action in Malaysia?
I am unsure if our nation’s most profitable industries will ever cease toxic operations to fight against the climate crisis. Or that government authorities will take a stand in favour of ecological sustainability, especially when faced with wealthy and well-connected corporate owners dangling incentives to get approvals for their development projects.
However, I do believe that individual contribution to tackling climate change is important. We leave an impact on the world around us with our daily choices and actions, no matter how small.
“If other people are not going to change, why should I?” retorted most of my friends when I urged them to make more sustainable life choices.
When it comes to tackling a problem as major as climate change, individual contributions could seem awfully futile. Despite that, understanding that every action we take leads to consequences can affect the differences we make in our community.
“We have the choice to use the gift of our life to make the world a better place – or not to bother.” - Jane Goodall
If you want to do more for our environment, here are 10 simple ways we can protect our coast and oceans:
- Adopt a plant-based diet to discourage the fishing industry (watch Seaspiracy to learn more on how food choices affect our marine life)
- Bring reusable water bottles, straws, cups, and utensils at all times
- Pack your groceries with tote bags or reusable bags while shopping
- Choose organic over synthetic products for household items
- Shop local to reduce food-related carbon footprint
- Thrift or swap within your community instead of buying
- Choose reef-safe sunscreen and skin care products
- Dispose of your trash properly and recycle correctly
- Engage and volunteer with environmental organizations (find our latest events here)
- Organise cleanups in your community to spread awareness. Even two make a team! (Learn how to join #projekwasteBeyond here)
Microplastics have also been discovered in the air, water, and seafood that we consume. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, sometimes called the Pacific trash vortex, that stretches from the West Coast of North America to Japan is as real as it gets.
Most of us are already aware that plastic pollution is an existing issue that greatly impacts the ocean environment. But why aren’t enough of us taking action to solve the problem? The least we can do is stop using single-use plastic, as we are already drowning in it.