Thailand has long been synonymous with beautiful palm-fringed beaches and idyllic, calm blue waters, but like beaches in many places, they’re getting dirtier. So what’s happened and what can you do to help keep Ko Tao’s beaches pristine?
The ocean is simply choking with trash, predominantly plastic: bottles, bags, lighters, straws and flip flops are some of the more common things the ocean will spew onto the shore line. These items may not have been discarded a day, a week or even a month ago — some have been circulating for years. Plastic simply does not degrade and kills marine life at a phenomenal rate. You’ll notice in Thailand that it’s extremely difficult to buy anything that doesn’t come wrapped in, bottled in or made from plastic.
The biggest thing you can do when travelling — or you’re anywhere — is to help reduce the amount of single-use plastic in circulation. Get yourself a metal refillable bottle. Bangkok has many refill stations and Ko Tao has one too (along with those offered by environmentally minded dive centres). More could be done, however, so ask why doesn’t your resort or dive centre have one? The more visitors that ask, the more likely we are to effect change. The number of plastic bottles Ko Tao goes through would make your hair stand on end and while there is recycling in place, this isn’t the answer.
Ask yourself, do you really need that plastic bag? Do you? I doubt it, as I bet you have a bag on your shoulder or back. Don’t take a plastic bag for a plastic bottle of water simply to stop it sweating inside your bag. Get yourself a water carrier or cooler instead. Say you don’t want one in Thai: “Mai ao thung, khop khun khap/kha!”
There has been a little success in bars not using straws, once again more could be done. Say you don’t want one. The number of straws picked up during morning beach cleans is astounding. In Thai, you can say: “Mai ao luud, khop khun kha/khap!” Ask for a glass with your can of soft drink rather than a straw.
Needless to say, whatever you do use, dispose of it properly. Don’t leave trash on the beach and encourage others not to do so too.
Consider taking part in a beach clean. This is the only way to remove plastic from the ocean’s cycle. These happen regularly on Ko Tao. A centrally organised one occurs at the end of each month — ask at the environmentally minded dive centres for details (you don’t need to be a diver to help.) and you may find these same dive centres are holding their own clean up as well in between times.
Ko Tao is lucky to have such an active team of volunteers who work tirelessly to aid the environment on many fronts. Remember, every plastic bag you pick up off the beach — if you dispose of it properly — stops it circulating in the ocean. It takes just one plastic bag to kill a turtle.
By Ayesha Cantrell
Last updated on 7th March, 2013.