I first noticed the garbage problem on the islands while we were on Ko Samet, and when I did it was quite the shock. I’d been running for about 30 minutes when I decided to be adventurous (maybe not something you should necessarily be doing in a new and strange country!) and ran up a steep-wooded path – I figured the path had to lead to somewhere and figured I should find out where!
I’d only gone about 50 meters when the beautiful wooded area turned into a dump site. On both sides there were piles and piles of garbage – some of it loose, some of it spewing from ripped bags, some rotten food but most of it was mounds of plastic bottles and cans.
It was unbelievable. What a contrast. I ran back down the path to the beautifully maintained spirit house, with its morning’s offerings neatly laid out, the beach with its beautiful white sands and turquoise sea – no sign of the garbage dump. It was as if someone had asked a teenager to clean their room and they’d swept everything under the bed, out of sight.
After my first ‘garbage-sighting’ I became acutely aware of it everywhere. I wasn’t just seeing it in piles left in obscure places or littered along the side of the roads but I was seeing it strewn on the beaches.
While we were on Ko Tao we took a long-tail boat ride to a tiny beach named Mango Bay. The area is renowned for great snorkelling as the coral reef butts almost against the beach and one can literally paddle with the fish. We spent the afternoon there and during the course of our time several tour boats came and went and on each boat there were upwards of 30 people coming to enjoy the ocean and its sealife.
As each boat left I noticed that bits and pieces of garbage had been left behind right on the beach, right in the open. These tourists had come, enjoyed, had a drink, had a snack and then left their waste. Just dropped it and up and walked away – really? in this day and age – how can we be so irresponsible/ignorant/uncaring about our environment. It is one thing for an Island to have problems managing its garbage but it’s another when we are blatantly contributing to the problem.
I was reading in a Ko Tao travel guide that garbage is a huge problem on the Island because there is no infrastructure or waste management in place to support the accumulation due to the huge increase in tourism. Most of the waste is still disposed of by the old-fashioned method of burning but of course this doesn’t work with plastic and bottles.
I was heartened to see one morning, a group of young people touting garbage bags along the beach picking up the remnants from the night before. I have since been inspired to do the same and find that I am picking up empty bottles and wrappers wherever we go. But seriously people – please pick up after yourselves. If we don’t all actively take care of these beautiful beaches they’re not going to be here for us to enjoy – just sayin’
unwanted left scattered