Quantcast
Popular

World's Largest Beach Clean-Up: Trash-Ridden to Pristine in 2 Years

By Joe McCarthy

A lot of people take part in community clean-up efforts—spending a Saturday morning picking up litter in a park, mowing an overgrown field or painting a fence.


But not everyone has the drive to do what a young lawyer and environmentalist in Mumbai recently accomplished.

In 2015, Afroz Shah moved to an apartment near Versova beach, an ignored strip of ocean near slums. He was shocked by the pollution that he saw—the beach was covered in rotting garbage. Nobody could walk along the beach, let alone swim in the water, without being assaulted by the smell.

"[The plastic] was 5.5 feet high. A man could drown in the plastic," Shah told CNN. "I said I'm going to come on the field and do something. I have to protect my environment and it requires ground action."

At first, Shah and his neighbor, an 84-year old man, would go out and pick up as much trash as they could.

After a while, Shah realized that he had to expand his team if he was going to make a dent in what was essentially an environmental crisis. He began knocking on doors and talking with local residents, explaining the harm caused by marine pollution. His determination inspired a lot of people and soon dozens, hundreds and eventually more than a thousand volunteers from all walks of life pitched in.

Cleanups were ironically called "dates with the ocean," because they were really arduous affairs, "shin-deep in rotting garbage under the scorching Indian sun," according to the UN.

Global Citizen reported on the 33-year old lawyer's efforts last year, but his volunteer organization, Versova Residents Volunteers, was only half-way through with the massive undertaking, which is being hailed as the "world's largest beach clean-up effort."

Now, after 21 months of toil, they picked up 11,684,500 pounds of trash, most of it plastic, that had accumulated along the shoreline. They also cleaned 52 public toilets and planted 50 coconut trees.

For his vision and hardwork, the UN awarded him the "Champion of the Earth" award.

"I am an ocean lover and feel that we owe a duty to our ocean to make it free of plastic," he told the UN. "I just hope this is the beginning for coastal communities across India and the world."

Shah's work didn't end with the last piece of trash picked up, either.

He wants to plant thousands of coconut trees to return the beach to the lagoon it once was and he now works to limit the amount of garbage that makes it to the beach in the first place, by, for example, building barriers along creeks upstream that carry litter to the beach.

He's also planning to expand his clean-up effort to the coastline's mangrove forests, which are similarly infested with garbage. When clean and unobstructed, these forests can act as powerful filtration systems and also form a natural defense against storms.

Shah also hopes to bring grassroots clean-up efforts to other parts of India, inspiring a nationwide awareness of environmentalism. Ultimately, Shah wants to export this mentality throughout the world, cleaning up oceans and ecosystems to create a world that can foster life in all its splendor.

It's going to be an uphill battle.

Each year, 8 to 13 million tons of plastic make it into the world's oceans each year—the equivalent of two garbage trucks filled with plastic every minute. Throughout the world, there are about five plastic bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline. By 2050, plastic could outweigh fish in the oceans.

While companies are to blame for the massive amounts of plastic produced and sold, plastic pollution often happens on an individual level.

But if Shah's work proves anything, individuals can transform their relationship to garbage.

And if his style of enthusiastic environmentalism catches on around the world, then more beaches will begin to look like the Versova beach of today than the Versova beach of two years ago.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Freight Farms

Why This Montana Farmer Grows Food Year-Round in Shipping Containers

By Isabelle Morrison

Kim Curren, owner of Shaggy Bear Farm in Bozeman, Montana, has worn many hats. She worked in the solar power industry for 15 years, owned her own café bookstore and worked a stint as a medical case manager. In 2016, Curren decided to try her hand at farming, because why not?

Keep reading... Show less
Sam Murphy

Got Nondairy Alternative Milk?

By Sam Schipani

More and more, ecologically minded milk consumers are turning to nondairy products to minimize their carbon hoofprints. Sales of almond milk shot up by 250 percent between 2011 and 2016. Meanwhile, consumption of dairy milk has plummeted 37 percent since the 1970s, according to the USDA.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
A burger made with a blend of beef and mushrooms. Mushroom Council

'Blended Burger' Allows a Simple Shift to More Sustainable Eating

By Richard Waite, Daniel Vennard and Gerard Pozzi

Burgers are possibly the most ubiquitous meal on Americans' dinner plates, but they're also among the most resource-intensive: Beef accounts for nearly half of the land use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the food Americans eat.

Although there's growing interest in plant-based burgers and other alternatives, for the millions of people who still want to order beef, there's a better burger out there: a beef-mushroom blend that maintains, or even enhances, that meaty flavor with significantly less environmental impact.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Old White Truck / Flickr

The Last Straw? EU Official Hints Ban on Single-Use Plastic Across Europe

A top EU official hinted that legislation to cut plastic waste in Europe is coming soon.

Frans Timmermans, the first vice president of the European Commission, made the comment after Britain's environment minister Michael Gove, a pro-Brexiter, suggested that staying in the EU would make it harder for the UK to create environmental laws such as banning plastic drinking straws.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy
Flare from gas well. Ken Doerr / Flickr

Court Orders Trump Administration to Enforce Obama-Era Methane Rule

A federal judge reinstated a widely supported methane waste rule that President Trump's administration has repeatedly tried to stop.

Judge William Orrick of the U.S. District Court for Northern California ruled Thursday that Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) decision to suspend core provisions of the 2016 Methane and Waste Prevention Rule was "untethered to evidence."

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
On Jan. 24, 2017 President Donald Trump signed a memorandum to expedite the Keystone XL permitting process. Twitter | Donald Trump

Inside the Trump Admin's Fight to Keep the Keystone XL Approval Process Secret

By Steve Horn

At a Feb. 21 hearing, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the Trump administration must either fork over documents showing how the U.S. Department of State reversed an earlier decision and ultimately came to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, or else provide a substantial legal reason for continuing to withhold them. The federal government has an order to deliver the goods, one way or the other, by March 21.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Health

New Black Lung Epidemic Emerging in Coal Country

In a study released this month by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), federal researchers identified more than 400 cases of complicated black lung in three clinics in southwestern Virginia between 2013 and 2017—the largest cluster ever reported.

However, the actual number of cases is likely much, much higher as the government analysis relied on self-reporting. An ongoing investigation from NPR has counted nearly 2,000 cases diagnosed since 2010 across Appalachia.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Dennis Schroeder / NREL

The Facts About Trump’s Solar Tariffs – Who Gets Hurt? Who Gets Helped?

By John Rogers

The solar-related shoe we've been expecting has finally dropped: President Trump recently announced new taxes on imported solar cells and modules. There's plenty of downside to his decision, in terms of solar progress, momentum and jobs. But will it revive U.S. manufacturing?

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!