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

World's First Collapsible, Reusable Straw Fits Right On Your Keychain

Straws suck—literally and figuratively. Americans throw away 500 million of these single-use plastics everyday day, clogging landfills, polluting oceans and causing harm to aquatic creatures.

And while reusable straws made of bamboo or metal already exist on the market, the Santa Fe-based team at FinalStraw have invented the world's first collapsible, reusable straw you can conveniently attach to your keychain so you won't forget to bring your own when you're on the go.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
The 2018 London Marathon dropped air pollution on one street along its route by 89 percent. Kleon3 / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 4.0

London Marathon Leads to 89% Drop in Air Pollution

Global Action Plan, a non-profit organization dedicated to tackling "throw away culture" and the impact it has on humans and the planet, discovered an unexpected health benefit to running marathons.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
March For The Ocean

Why It’s Time We March for the Ocean

By Sylvia Earle & David Helvarg

We've recently seen the remarkable capacity of youth to mobilize and to inspire us with a message of change in their march against gun violence. Theirs is also a generation equipped with technologies not just to connect to each other but to better understand our blue planet in ways unimaginable even a generation ago. These include satellite tagging and following of migratory species such as whales, sharks and tuna and accessing the deep ocean with both autonomous robots and human occupied submersibles that allow us to dive into the history of our Earth.

Keep reading... Show less

Study Reveals Dangerous Antarctic Feedback Loop

A new study of the melting patterns of glaciers in Antarctica provides real-world evidence for one of the more troubling model-based climate change predictions, The Washington Post reported Monday.

The study, published April 18 in Science Advances, found that fresh water melting off of glaciers in some regions of Antarctica caused a layer of cold, fresh water to float above warmer, saltier water, both slowing ocean circulation and melting lower parts of the ice sheets.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Renewable Energy
GE's Haliade-X 12-megawatt offshore wind turbine

World's Largest Offshore Wind Turbine Can Power 16,000 Homes

The world's largest and most powerful offshore wind turbine will test its wings at an innovative facility in northeast England.

The 12-megawatt Haliade-X, developed by GE Renewable Energy, stands 853 feet tall, or about three times the height of the Flat Iron building in New York City. Its massive rotor diameter of 722 feet is roughly the tower height of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge above water.

Keep reading... Show less
Water overflowing the Oroville dam spillover in 2017. William Croyle, California Department of Water Resources

Climate Change Could Increase 'Whiplash' Between Wet and Dry Years in California, Leading to More Disasters

California has had a rough eight years. From 2010 to 2016, it endured the worst drought in its recorded history. Then, massive rainfall in 2016 and 2017 forced 18,000 Californians to evacuate their homes as the emergency spillway of the Oroville Dam was threatened due to erosion. Summer 2017 also saw the worst wildfire in the state's history.

But research published in Nature Climate Change Monday found that, if humans don't act to halt climate change, California's recent sequence of catastrophes could become the new normal.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Pixabay

Will Scientists Develop a Zero-Waste Cell Phone?

By Marlene Cimons

How often do you swap out your old smartphone for a new one? Every two or three years? Every year? Today, phone companies make it easy with deals to trade in your old phone for the newest version. But those discarded phones are becoming a huge source of waste, with many components ending up in landfills or incinerators.

When a cell phone gets tossed, only a few materials get recycled, mostly useful metals like gold, silver, copper and palladium, which can be used in manufacturing other products. But other materials—especially fiberglass and resins—which make up the bulk of cell phones' circuit boards, often end up at sites where they can leak dangerous chemicals into our groundwater, soil and air.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
formulanone / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Federal Court: Reinstate Fines for Gas Guzzlers

By Andrea Germanos

A federal court on Monday stopped another of the Trump administration's attacks on clean air—its indefinite delay of stricter penalties for automakers producing vehicle fleets that don't meet fuel efficiency standards.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

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