If you arrive on Derawan, especially with low tide, you will notice one thing immediately: GARBAGE. It’s everywhere! People living next to the shore throw everything in the water/on the beach; Garbage, toilet contents, everything. So one day when we were on our way to Maratua but when we had to return due to dangerous high waves (July and August is wave season / widow season) and we had the rest of the day off, we decided: let’s clean the area around our house!
Some kids were interested in what Wawan, Ibu Heldi, Ade (her son) and I were doing, and joined us. 5 hours later we gathered 3 m3 of garbage, consisting of 120 batteries (around 1 house only!!!), ±30 kg glass, ±10kg metal and a lot of plastic (even ½ fibre boat). The problem was where to leave this. Because they only have a place behind the football field were they gather and burn al the garbage. No waste sorting centre like you find in every Dutch city here, even not on the mainland cities! So the only thing what we could do now was make different piles for every garbage type.
We wanted to extend our clean up action. Like last year I had my birthday while on Derawan Island. Here in Indonesia it is uncommon to celebrate you birthday once you are adult. But Wawan came with the great idea that we could maybe have a big beach clean up day for the primary and secondary school here at the Island to celebrate the day.
Doctor Wita was also very concerned about the waste problem and together with Icuk and Jejen we formed a team to make “Derawan Bersih” (Derawan Clean!). On Friday the children would see their first PowerPoint ever about garbage. Why is it important to collect it? What are the different types of garbage and how should they split it. And of course if you throw plastic bags in the sea, turtle might think it’s a jellyfish and eat it, causing problems. After 1 hour of logistic delay, for arranging a generator which power output was stable enough to prevent the beamer from crashing, we had all the attention. And they reacted wonderfully. The students finished al the words and answered al Wawans questions with the whole class by shouting together
The day after the presentation the kids gathered for the beach clean up at 7:00 in the morning. They arrived with empty rice bags and a name card for their group with great names like “Kuda Laut= seahorse” and “Cendrawasi= bird of paradise”. They needed 1 ½ hours (!) of organizing the groups, mixing the primary and secondary school students in neat rows. Then they practiced the Yell that Wawan teached them and they were ready to go! One off the most amazing things I learned was that many children can not swim, while living on/next to the water! (so that will be my next project in November, but how to teach them?). This is why they only walked on the beach and collected al the garbage here, carrying it in the rice bags back to school. Here they splitted it in Glass, Metal, Batteries and Plastic after which Wita, Icuk and I weighted it. In total 650 kg was gathered by 150 students and the best group collected 80 kg in total. Later we heard this group cheated by collecting garbage from the garbage belt (smart cheaters!). A great day, which has to be repeated! The children are the most important subjects if you want to change something in a culture (still able to change their behaviour) maybe their parents will listen to them and hopefully also change their waste management. Wawan send the report of the day to “Berau Coal Company” and hopefully we could raise some money for future actions and a waste collection/treatment system. Let’s try! If you have some tips, let me know! And check out the happy pictures!