Making The World a Better Place - Trash Hero Borneo

Monica Chin (Left)

Trash Hero Borneo Co-Founder

Conservationist Scuba Diver

Ainie Jamin (Right)

Trash Hero Borneo Executive

Event Organizer

TE: Can you tell me a bit about Trash Hero Borneo?

Trash Hero Borneo is a leading non-profit nation wide organization, and is one out of the 52 chapters around the world, based on last year's data. We are one of the most sustainable community based organization and we want to keep the ocean clean and the planet Earth healthy, basically a no trash place. Trash Hero Borneo started in 2017. We need this organization because it is extremely active and is an organization that is based on activities. There are many kinds of awareness being raised by the Trash Hero community dedicated especially to the ocean. We are representing Sabah and Sarawak as well as spreading to Labuan and Brunei.

TE: What inspired you to start this project?

MC: To me, as a co-founder, what inspired me is the way these people and this community love doing and simply enjoy the activity. I was in Ao Nang, Krabi in 2013 for a diving trip. There was this one particular Sunday where it was a no diving day. One day before leaving the Ao Nang, my friend suggested that we join the beach cleanup. I said why not? When we arrived there, there were 20 people wearing Trash Hero Ao Nang t-shirts. It mostly consisted of tourists and divers who cleaned the beach themselves. I joined for the first time and I was so inspired by the way they were doing it. So much laughter, so much happiness, so much joy was in the atmosphere and everyone was just playing around, enjoying their time with a positive and productive outcome! They took before and after photos and the result is clearly there. Everyone was so happy and I noticed that the people who joined this activity loved the same ocean. No one there complained about being tired, being smelly, being sweaty. They can be who ever they want to be and it shows how it inspired me. They are basically bring their heart for the beach cleanup. That makes me so eager and so motivated to keep our oceans clean.

AJ: Everybody that came were strangers but they treated each other like a family. There is a group of students who talked to me personally on how Trash Hero started and it is kind of like their assignment. These kinds of things make me feel inspired and motivated to keep going.

Group photo with beautiful sunset after cleanup

TE: What are the difficulties that you faced in terms of spreading the awareness?

AJ : We do cleanups every week, and we educate people. But the trash doesn't decrease. Every week there will be new rubbish. So, I think we need to educate more people and raise more awareness. Since we are quite new and we struggled last year, we did a lot for marketing via social media & verbal. Hopefully this year we are able to do bigger projects. Go to a lot more places, to open people's eyes regarding the impact littering has on our oceans and to prove that Trash Hero is not only about picking up trash, it's about making the world better for everyone, including me, you and our marine life. Initially, there were only two of us who were involved in this project, and Monica had already started this kind of activity back in 2013. So when we want to bring this to Kota Kinabalu, we decided to choose Tanjung Aru and Tanjung Lipat because it's a public place. At the first beach cleanup, there were only six of us and few kids came afterwards. We started picking up litter and the kids were so happy and had no shame in helping us clean up the public beach. Sometimes people who come aren't consistent, and we don't have sponsors. Other than that, we have quite a bit of difficulty to try and educate people on having a deeper awareness about littering the beach , which is as simple as throwing trash in the right place. Our main activity is to pick up trash even though it is not our rubbish.

MC: Like what Ann said, I started beach cleanups 3 years ago but not under Trash Hero, because the name had not been confirmed yet. While waiting for the name to be official, they wanted to see commitment with continuous activity. To see that I'm ready for a bigger project. It is not easy. For me, I'm aiming for a higher department. Most people in Sabah deem it as being very hard. I'm an optimistic person but when I meet and talk to these people, I always get negative impressions and negative feedbacks. When I told them that we are going to keep on doing beach cleanups, keep on educating our community, keep on accepting all the invitations from schools and organizations to share our experience, most of these people, instead of giving us encouragement, they disregard the effort and assert that the trash will never finish, the garbage will have a no ending story, and it is so hard for people to change their habits. It is not easy when you approach certain people and they give you tons of negativity feedbacks. But for me, nothing is impossible. Humans are the ones who created plastic, humans created the trash. I believe that plastic products are created by humans so it can only be stop by humans. Plus, there are so many alternative options for plastic, it's just a matter of whether you want to do it or not, whether you want to discipline yourself or not, or whether you simply don't care and ignore it. That's the most difficult part. I will never give up because our Borneo has such beautiful oceans, has such beautiful nature enveloping it, sandy white beaches and so much more beauty. I believe that we can still save it compared to some other countries because I have seen much worse situations. We want the ocean to be trash free so that whenever we go diving, there won't be any trash in sight. The worst underwater trash I've seen in Sabah is in Mantanani and Gaya Island. I may be as stubborn, but I am trying to direct it in a good direction such as in Trash Hero Borneo.

Sayfol International School Sabah awareness

TE: What is your goal for Trash Hero Borneo?

AJ: We don't plan to focus on only picking up trash but to also bring the awareness to Sabah. It is possible for a country to have zero to little trash such as Singapore and Japan. We believe that we can do it here too. Maybe there will be more organizations that can help us in term of community building, providing facilities for the communities to dispose their rubbish into more organized bins, one that has labels for each type of waste. It may take some time for people over here to start a zero waste lifestyle, but we have our goals. The problem with rubbish is, it's everywhere and it will end up in the water, drains, river and eventually down in the ocean. Let say one restaurant use 200 straws for one shop. Imagine what it'd be like for all the restaurants in Kota Kinabalu. How much plastic and straws would that be? Bring your own container, your own recycling bag, so that plastic usage can be decreased and soon will be zero trash.

MC: Last year we manage to do 51 beach cleanups, 1994 volunteers came and we managed to collect 8775kgs of trash. We went to 8 schools for awareness talks and there were more than 1000 students we talked to. This year, on 2018 we plan to double up on whatever we did in 2017. We will try to connect with certain organizations, get full support from the government, wildlife, marine departments, Sabah park and hopefully it will be done by middle of the year. We managed to have a partnership with Reef Check Malaysia, and we feel so honored. We plan to do some recycling projects with the all the bottles and packaging we collect. We do not only plan to give speeches at the beach or schools but we are planning to go to the inner lands like Kedamaian, Tenom, Tambunan, Nabawan, Kinabatangan, basically wherever there's rivers flowing directed into the ocean. The main point is to raise awareness so that the villagers and old people learn to not throw rubbish into the river. If you ask me where does the rubbish come from, it's from all over the city. The boatmen, the tour operators, from people living near the oceans, near the beach. Everyone plays a role. We have checked the plastic bottles, and it is mostly from Sabahan brands. It's very less likely from Thailand and the Philippines. We need to change people's mindset, not blame other people but blame yourself. We will soon add 5 extra chapters in Trash Hero Borneo which are Trash Hero Papar, Kudat, Tenom, Tawau and Semporna. We welcome more volunteers to help with these plans.

TE: Any advice on how to improve the health of the environment?

MC: You need to have self-discipline and self-motivation. It's very simple, like today what do you want to eat? You decide that yourself. What do you want to drink? You decide that yourself too. What are you going to use and what you aren't going to use, what you want to wear, it's all your decision. Then why is it so hard for us to not use plastics. Everything depends on yourself. We will try to keep on inspiring others to help make the world a better place, before things get worse.

Ann: From our beach cleanup experience, we have found not only found small trash, but also the big ones such as pillows, clothes, even washing machines and refrigerators! That is not acceptable. If there's no one to pick it up, it will stay there forever. It's quite simple actually, just throw the rubbish into the right place.

2017 cleanups summary

Photos by Trash Hero Borneo

FB : Trash Hero Borneo

IG : @trashheroborneo

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