|Volunteers pose for a group photo after cleaning up Gwangalli Beach located in Busan, Friday. Screenshot from Ocean Conservancy Twitter|
Environmental group Ocean Conservancy hosted event to prevent further marine pollution
By Lee Yeon-woo
Korea's southern coastal regions were hit earlier this month by two super typhoons, first Hinnamnor and then Nanmadol.
Help was on the way all across the nation. Marines were mobilized to restore damaged buildings and streets. Volunteers fed displaced residents. Donations from businesses and private individuals were handed over to help those who were displaced or hit hard by the natural calamities.
International volunteers have also joined the post-typhoon clean-up movement.
To celebrate International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) season and to help the fast recovery of typhoon-hit Busan, around 100 worldwide volunteers ― including public officials and representatives of NGOs ― gathered in Busan on Friday to clean up Gwangalli Beach, one of the popular tourist spots in Busan. They collected trash, mostly plastics, on the beach and sieved the beach sand to filter microplastics.
Oceans and Fisheries Minister Cho Seung-hwan also participated and encouraged the public to actively clean up the ocean during the ICC season.
Behind the scenes, the non-profit environmental group Ocean Conservancy hosted the event while offering guidelines to volunteers and helping the event to run smoothly. Based in the United States, the group launched the ICC season in 1984 and made the event the world's largest volunteer effort to clean up the marine environment. Korea has been participating in the movement with Our Sea of East Asia Network (OSEAN) since 2001.
|Nicholas Mallos, vice president of Ocean Plastics at Ocean Conservancy, gestures during the 7th International Marine Debris Conference held from Sept. 19 to 23. Courtesy of Ocean Conservancy|
The timing was just perfect, Nicholas Mallos, vice president of Ocean Plastics at Ocean Conservancy, recalled.
"International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) season begins in September. And nearly everyone at the (7th International Marine Debris) Conference has a story to tell about a time they saw plastics on a beach or in the water and felt inspired to act. We wanted to help close out the conference with the same spirit of possibility and community," Mallos said in a recent email interview with The Korea Times.
The cleanup event was hosted as a part of the 7th International Marine Debris Conference (7IMDC), the world's longest-running international conference dedicated to the issue of marine litter and plastic pollution.
|Nicholas Mallos and his colleague clean up a beach at Santa Monica in the U.S. state of California, during International Coastal Cleanup season in 2019. Courtesy of Ocean Conservancy|
As an expert in marine biology and marine debris, Mallos pointed out that natural disasters, such as the typhoons that hit Busan recently, accelerate marine litter. Not only does it sweep everyday trash into the ocean, it also results in fishing gear loss, known as "ghost gear."
"Ghost gear is a significant source of plastic pollution in the ocean and the most harmful form of marine debris to animals. Many of Ocean Conservancy's Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) partners have reported the impacts of natural disasters on their fishing operations, and often attribute gear loss to severe weather," he said.
ICC season is a time to collect data that helps increase understanding of the marine environment and can be used as a resource for policy suggestions. Nearly 17.5 million volunteers have collected 157 million kilograms of trash from coastlines around the world, according to the Ocean Conservancy.
"Data collected during the International Coastal Cleanup contribute to Ocean Conservancy research and inform policy solutions around the world that reduce and manage plastics and address marine debris," he said.
This season, more than 3,700 cleanup events took place in approximately 35 countries around the world. It will continue to be held around the world through this autumn.
However, Mallos thinks cleaning up the ocean itself is not enough.
"There is no silver bullet to tackling the plastic pollution problem, and we need an all-hands-on-deck approach. In addition to cleanups, we need manufacturers and retailers to stop making so much single-use plastic. We need governments to hold plastics producers accountable for the full lifecycle of their products and packaging, and to help build and scale up truly circular waste collection and recycling systems," he said.
"We need to produce less plastic in the first place, and we need to remove what's already in the environment … If we work together, we can stop plastic pollution in its tracks."