It’s becoming increasingly clear that working together is the only way to change. Find others like yourself and they are your support system, your cheerleader. There will be times, there are always times when we need a cheerleader, back-up, or someone that has our back. But to make a change in our society needs togetherness perhaps even more? Let me explain, but first I need to go back a little in time.
I’m working with Cozumel Ocean Research, I arrived here at the very end of June. I immediately met with its Co-Founders & Directors. Ernesto Hervia is the scientist, the oceanographer. He is hugely experienced and hugely passionate. There is Liang Chen, she plays down her role a little, in my opinion. I wish she wouldn’t, though its part of her humble character that makes her so great. She’s an excellent strategist, thinker, planner. Both are very experienced and educated divers, who both educate through their diving too. It’s been a privilege to meet them both, let alone work with them.
I emailed them back in February and requested to be able to volunteer with them. They have a dive monitoring programme. (Please check out the website if you are interested. The link is at the bottom of the page.) The diving here is so, so amazing. I’ve dived just 7 times since I’ve been here. I’ve seen sharks, turtles, stingrays, eels, Trumpet, Angel, Toad, gorgeous Cow and Squirrelfish, plus lobster. Then there is the tiny stuff. Wow!! Seahorses, Pipehorse (a relative of seahorses), Sponge crab, Frogfish, Brittle star, Lettuce sea slug. It’s so tiny!! I mean minuscule. Liang has taught me to love and look for these gorgeous tiny beings.
Pygmy Pipehorse of Cozumel ( approx 2cm in length)
Anyway, Liang and I had several conversations via email over the months following. Eventually, she asked me to head up the plastic project they had in mind to create. I was thrilled and agreed of course! The project was to set up a plastic recycling plant on the Island. There is some recycling on the Island. The actual recycling plant though is not. The recyclable containers have to be transported to the mainland. So that’s why the idea of our own plant on the Island became a priority. Also on the back of that, we could make products with the prepared products to sell. It would be an excellent teaching facility. We could bring locals, businesses and schools to participate and be educated. The education and awareness are key as you probably realise. Teaching the children is also a massive part of the change that is needed. It could become the norm for them, to be able to consider the plastic being used. What a gift that will be to give them, a consciousness that makes a choice able to exist.
Do you know Precious Plastic? We have learnt how we can set up a plant and how to make products to sell from this site. What an amazing gift it is! Set up by Dutch Designer Dave Hakkens. Link to the website is below. This site gives teaches you everything you need to know about building your own recycling plant, with short and concise instruction videos for every part of the setup. There is also an online community so you can share issues, problems and resources with people who are local to you. He has created this and given it free to the world. What a hero.
The local businesses who cater to the tourists we imagine would large plastic users. We have started surveying the hotels, restaurants, beach clubs and dive shops, asking them about the plastics they use, how much of it they buy, and the costs involved. One response I had, was that when they started to add up the plastics they used they were horrified. That’s a good reaction because it precipitates change. I have put together a plastics document that offers information on all the types of plastic there are, and what category the products fall into. I’m now your go-to gal on plastics! You can find this document at the bottom of this page.
This was to arm them with a little knowledge and awareness. For example, plastic drink bottles are made from PET, Type 1. The lids on these bottles are plastic type 5, PP. This means it is essential that they be separated or the recycled product can be spoiled. All plastics have different properties, for example, they have different densities. Did you know that? Most people do not. Why don’t we know this?
We also wanted to ask them if they had started recycling, what problems they might have encountered trying to make the changes away from plastic. We imagined that there would be a lot of resistance to our questions. Surprise!! Even though it’s early days, there is a small but wonderful miracle happening. All the businesses that we have spoken to so far have started to change already. Some have shocked us with what they have tried to do or instigated. Rodrigo told us of a programme he founded over 10 years ago to teach all the children on the Island about ecology and the environment. He received Governmental funding to do so and published books for the school children and added the subject to the school curriculum. He saw back then how important it was for the future. By now plastic the Island would have completely eradicated plastic. Cozumel might have been a world leader, a beacon of shining hope for us all. The programme was closed in 2011, an effect of the world financial crisis.
Cozumel is an Island, this makes the issues of plastic that bit more urgent, in that we are surrounded by the ocean. Everything that is done here, every action, everything not protected will go straight into that big, beautiful ocean. All the businesses depend on it, all the people here depend on it for their families.
The issues are becoming clear as I speak to the business owners. Many have tried to change and failed, some want to change but don’t know how.
So this is what Cozumel Ocean Research is in the process of rolling out, albeit we are at beginning of the process. This is our plan, educate, create awareness and provide assistance to facilitate change in the short term mid and long term. We are launching SEA GREEN, Love Sea, Live Green campaign. This will unite the green crusaders and alert the tourists to the environmentally friendly businesses. Power to chose. I have already created a little online poll and data suggests that over 95% find it important to spend their money with a business engaged in green practices. I’m not sure if we had started this just 2 years ago the results would be quite so positive.
Ultimately coming together united with Government legislation in place to create a plastics free Island, and the children well-armed to lead the way to a better, green self-supporting future is what we are focused on. We are uniting, as only we can, to make the plan. The plan of having a future.