Travelogue – Up Close and Personal with Beach Plastic Litter

I recently went on a vacation that I have dreamed of for quite some time — one I may even be so bold as to call a “trip of a lifetime.”

I was fortunate enough to head to the other side of the world — to the Pacific Ocean actually, specifically the beautiful Gulf of Thailand.

I loved everything about Thailand: the white sand, the turquoise waters, the fantastic food and the wonderful people.  I can now understand why people seem to go back there over and over again, with so many different places to see and so many islands to choose from — where do you even begin?

Shortly before I left for Thailand, I wrote a blog post about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and all of the plastic debris floating around in the Pacific Ocean — also known as the largest landfill in the world. Needless to say it was fresh in my mind, and the fact that I was actually heading out that way didn’t go unnoticed.

I did quite a bit of sightseeing, so I was looking forward to a few days of R&R at the beach.  As I took my first dip in the crystal clear water, enjoying the wonderful rays of vitamin D, what should float past me?  You guessed it — a piece of plastic!  Not just a little piece either, and unfortunately, it wasn’t the only one!

KoPhangan, Thailand  Plastic collected on the beach

KoPhangan, Thailand. Plastic collected on the beach

Every time I walked from the water back to my beach towel, or along the beach, all I could see was little pieces of plastic!  It was everywhere!  So with the help of my environmentally conscious family,  our beach days consisted of enjoying the sunshine, reading, swimming and picking up plastic.  In less than an hour we managed to pick up all of this plastic litter just in passing!

It was our small contribution to a very big problem.  I must admit it did feel rather overwhelming, but sometimes that’s all it takes: “one wave to create a ripple effect,” so they say.  I was actually hoping it would entice fellow vacationers to do the same, perhaps even persuade them to clean up after themselves.

KoPhangan Beautiful Beach with Tire in the water

It was very disheartening to go to a tropical paradise like Thailand, and amongst all of the lush greenery and beautiful blue waters there were cigarette butts, straws and water bottles all over the beach.  Don’t get me wrong, vacationers aren’t the only culprits. The locals have their own share of waste management woes, and waste is not exactly high on the priority list. I did notice a more conscientious effort being made by a lot of the local tour guides however, and attempts to clean up the beaches at the end of the day, which is a promising sign of things to come.

I sometimes wonder what it is about travelling and vacations that make people completely disregard all responsibility, to each other as well as to the environment?  When people are away from home, why do they feel like they can disrespect someone else’s home? And ultimately, that water bottle they leave on the beach will eventually wash up on the shore of their own backyard someday.

Travelling is a very eye-opening experience. It allows you to see the world from different perspectives, and in turn understand and respect it on a grander scale.  You see a bigger picture and realize the impact of every choice and decision you make.

Keep this in mind the next time you travel, and please try to travel green.  There are many blogs and websites giving tips on how to do this, such as Leave No Trace and Responsible Traveller. Make sure you check them out before you go!

What tips would you give to travellers to help them manage their waste responsibly when they go on vacation?

About Andrea Graham

I currently work in the Waste Management Services division for Halton Region as the Administration Technician. This involves data management and analysis, and financial administration of the waste collection and processing contracts. I am determined to travel the world, and you may see me scooting around town on my Vespa.
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1 Response to Travelogue – Up Close and Personal with Beach Plastic Litter

  1. chris says:

    I can totally relate to this article and the subject. Last July we went to Greece, Italy and England on a summer vacation. I, like you, could not believe the amount of garbage just thrown everywhere in these beautiful places! Crystal clear water with a plastic water bottle floating in it! Garbage cans overflowing with recycleable materials. It just makes you wonder if these beautiful and serene places on earth will exist in 10 years. I witnessed a young person get off a train and throw his plastic waterbottle over a fence as he got off on the platform. Out of sight Out of mind. Something small that we did on this trip was bring our own stainless steel refillable water bottle and refilled it. And when we bought something, we put it in our backpacks (no plastic bags).

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