“How 60,000 Discarded Flip-flops Ended Up on a Remote Island”
by Anne Pinto-Rodrigues
The Christian Science Monitor, January 7, 2021
The Aldabra Clean-up Project (Seychelles) / transboundary marine litter incl. 60K flip flops
Seychelles and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) – including islands in the Caribbean – receive staggering amounts of the world’s plastic litter. Aldabra, an extremely remote UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Seychelles, is said to have the largest litter accumulation for a single island anywhere. This has been highly detrimental to wildlife (especially birds and nesting turtles) and ecosystems of the island.
In Feb-March 2019, a group of seven volunteers from the Seychelles and five volunteers from the University of Oxford, carried out a five-week expedition called the ‘Aldabra Clean-up Project’ to clear the main island of man-made rubbish, especially plastic. The clean-up project was part of a study to estimate the costs of removing marine litter from Aldabra.
During the five-week campaign, the team collected 25 tons (25,750kg) of marine debris and moved it to Mahe, the main island. Over half the litter collected was discarded fishing gear while 60,000 flip flops (!) accounted for nearly 22% of the litter collected. The volunteers also cleaned up some of Aldabra’s turtle nesting beaches.
The researchers were able to calculate the estimated quantity of marine litter remaining on Aldabra (500 tons still remaining on the island) as well as to work out the costs (per day & per ton) and person hours (per ton) required to rid the entire island of the litter. As there is no cost data from any other island clean-up, the calculations from Aldabra are meant to help other SIDS in planning their marine litter clean-ups, and in requesting for international funding and assistance.
The paper based on the Aldabra Clean-up Project was published by Nature on Sep 10th. The researchers have excellent photographs and videos from the clean-up effort.
The piece I’m proposing will look at the actual clean-up in Aldabra and summarize the findings of the paper. It can also look at how the 25 tons of removed plastic was processed, and the challenges faced by SIDS like the Seychelles, with regards to post-clean-up recycling / disposal.
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