Tripin 2019 - page 113

with multiple plastic bags for your
purchases. Be proactive and say
“NO” to the plastic bags and carry
your own tote for shopping. Next
time you reach out for that tropical
cocktail, maybe ask for it without
the plastic straw and slurp instead
of sip. When visiting public places
or attractions you may notice a lack
of trashcans. Leave no trace and
take all your trash back with you
and dispose of it in a designated
bin when you get the chance.
Its one thing for tourists to be
prepared to travel sustainably but
of course as always, these things
should start at home. There are a
number of local initiatives working
towards protecting ecosystems and
educating youth on the importance
of protecting the island’s
biodiversity. One such initiative is
Waste Less Arugam Bay.
Located in the east coast of the
island, Arugam Bay is a surfing
hotspot and all round superstar
destination. In close proximity
to a national park blessed with
abundant wildlife, pristine beaches
and truly magical landscapes is
what this slice of the east is all
about. To cater to the needs of
this growing tourist destination
Waste Less Arugam Bay (WLAB) is
offering holistic solutions to plastic
related issues in Arugam Bay and
its surrounding areas in an effort to
preserve its natural beauty.
Since the inception of its operations
in June 2018, WLAB has been
working with the local authorities,
tourism stakeholders and travelers,
both local and international, to
curb the amount of PET bottles
used in the Bay. With no proper
PET collection system in place
to deal with the sheer volume of
plastic being consumed during the
peak season (May to October),
WLAB introduced its own system
to collect consumed PET, thereby
reducing the amount sent to the
landfill on the daily. The collection
system involved setting up a
network of collection bins in public
spaces frequented by travelers,
including at surf points located
along the coast and at the entrance
of the Kumana National Park. The
WLAB collection tuk-tuk would
zip around the Bay on a daily
basis to empty out the bins and
consolidate the PET at the WLAB
center, located on the Main Strip of
Arugam Bay.
Collected PET is melted, shredded
and used to create fibers for fabrics
and bristles for paint brushes and
brooms, thereby reducing the need
for using virgin plastics, giving this
already existing plastic a second
life. The segregated lids are also
repurposed. The open source
Precious Plastic machinery uses
shredded plastic lids, controlled
heat exposure and a mold to create
a DIY consumer product such as
a key tag or a wax comb used to
clean surf boards. Through this
activity WLAB educates locals and
visitors to the center, about the
numerous uses of recycled plastics.
No Straws Campaign
Further to the collection and
recycling of PET, WLAB engages
the local community in several
other projects over the course of
the tourist season. Working with
the Inland Ocean Coalition and
local artist Mika Tennekoon, WLAB
developed a “No Straws” campaign,
which aimed to reduce the use of
single use plastic straws. Offering
responsible and sustainable
alternatives and lobbying tourism
establishments to move away from
single use options, WLAB sort long-
term behavior change amongst
participating stakeholders. With
more than 10 establishments on the
bay, moving towards responsible
alternatives, “No Straws” was
successful in impacting behaviors
and influencing attitudes of
travelers and continues to do so.
Eastern Narratives
In order to give back to the
community and bolster the
ecosystems of Arugam Bay and its
surrounding areas, WLAB teamed
up with the Hideaway Resort and
Salty Swamis to conduct several
fundraisers over the course of
the season to raise funds for
environmental and conservation
projects. One such fundraiser was
“Eastern Narratives” a collaborative
art exhibition inspired by personal
experiences on the east coast,
which saw 11 artists, both local and
international, create a body of work
that was sold to raise funds for the
cause. Donated funds were used to
conduct a cleanup of the Radella
Forest Reserve where several
illegal dumpsites had popped up
over the course of the season,
thereby threatening the wildlife that
frequents the area.
Looking Ahead In The Off-Season-
Changing Attitudes
This environmental work will
continue in the off-season and into
next season, with more illegal forest
dump clean ups and replanting of
endemic species to these spaces
planned in the upcoming months.
During the off-season (October
to May) WLAB has been shaping
up to work with the resident local
communities to influence behaviors
and work with local school children
to inculcate long term behavioral
change. Using Waste Less India’s
educational materials to empower
students to make positive changes
in their lives, WLAB aims to create
a generation of youth leaders.
Local initiatives like this are a great
insight in to how sustainability
is permeating the membrane of
local society. While it is providing
small localized solutions to a much
larger global issue, WLAB is one
of the first projects of its kind to
target a tourist hotspot and work
to educate locals and visitors alike
to adopt responsible behaviors. We
hope you too, will take inspiration
and spread the seed of change
as you travel along this beautiful
island, helping us to preserve this
very special place we are lucky to
call home.
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