Daily Express
INDEPENDENT NATIONAL NEWSPAPER OF EAST MALAYSIA
Established since 1963
Special boats to scoop up rubbish soon

Published on: Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: A 16-feet catamaran will soon be a familiar sight along the coastline scooping up plastic waste as the first step in a long-term effort to rid tourism spots off the State Capital of flotsam.

Called a Debris Skimmer, the privately-funded RM35,000 boat would rely on a 15-horse power engine and manned by at least two people who would fish out the waste on either side of the boat and put them into an accompanying net. The boat would be equipped with an implement that would skim under the water to make the job easier.

"The boat is small to enable it to operate in shallow waters and the small engine is so that we do not burn so much petrol for this. Its construction is simple with just a canvas for protection," said Fred Weirowski of Blue Life Ecoservices Sdn Bhd, a joint partner in the project called NOW (No More Plastic Waste in Our Waters).

The garbage would then be transferred to a mother boat, also a Catamaran about 60 feet in length and able to carry 24 net bags filled with plastic waste.

"If it is near enough to the shore we will bring it to land directly or we will bring it to the mother boat which acts as a collection facility pending disposal," said Fred. Blue Life ecoservices Bhd is helping Gaya Recycle Sdn Bhd with the boat's design.

"This is a public project, so we need everybody to help.

We have divers going around collecting plastic, but we also want to involve the local community living in water villages here.

"We want to build and train them to be coastal clean rangers and really make their places clean. Thus, we devised a system where we can see, share and solve the problem," he said.

He said what made this first such sustainable environment programme different from the rest is its emphasis on recycling the plastic waste into other uses.

"Everybody can have millions of beach cleaning activities, but we want to reuse and produce new things out of this. There are many opportunities," he said.

Speaking at the soft launch of Project NOW at Pulau Gaya, Monday night, State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said pollution was among Sabah's biggest problems and there was no use pretending otherwise.

"Despite having the tallest mountain and some of the bluest seas in the country, Sabah is faced with a big challenge which is pollution.

I am not going to pretend that we do not have a problem, we have a big problem," he said, adding that keeping the coastline free from rubbish needs co-operation from everyone.

"We have a lot of rubbish floating in our coastline, particularly plastic, and there is need to educate the people to be a bit more disciplined and not throw rubbish into the sea," he said.

Project NOW was designed and developed by Gaya Recycle Sdn Bhd, a Sabah-registered company that promotes environmental awareness of recycling plastic wastes.

The Public-Private Partnership initiative to clean up Sabah's tourism hotspots is a collaborative effort involving Gaya Recycle, the Ministry, City Hall, University Malaysia Sabah, Blue Life ecoservices Bhd, Environmental Action Centre, Environment Protection Department, Humana Child Aid Society and Daily Express.

Masidi said most of the rubbish seen floating is due to some communities using the rivers and water ways as floating rubbish bins.

"They dump it into the river and the river brings it into the sea and the waves wash them back to the shore, just like the song by Elvis Presley 'Return To Sender', the sea is returning to us what we have dumped into it," he said.

"Soon we will be launching this citizens movement to which I am thankful to it's Director Marinah Harris, who has returned to Sabah and initiated it.

We hope that perhaps during our own lifetime, there will be some changes in a positive way via this joint collaboration."

Turning to Marinah, he said: "We have a big job ahead and your presence here is a testament to the fact that we are living in an age where there are insurmountable challenges. But with your presence and assistance, obviously it has made our jobs better."

"We are leaving a good legacy for our future generation to protect, to make improvement to what we have started," he said.

Marinah has been involved in several environmental programmes involving the UN in countries like Nepal, Indonesia and Cambodia. She is a daughter of ex-Chief Minister Tan Sri Mohd Harris Salleh.

Eric, a friend of Marinah who flew in from Switzerland to support the effort, said: "We only have one earth and we should look after what we have. I have the pleasure of visiting your country for the first time and it is stunningly beautiful.

"When we went diving today, we saw plenty of fish and also quite a lot of plastic packages on the sea bed which we picked up. It is a really fantastic initiative that is being taken here by Marinah and the State Government.

If you do make an effort to clean this up, it will benefit everyone," he said.