The gotong royong dubbed Program Komuniti Lestari collected nearly 1,000kg from the adjoining Tg Aru Baru last week.
On hand to buy the collection recycling purposes was Horizon Foster Sdn Bhd. Its Manager Christopher Chia said the total amount was paid to the organisers for the benefit of the community.
"Given the remaining huge amount of an assortment of garbage, we are planning at least two more gotong royongs," he said.
The exercise participated by over 200 people was the initiative of Recycle Community Malaysia (RCOMM), an NGO which has a branch in Sabah, in collaboration with KRT Tanjung Aru (Neighbourhood Watch), Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK), Tg Aru People's Development Leader (PKR) Office and NOW (No More Plastic in Our Waters).
RCOMM Secretary-General Miza Pawan Chik, who first visited Sabah in 2012, was shocked to see the filth surrounding the houses on stilts in Tanjung Aru and other parts of the city.
What prompted her to team up with government agencies and NGOs for a smart partnership, were unfavourable comments made by foreign tourists on dirty spots in Sabah.
"I am saddened by the level of environmental degradation.
You have got a good sea view from the bridges overlooking Pulau Gaya but when you go inland, it's a different scenario.
We want the residents themselves to go down to the ground and clean up the place themselves," she said.
Speaking candidly, she told the residents: "People indiscriminately throw rubbish into the sea but expect others to clean up for them.
Do you think this is the job of the authorities, the police and government officials? Don't you wish to live in a healthy environment?
"When we buang air besar (pass motion), do we ask others to clean us up?"
Miza stressed that the people must be taught composting, instead of throwing food wastes into the sea. They must know that solid food wastes can be converted into fertilisers. Mothers should teach their kids on waste segregation at home by separating plastics, paper, aluminium tins and drink packets for sale to the recycling company to generate some income for the family."
Tg Aru People's Development Leader (PKR), Henry Chu, who represented Assemblyman Datuk Ir. Edward Yong Oui Fah, welcomed the collaboration among NGOs in cleaning up Kg Tg Aru Lama.
"This is a catalyst for mobilising manpower and resources not only to eliminate the eyesore along the coastal area but also to prevent cholera, dengue and rat infestation," he said.
According to him, it gave a bad impression to some foreign tourists on one occasion when the boat they were travelling in on their way to Pulau Gaya suddenly came to a halt because the engine got entangled with plastic bottles.
"One can imagine the quantity of plastic wastes at sea which is normally washed ashore during high tide. And the rubbish remains when there is low tide," he noted.
Chu emphasised the need to continue guiding the residents on proper waste disposal, instead of dumping it into the sea. Chairman of KRT Tanjung Aru (Neighbourhood Watch), Abdul Razak Dulait could not agree more.
"We have to continually educate the people on civic-mindedness and instil a sense of belonging so that they love the environment," he said.
Rita Ignatius, who represented NOW (No More Plastic in our Waters), a public-private partnership (PPP) initiative to clean up Sabah's tourism hotspots, took the opportunity to enlighten the public on the role and objectives of the initiative.
Also present to give moral support were Tg Aru OCS Sub-Inspector Wagiman Seno, Community Development Officer Jeffrey Nor Mohd, Native Chief Mat Sah Sahat, Village Chief Hj Manap Abdullah, Chairman of Village Security & Development Committee (JKKK), Hj Adanan Jalil as well as UMS students.
Adanan suggested that more signage be put up in the area to remind the people to stop littering to maintain cleanliness and protect the environment.