What first brought your attention to the plastic pollution crisis, and when?
I first saw plastic washing up on the shores of Belize seven years ago. There were big education campaigns underway to clean beaches, as the nation is very environmentally progressive. However, I started seeing animals entangled and ingesting plastic whilst in the Maldives. On a calm day, you could see floating rope and bottles on the perfectly blue water surface. It was heartbreaking to see turtles, sharks, crabs and birds lose their lives to plastic. It was these experiences that encouraged me to set up localised recycling opportunities and campaign for better waste management at resorts.
What changes have you made in your life to contribute to the solution?
I am nine months into a one-year clothes ban (not buying any clothing for a year). I have changed my habits by avoiding buying food and drink on the go and I carry reusable drinking and eating utensils with me in case I get caught out. I also avoid buying plastic film at any cost and only buy loose veg. This year my family and I have decided to avoid present buying and instead spend time together. Professionally, it is my full-time job to reduce plastic use and share plastic reduction techniques with the public and this rubs off.
Who do you wish to inspire to join you in the mission for a plastic pollution free world?
Everyone, those who can put pressure on corporations with their buying power in the western world and also those who live a subsistence based life that relies on the ocean in the tropics as often these nations do not have plastic recycling. My hope is that every time someone holds a plastic item in their hand, they know where it came from, how it was made and what will happen to it when they throw it away, recycle it or throw it on the floor. Education is key to inspiration.
If you could come up with any type of solution (fiction or real - let your mind go wild), what would it be?
Ban the production of virgin plastic and invent a biodegradable version of plastic film that can be eaten. It should be compulsory for residents to visit their local landfill site or energy recovery centre to see where their non-recyclable plastic goes. Witnessing the reality of plastic may encourage people to stop using it.