Sunday Morning Service – a Plastic Exorcism

This year, Earth Day called on us to End Plastic Pollution. Always up for a challenge, we gathered some members of the Church of Climate Change and organized a cleanup. There’s no simpler way to LIBTYFI: Leave It Better Than You Found It. We picked up trash (90% plastic!) off Sakumono Beach in Tema, Ghana. Our Earth Day cleanup was in partnership with Niantic, the Pokémon Go company. They put up the event on their website among many worldwide so that Pokémon Go players could find us and sign up.

Sakumono Beach is a leisure spot, with beachside bars and restaurants. There are people enjoying their time on the beach, taking a dip in the water, even on a very early Sunday morning.

Us Church of Climate Change members are full of vim. One of us is connected to a recycling company, which turned out to be a crucial element for the day.

The beach was ready for us: choked gutters leading to the sea, bottles, all sorts of plastics and heaps of rubbish. We got out our gloves and bags. We invited others at the beach to the cleanup. Some grabbed supplies and joined us. Most Jah, a musician, joined in with his music singing "the eye of the world". Thirty different people, from all walks of life picked up trash off Sakumono Beach. Thirty different members and non-members of the Church of Climate Change. The energy was contagious and the beach was looking better and better. In the end we had 28 bags of trash in total. Most of them were filled with plastic and were trucked off to the recycler, we did not want to be yet another cleanup where the plastic is burned. We want to close the cycle as much as we can

Can you imagine how diverse our Church community will be? Pokémon go players, recycling entrepreneurs, Sakumono beach swimmers, Most Jahs, and you, just to name a few.

We filled up 28 gigantic bags of trash in total. The plastic was to be recycled and the bags were sent off in a truck.

While we chatted after the cleanup, we could see the ships waiting to enter the harbor. The ships dump their junk into the sea. Fishers do the same. Near the beach there’s a sewage pipe ending in the sea. When it rains, the plastic drifts to sea. down. The trash stream is endless, it felt like our cleanup might have been little more than a cosmetic intervention.

But we learned from the exercise and saw ways to scale impact. Bar and food-stall owners complained that while they are keen to collect trash, there is nowhere to take it. There is no trash collection at Sakumono Beach. They might sweep up garbage into a pile in a corner of the beach but it doesn’t take long for it to spread out again, aided by the wind. Facilitating trash pickup (and recycling) is an immediate solution, as well as making gloves, bins and bags available for clean-ups. Beach joint owners could offer incentives, like a snack for a bag of plastic, to give beach visitors that extra nudge to lend a hand. Manufacturers of the trash - and here we’re calling out brewers and bottlers - can take their responsibility and provide the materials.

Reducing plastic use is an effort on multiple scales, but sometimes just getting out there and picking up plastic is a gratifying thing to do. An active cleanup is a perfect moment to have conversations with people on how we use the material, the way it is discarded, what we could do differently. It sets an example; it grows our community. And in the end, the beach is left better than we found it (for now).

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