You never now when you’re going to cross the path of a Changemaker.
We’re on Atauro island, talking with Barry Hinton, sitting on the verandah of a newly built ‘shed’. Surrounded by the bags of rubbish we collected from the beach in just an hour or so, there’s no escaping the reality of our ugly plastic problem.
Earlier this morning we were gasping with delight, snorkelling on a coral reef just 3 minutes from our beach cabins.
It doesn’t get any better. Crystal clear turquoise waters, no crowds, in a location world renowned for having the highest marine bio diversity in the world. It’s a kaleidoscopic wonder that fills us with awe, one of the many reasons we’ve travelled to Timor-Leste.
The contrast in the two scenarios hits home.
This is no ordinary shed, its well on its way to becoming a unique recycling station.
Barry, an optimist by nature, fills us with hope as he takes us through the plans for “Ekipa Tasi Mos Atauro” (Clean Ocean Team Atauro).
There is a clear mandate.
Ekipa Tasi Mos Atauro is a community organization that aims to remove and record plastic pollution from the marine environment that surround the waters of Atauro and to assist the community in reducing their use of single-use plastics. The organization aims to collect the marine debris then recycle the plastics into usable items for the community.
Applying science into the process, by recording every piece of rubbish into a marine debris database (AMDI), enables the quantification as well as the type and origin of the rubbish to be reported with a consistent methodology.
“This is the evidence we need. With this information we have a chance to lobby to stop the debris at the source” says Barry.
The stats are confronting.
The trade winds bring marine debris onto the shores of the island each year. Between the 7th and the 14th of June 2019, Ekipa Tasi Mos volunteers collected 3469 single use plastic cups, from approximately 300 metres of beach.
As we tour through the shed Barry explains the workflow. Machinery is on its way to start recycling the plastic waste into functional items. It will be trial and error to find the best solutions, the cleaning is currently done manually by volunteers, locals and travellers to the island.
Barry and his family and staff have been doing beach clean ups for years. The comment from a visiting scientist, “if all we do is clean up, that is all we will ever do!” shifted the goalposts.
Micky & Mardy Hinton, Barry and Lina’s twin boys are the Youth Ambassadors for Ekipa Tasi Mos Atauro. Having spent their life on the island surrounded by marine biologists, living a permaculture lifestyle guided by their parents, they’re well informed enthusiastic advocates determined to make a difference. Backed up by science, they’re talking to their classmates and school teachers in their own language, getting the message across as only 11 year olds can do. They do the beach cleanups, enter the information into the marine debris database and have started a petition to challenge everyone in Timor-Leste to say no to single use plastic cups. They’re changemakers of the future.
We end our talk with Barry, inspired to help not only the Ekipa Tasi Mos project but equally to take a look at our own habits and make some changes to our use of plastic. Whilst Barry appreciates any help and support, he hits home with his belief that change starts in our own local neighbourhood.
“This is what we’re doing on our island, go home and find out what’s going on in your local area. Get involved.”
Later, kicking back in my hammock on the verandah of my bamboo cabin looking out over the ocean, clarity sets in. Any one of us can be a changemaker, in our own way, at any level, anywhere.
Please go to Micky and Mardy’s page to continue reading about their good work and sign the petition. Every pledge to ‘say no to single use plastic’ and every signature helps fuel their intent to lobby the government in the future.
Barry has generously donated land and all resources to get the base for Ekipa Tasi Mos Atauro built from the ground up. This includes digging their own well for water, there is no easy infrastructure to tap into. You can help out by donating a little to fund recycling machinery, the biggest expense.
Keep up with the Ekipa Tasi Mos Atauro news on their Fb page.
If you’re in Broulee on the beautiful south coast of NSW drop into Single Fin Canteen and pick up a ‘friends of Atauro’ screen print on preloved shirts and bags. $20 each. Proceeds go to the Ekipa Tasi Mos project.
The Tangeroa Blue Foundation is a network of over 40,000 volunteers and partners, focused on reducing the amount of marine debris washing into our oceans. The AMDI database was created to enable volunteers, groups and organisations doing beach clean-ups to collect data and report what they were finding. Its a fantastic website. I read every page. And their Sea Store has some of the best priced non plastic everyday items I have seen so far. Toothbrushes, hair brushes, waterbottles, cutlery etc.
Keen to travel to Timor-Leste and be part of this good work first hand but not sure how to do it? Its not an easy place to travel to or to find your way around. We make it easy. Check out our next Sharing Timor-Leste trip here.