Dopper Bridges Borders – Sumatra

Nice to Meet You! We are Leslie and Iris from Meet You at the Bridge, your go-to travel inspiration and information blog. On the 13th of September 2015 we packed our backpacks and two Doppers and set out for Saint Petersburg for the start of our journey around the world. During our travels, we see, experience and a gain an understanding of how other countries and cultures deal with drinking water and (plastic) waste. We will be sharing our experiences in our blog: Dopper Bridges Borders.

It’s an island

What do you expect to see when you dive into the Indian Ocean? Colourful coral and unique shells? Tropical fish and turtles? Crystal clear water and white beaches? At first glance, Pulau Weh – an island situated off the most northerly tip of Sumatra – fulfils the expectations of a stereotypical paradise. The island is very popular as a diving destination because of its rich sea life. On arrival, the waving palm trees cheerfully bid us welcome, we cannot believe our luck and dash straight into the azure blue sea with our snorkels and goggles. However, we could not be more disappointed. Vast amounts of plastic are drifting in the ocean. If the wind blows in the wrong direction, some of this plastic apparently blows towards Pulau Weh. Four metres from shore, we are swimming amongst dozens of plastic bags, flip-flops, toothbrushes and children’s toys. Everything you can think of. 

Rescue divers

At the local diving shop, we speak to Nicolas, the Spanish owner: ‘In the last four years that I have been living here, I have watched the volume of rubbish in the sea increase greatly due to the development of tourism, amongst other things. When we go out for a dive, someone always stands at the front of the boat looking out for plastic bags, because the last thing you want is for these to get into the engine. In 2015, we established Pulau Weh Green on the island. This is an initiative by a group of concerned island residents who organise beach clean ups, who want to make young school children aware of the danger of the plastic soup and teach them to recycle. At the start of January 2016, the Indonesian government decided to make it mandatory for every shop in Jakarta to charge for plastic bags. That is a big step forward for Indonesia, the second largest polluter of the sea.’  

 Beat the micro bead

It is estimated that about eight million tons of plastic ends up in our oceans every year. That has a huge impact on sea life. Turtles, birds, fish and dolphins die as a result of eating plastic, which they mistake for something edible. Erosion turns plastic into micro plastics that are even more dangerous and bizarrely enough, these are found in hundreds of products, including toothpaste, shampoo and mascara. You can scan products with the Beat the Micro Beads app to find out whether they contain plastic. Micro plastics affect the entire food chain: plankton unknowingly eat micro plastics, small fish eat plankton, large fish eat small fish and who eats large fish? Exactly, you! Together with Dopper, we are trying to make more people aware of this issue. You can help us: say no to disposable items, recycle, clean up litter and be the messenger. Make your friends and family aware of the plastic problem. You can make a difference and together we can clean up the oceans.

Read our previous blogs about Taiwan, Japan and Mongolia!

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