KRALENDIJK — When Dive Friends Bonaire started Debris Free Bonaire in December 2012, they had no idea what a success it was going to be. As of October 27th, 2013, Debris Free Bonaire volunteers have collectively removed over 100 cubic meters (3,531 cubic feet) of marine plastic debris and it continues to pour in.
Since its inception, tourists and locals have enthusiastically embraced Debris Free Bonaire. The programme was designed to provide volunteers, both visitors to Bonaire as well as island residents, the opportunity to assist with costal cleanups on their own time. The project’s success has proven to be far beyond anyone’s expectations.
Although the western coastline of Bonaire is mostly pristine, the eastern coastline is where a large volume of plastic debris washes ashore from other regional locations or islands, with more arriving every hour of every day. “Clean beaches are critical to the reproduction and survival of our endangered sea turtles,” says Dr. Sue Willis of Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire. Raising awareness on the island is not difficult, as many of Bonaire’s visitors are avid scuba divers and they have a vested interest in keeping the marine environment clean. These same visitors also have a greater understanding of the
detrimental effect of plastic debris.
Anyone who wishes to volunteer can visit any Dive Friends Bonaire location to pick up a few mesh gear bags and then collect debris from the east coast at their convenience. Then, they can return the bags to a 10 cubic metre collection container at Dive Friends Bonaire @ Hamlet Oasis. The container provides a visual reminder of the volume of trash that is collected little by little, one volunteer at a time.
Volunteers can also pose for photos in front of the debris container to be posted on the Debris Free Bonaire website and Facebook. They can also enter a raffle drawing with the opportunity to win prizes such as a week of unlimited shore diving. Once full, the plastic debris is sorted for recycling and proper disposal.
Island residents Scott and Sally Simons drop off several bags of debris per week and have incorporated into their dive routine a visit to the east coast to collect plastic. When asked why, they enthusiastically responded, “We want to help make Bonaire beautiful for all to see and enjoy. We hope to encourage more people to pitch in with a bit of their time… what a difference it does make. We love Bonaire, and it’s our small way of giving back!”
Sponsoring businesses include: Addo’s Bookstore, Beachcomber Villas, Bon Photo, BON Travel, Bonaire Automation, Bonaire Scuba Services, Bonaire Shore Diving Made Easy, Bonaire Travel, Boto Blanku, Coco Palm Garden, East Coast Boat Diving, Green Planet Maps, Kryioyo Paint, InfoBonaire.com, Suunto, Rocargo, Bonaire Seaside Apartments, Sign Sudio and Van Epps Kunneman Van Doorne, Bocar, Body Glove, Brandaris, Budget Car Rental, Cressi, Deep Blue Gear, Djambo, Hamlet Oasis, Harbortown Real Estate, Mares, Van Dijk Soliana Bonapart & Aardenburg III, Playa Trading, Scubapro, and Sherwood Scuba.