Initiatives to rid the oceans of plastic are all around us. They come in many forms – whether it’s recycling, using less plastic to begin with, or participating in large beach cleanups. Despite the many successful methods, one man’s journey to spread plastic pollution awareness stands out from other techniques. David Pennington has set out to run from the US/Mexican Border to Vancouver raising awareness about plastic pollution and protecting sea life and coral reefs in Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

Pennington (http://bc.ctvnews.ca/polopoly_fs/1.2852683.1460244438!/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_620/image.jpg)

Pennington during a beach cleanup. (http://bc.ctvnews.ca/polopoly_fs/1.2852683.1460244438!/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_620/image.jpg)

Pennington is co-founder of the Friendly Drifter Foundation, an organization devoted to coming up with sustainable waste management solutions for the islands within Raja Ampat. His journey from the border to Vancouver is predicted to take two months, covering 2,700 Kilometers. Pennington’s goal is to talk to as many people as possible, spreading awareness about this global issue.

The Pollution Issue in Raja Ampat

Pennington had organized and participated in many beach cleanups in Raja Ampat throughout the spring of 2015. He discovered that methods such as beach cleanups can only go so far and are typically most effective when coupled with a reliable access to recycling methods. If the habitants of these areas have no means or location to recycle their plastic waste, masses of plastic will continue to accumulate on the beaches – regardless of how many beach clean ups take place. Beach clean ups in areas such as Raja Ampat may contribute to a short term solution of ridding our beaches of plastic, but are not a sustainable solution.

Raja Ampat was not arbitrarily chosen when Pennington created this organization. This island in Indonesia contains the greatest amount of marine biodiversity in the world. It supports over 1,500 species of fish and 75% of the total number of hard coral species worldwide. Not only is plastic pollution affecting marine life in the waters of Raja Ampat, but it is also taking a toll on the local community, who relies on fish as the primary source of nourishment.

Pennington hopes to raise funds for the Friendly Drifter organization, while spreading awareness about plastic pollution in oceans. In locations such as Raja Ampat where recycling methods may not be prevalent, spreading awareness about the issue and ways to reduce plastic waste may be the best method to achieve successful results. The changes that people make in their daily lives in these areas will have a large impact long term. For example, if people knew that the plastic lid to their coffee cup will remain on this earth longer than they will, they might be more likely to go lid-less.

The funds raised along the journey will be used to construct and run a waste management facility in Raja Ampat’s main city, Waisai. This facility will serve as the destination for waste gathered in Waisai and the surrounding islands. It will have the ability to clean and cut plastics that can later be recycled. The facility will also have an incinerator that can be used for non-plastic products. The incinerator will be used instead of a landfill, which makes the land more prone to landslides and gives the waste easy access to main waterways when it rains. The facility will be able to operate completely on power generated from the incineration process, meaning that no additional power will be needed from the grid.

A beach in Indonesia (Source: http://www.vancitybuzz.com/2016/04/friendly-drifter-vancouver-fundraiser-run-david-pennington/)

A beach in Indonesia (Source: http://www.vancitybuzz.com/2016/04/friendly-drifter-vancouver-fundraiser-run-david-pennington/)

In addition to this permanent facility, Pennington plans to plant barges around the surrounding islands for trash collections. The barge will be equipped with a trash compactor, in order to maximize the amount of trash that can be gathered from the islands. He also plans to enact a community-composting program, educate children on the issue, and collaborate with leaders in the community to get the word out.

This journey, of course, is not for the faint of heart. The distance Pennington plans to travel is ambitious. Pennington remarks that he is up for the challenge and enjoys pushing himself physically. He began training a year ago, running after he finished work for the day. Currently, he is working on gaining back his muscle mass after a run in with malaria on his last trip to Indonesia.

Pennington realizes that he is trying to combat a large global issue. He stays grounded in his attempts to ameliorate the large issue of plastic pollution by appreciating the small victories along the way. “As long as I see progress, I’ll be happy,” he says. It’s not something that going to be solved overnight, but if we educate enough people and spread the message about plastic pollution, we can have a real chance at saving our oceans, it’s inhabitants, and our coastal communities.

To learn more about the Friendly Drifter organization, please visit: http://www.friendlydrifter.com/

Sources:

http://www.friendlydrifter.com/

http://www.vancitybuzz.com/2016/04/friendly-drifter-vancouver-fundraiser-run-david-pennington/

Video Source:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24mD_u0SsUU