Furloughed Workers Get a New Gig

Seven Clean Seas has launched an initiative that hires furloughed hospitality workers in Indonesia to help tackle plastic pollution

We loved talking to Tom Peacock-Nazil, the founder of Seven Clean Seas, a Singapore-based organisation that sets up beach cleans, organises infrastructure projects and offers a plastic offsetting solution for businesses.

And one of the projects he was keen to tell us about was their initiative in Indonesia to hire furloughed hospitality workers to help clean the beaches there.

Tom told us that in Indonesia, the furlough wage is negligible and people can be out of work for up to 48 days. Without access to education, training or other jobs, they’re left in dire circumstances.

‘What we’ve done is to go in and employ these people. They are in the hospitality industry, they understand the importance of preserving the natural environment, and we’re employing them to go out in teams of 22 and physically collect plastic from these locations. Do education with the local communities and local kids and make a huge social impact.’

Robin Hicks, writing in Eco-Business, notes that the hospitality workers – which make up 9% of the countries workforce – ‘are being paid the same daily rate as their usual jobs, plus 25% extra if they collect 25 kilograms of plastic.’

Across the world, we’ve seen a huge spike in single-use plastic, even though more than 100 scientists have signed a statement saying that plastic isn’t inherently safer than reusable items.

And according to Robin, it’s an acute problem in Indonesia.

‘Trash is routinely is discarded into waterways, and the country’s under-resourced and overstretched rubbish collection services have been hit by coronavirus mitigation measures, and the country’s large informal waste sector has all but been wiped out by the decline of the recycling industry.’

On just the first day of Seven Clean Sea’s beach clean, hospitality workers collected 815 kilograms on Bintan island, a popular holiday spot for Singaporeans.

Indonesia beach clean, Tom Peacock-Nazil, Seven Clean Seas

Tom was thrilled with how the programme has started.

‘We’re not just cleaning the oceans and having that environmental impact, we’re creating a massive socio-economic impact as well. And we’re doing it at very little cost. We’re paying for it out of our own budgets – our COVID-19 budgets, probably! – but it’s very easy to do.

‘I wish more people would get involved with it, because the amount of impact and the lives you can touch as well as the environmental impact is tremendous for a small amount of cash.’

They’ve also had incredible feedback from the hospitality workers who have been involved.

‘A lot of it was about employment opportunities,’ Tom said. ‘But the vast majority was actually about understanding the importance of the marine environment, the naturally beauty and diverse places that these places call home.’

Here’s what some of the workers have said:

‘Beach clean-ups for me had already become part of my activities and hobbies since I was in high school. I’m actively involved with environmental issues, not only on beaches / coasts or in the ocean but also for mountains too. I think it would be great to make beach clean-ups “the new cool” for youth and coastal communities.’ Panji, 40 years old

‘For me, this activity is eye-opening and educational. I felt somewhat responsible after seeing that much plastic waste on our beach. We collected more than 1000kg today. I really hope I can learn how I can contribute more to this cause in the future.’ Bima, 34 years old

‘In my opinion, the beach clean is something quite fun, because we can see the transition from the initial mess to the clean result. We have a sense of satisfaction about it.’ Wahyu, 22 years old

It’s been such a success that Tom said they’re hoping to scale it up. He has been speaking to The Long Run, a non-governmental organisation that supports the hospitality industry around the world, and he hoped to introduce the concept through them to others in the industry so they could be part of creating a positive change. It sounds like there is interest and funding options are being explored.

If you haven’t had a chance, be sure to check out our full interview with Tom, or check out what they’re up to at https://sevencleanseas.com/

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