Surin Plastic Free Bays

Moken Ocean Guardians project

This project started in 2020 and was inspired by Nin, a Moken man from the Surin islands. After the village fire  in 2019 we had privately collected funds to support the reestablishment of the village. After the village was successfully rebuilt, we still had funds left over and asked the villagers how the funds could be best used. All material losses had been replaced by then and it became clear that the main existing problem in the village was a lack of salaries due to difficulties of finding work around the national park. Nin said he had been thinking for many years of how their ancestral beaches and bays (that count up to 80) around the Surin islands could be cleared from the washed-up debris. It was thus decided that a beach restoration team would receive monthly salaries to start cleaning their home islands from washed up ocean plastics.

Moken collecting ocean rubbish
Moken ocean guardians project

Coincidentally, around the same time we were contacted by the Michel from the Jan and Oscar Foundation who started the recycling company “Ranong Recycling for Environment Social Enterprise”. Their mission was to recycle ocean plastics and their focus was to inspire sea-based communities, particularly the Moken, to gain extra income by offering high buying prices for the recyclables. The problem of ocean plastics is that on the remote beaches and bays no one feels responsible to collect it. The low buying rates for mainland recyclables often just cover the transfer prices to the mainland. Surin is the furthest island away from the mainland, by direct route measuring 60km distance to the mainland.

Taking ocean trash to the recycling plant
Ocean trash collection

With a team of six people in 2020, four tons of ocean plastics were collected in three month. Via Ranong Recycle, the ocean plastics were sent to Ecoalf, a Spanish fashion company who uses #1 PET bottles to create sustainable clothing, and #tide ocean material, who also bought #2 HDPE and #5 PP plastics to create high quality pellets that can then be transformed into notebook cases or wristbands for watches.

Recycling oecan trash
Moken ocean guardians project

Although we are getting the highest market price for marine plastics the transfer costs from Surin to the mainland are so high that a full boatload of 300-400kg just covers the transportation. Consequently, this project is dependent on ongoing funds. In 2021 the project received a grant from SOS (Save Our Spirits), for three months of work for five people.

Taking ocean rubbish to the mainland
Moken ocean guardians project

If you are interested in helping to secure the continuation of this important environmental project, please contact us
or leave a donation here

A monthly donation of $US 20 can help remove 600kg plastics out of the ocean in one year.
A single donation of $US 40 can remove 100kg ocean plastics.