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MALAYSIA - WWF: together possible
Photos by WWF Photographers Mazidi Ghani and James Morgan. “I’ve been told I’m stupid for doing this stuff for no money,” says Yusof Bural, chairman of the Banggi Youth Club . “But I really love the environment here and I want to see more members in the BYC, so I keep going, even as a volunteer.” Yusof and the other core members of BYC don’t look the part of earnest do-gooders. They’re laid-back, not buttoned-up – more at home in a dive shop than a classroom. But their youthful, non-preachy vibe is the key to their success. Students in the island’s 14 primary schools love the activities organized by the youth club – drawing contests with environmental themes, puppet shows about recycling and reducing plastic litter, lessons about the colorful and charismatic marine life native to this part of Malaysia. Older students at the island’s one high school have taken things even further. After an awareness campaign led by BYC, the school adopted a no plastic, no Styrofoam policy for its canteen. Shops and restaurants participate in “No Plastic Fridays,” encouraging customers to forgo the straws and bags that are used briefly before becoming trash. And trash on Banggi is a big problem. Despite being Malaysia’s largest island, with a population of roughly 20,000, there is no municipal trash collection. Rubbish and recyclables collected through BYC’s “Green Lifestyle” campaign must be taken 45 minutes by boat to the nearest sizable town. But a lot of trash still ends up in the sea. Some is washed away, out of sight out of mind. A lot is mired in the soft mud and sand on the shore, creating an eyesore as well as a health and environmental hazard. And that’s the wrong image for an island that aspires to be an eco-tourism destination.