‘Paint’ the beaches clean in Miri


Volunteers clear rubbish at the Lutong Beach.

PAINT the World (PTW) embarked on a special project to remove tonnes of garbage and provide litter-free beaches to the public through their Miri Eco Beach Fest 2020.

The Youth Movement gathered over 60 volunteers from Miri and Kuching, including students from Technology College Sarawak (TCS), for the project.

The clean-up has not only changed the face of Lutong Beach and Luak Esplanade Beach but also increased public awareness of littering by putting up specially-designed signboards across the beaches in Miri with assistance from the Miri City Council (MCC).

Speaking to thesundaypost about the project funded by TCS and the Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Ministry, PTW co-founder Aziza Aznizan said Miri Eco Beach Fest 2020 had been organised both “physically and virtually”.

“It was a beach clean-up although not an ordinary one as it involved other activities such as Sunrise Yoga, DJ workshops as well as online workshops, conducted by five international speakers on a range of topics, including environmental, educational, and social issues.”

The one-day event started at 6.30am with Sunrise Yoga, led by yoga instructor and nature lover Elizabeth Caroline Buri at Lutong Beach.

The clean-up volunteers at Lutong Beach.

The clean-up started at 7.30 am, involving PTW volunteers and members of the public who turned up to lend a hand.

Heavy rain did not deter the volunteers from carrying on until 9am.

“For the Sunrise Beach Clean-up at Lutong Beach, we collected a total of 40 bags of rubbish. MCC sent a lorry to collect the trash to a local recycling factory,” Aziza said.


First online workshop

The first online live workshop on Facebook started at 10am with the first speaker — professional photographer, travel writer, and tour guide David Metcalf discussing the topic ‘The togetherness project, bringing indigenous and non-indigenous together to preserve the culture and forests’.

Participants of the PTW Miri Eco Beach Fest 2020 at Luak Esplanade Beach.

Some 30 guests, randomly selected from the people who signed up for the project, took part in the workshop aimed at bringing people from different backgrounds together to work for change.

“Currently, Metcalf’s project focuses on reviving the economy of Bali, hard hit by Covid-19, forcing the people to revert to what they had done some 25 years ago for survival.

“It’s a concept Metcalf is dedicated to. He has taken many initiatives to help the indigenous communities of Indonesia. Now, he is asking how the Dayak communities or the indigenous groups from both Malaysia and Indonesia could work together,” Aziza said.

At 11am, another online workshop — ‘The disconnect between the well-being of your body and your home’ — was conducted by Elizabeth and joined by some 30 online participants from all over Malaysia.

Volunteer Hayes Colin does his part to clean up Lutong Beach.

Elizabeth discussed the disconnect between people and the earth and how daily actions towards the surroundings have an impact.

Aziza explained, “Take the example of micro-plastics being swallowed by fish; these would be the same fishes we eat. Or cars we drive that emit chemicals into the same air we breathe.

“While occupying ourselves with working out during the lockdown, had we given any thoughts to what we produced that could affect our well-being?

“What we should remember is that our bodies are connected to the world around us, and what decisions and actions we take will affect our bodies. With that in mind, we cannot ignore how we treat our environment if we are chasing health and fitness because we are a part of it.”

At 1pm, another online workshop — “Indigenous education in Kalimantan and why it matters’ was conducted by Plorenthina Dessy, a young Dayak leader from West Kalimantan, who started a customary school there known as Sakolah Adat Arus Kualan.

Elizabeth, dressed as a fairy and known to the participants as ‘Miri’s Beach Trash Fairy’, takes part in the clean-up.

According to Aziza, the session turned into a very interesting discussion on how indigenous youths could be elevated through education.

Sakolah Adat not only provides after-school tutoring twice a week but also educates the young in the community on their traditional identities, cultures, and practices.

“Besides, the question of evolving and adapting cultures to the changing times came up, prompting us to ask should we stick the old ways of our ancestors or change them into something modern but retaining our core cultural values.

“Just like the modern longhouses of Sarawak that changed from wood to bricks or Barbie dolls dressed in Pua Kumbu, our cultures can take a different shape and still be called our own. What matters is while we shape-shift, it’s very important to keep the lessons that will impact us in the long run — and that’s what the role of Sakolah Adat can be,” she added.

At 2pm, Sumarni Laman, a young activist who leads flood and haze reliefs to affected communities, shared the multiple failures of Indonesia’s food estate programmes in the jungles of Kalimantan and their detrimental effects on the indigenous groups in the area.

Aziza said in her workshop — ‘The food estate programme and the impending destruction of peatlands and forests in Central Kalimantan from an indigenous youth perspective’ — Sumarni talked about what the Dayaks were doing to stop or the very least delay the possible onset of such a calamity and they needed help.

“Many are unaware of large-scale peatland clearings for paddy fields, which have caused substantial damage to the environment for the sake of food security. One million hectares within Central Kalimantan were left dug up and dried out, causing devastating forest fires that lasted six months in 1997.

“As Malaysians, we’re very familiar with the haze season and here we have a chance to support Sumarni and the Youth Act movement to rectify an obvious failure.”

The last workshop at 3pm discussed the ‘Steps towards a zero-waste lifestyle’. It was conducted by Piet van Zyl, the founder pioneer at Positive Impact Forever, dedicated to inspiring a community of people and businesses committed to making a measurable, positive impact on their environment.


Reducing waste to zero

“Piet shared with us an eye-opening simple method to reducing waste to zero by using six steps with nine guidelines,” Aziza said.

Volunteer Hayes Colin does his part to clean up Lutong Beach.

The six steps are REVIEW your waste (separate, observe, record, track) to know what you are producing; REFUSE what you do not need; REDUCE what you use and find alternatives that might be in bulk and with less packaging; REUSE what you can (donate or get creative); RECYCLE what you have but not everything is recyclable; and RESEARCH the waste you produce.

Guidelines to consider include: Separate at the source; Know your waste stream (where does it go?); Measure and track (how much you use and throw); Green-washing (marketing scam); Organics back to nature; Separate hazardous waste; Clean inorganics (dirty containers or bottles); Buy local and in season (at your local market); and Recycling is not the answer (not everything can and is easy to recycle).

At 3pm, the programme continued with DJ workshops Kenyalang Music Café conducted by DJ Ruff and DJ Frannz.

One and a half-hours later at 4.30pm, the clean-up at Luak Esplanade Beach began followed by dog walking at 5pm.

The Sunset Beach Clean-up was the climax with some 100 people taking part — PTW volunteers and members of the public, including those from Kenosis Home, who came to hang out at the beach but ended up joining the clean-up.

A total of 20 bags of rubbish were collected, Aziza said, adding that the rubbish was packed into gunnysacks from MCC and collected by garbage trucks from the city council.


Increase awareness

PTW designer Rashid Abd Rahman came up with signboards to increase public awareness of littering. MCC will put them up across beaches in Miri.

“More trash bins will be placed at Lutong Beach to curb littering,” Aziza added.

The day ended with a dance performance by PTW volunteers from Kuching, Miri, and Kuala Lumpur to the tune of the PTW official song and a photoshoot.

The painters and the public danced poco-poco to the beat of ‘Biar Bekikis Bulu Betis’.

The participants also received some PTW freebies such as reusable three-ply face masks, tote bags, T-shirts, and water bottles.

“There is a reason for choosing each freebie. The three-ply face mask is effective in helping to protect from Covid-19 virus and the tote bag is to promote the use of reusable bags instead of single-use plastic bags.

“The same reason for water bottles to reduce the use of plastic bottles and cups, which are one of the main contributors to littering and pollution.

“As for PTW T-shirts, whenever people wear them, they evoke a sense of belonging to Paint The World. This will instil a sense of responsibility and awareness towards all the issues we’re fighting for — social, economic as well as, educational,” Aziza said.

She pointed out that the group of young people aged between 17 and 24 who took part in the event are very determined to stop littering on beaches or at least minimise it to keep the environment clean.

A screenshot of one of the online workshops.

“The first step is to increase awareness of the problem through beach cleanups, the prevention of littering by putting up signboards and trash bins on the beaches. Not only that but also to educate the public about the importance of environmental cleanliness and conservation via the e-workshops.”

Aziza said the outing was a success overall.

She said PTW has an ongoing activity called the HELP Borneo, which is divided into three segments — environment, education and social. More details can be found at https://painttheworldmy.wixsite.com/website.

The public donate to PTW’s fundraising page under the Social Section — ‘Jom Ke Kampung’ — where PTW traces underprivileged village families in Miri, Kuching, and Mukah.

“Different approaches will be made to increase their standards of living such as through financial guidance, free tuition by TCS, and much more.

“HELP Borneo – Social will be launched early next year, hopefully,” Aziza added.