KOTA KINABALU: What happens to Sabah’s biodiversity will determine the fate of the rest of the planet in the future.
This state, located on the East coast of Borneo, is arguably one of the most precious pieces of real estate, biodiversity-wise left on the planet. Such a status means that any inspired action taken to help reverse its slow but sure death would make a huge difference anywhere else across the world.
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to disrupt lives and economies, humans are now forced to rethink their relationship with biodiversity, find innovative solutions and make a pledge to heal our critically-ill planet.
The Sabah Plastic Neutral platform, that is led and promoted by Blu Hope, embraces this aspiration and sets up the start of a ten-year journey toward pushing for the planet’s steady recovery.
While both Sabah and Timor-Leste pledged to move forward towards plastic neutrality, it is not just about addressing the problem with plastic pollution. A lot of what is happening on the ground will be the key factors that drive change, particularly in terms of people’s mindset and habits.
Blu Hope is ever determined to connect all the dots – from people in positions of power who make decisions down to ordinary individuals on the ground working toward making change happen and bring real, tangible, shared value from plastic waste to all Sabahans and Timorese.
Since Sabah Plastic Neutral’s launching in March this year, the movement has seen two important events happening. The first, when the state government through the Kota Kinabalu City Hall agreed to collaborate to reduce plastic waste in and around the city.
With the government on board, Blu Hope is now in the position of strength and what will follow is a major clean-up campaign of plastic waste with the help, among others, from island communities of Pulau Gaya – just outside capital, Kota Kinabalu. There is no date fixed yet for the project as the pandemic has forced everyone under strict lockdown at the moment.
The second event is the signing of partnership with a Norwegian company, VOW bringing French technology from ETIA into Sabah that would turn waste to energy. When this happens, it will mark yet another important milestone as plastic waste will no longer be disposed in the landfill but will now be converted into green energy.
The biggest potential ‘game changer’ however is Blu Hope’s proposed digital recycling ‘Equaliser’ app, called ReWild – offering the opportunity for everyone to profit from recycling their own waste the world over.
By working with key FMGC companies, ReWild users will be able to scan the bar code of each product using their smart phone linking to each plastic product’s market value correlating to its volume and polymer type.
After the waste has been collected or deposited at recycling centres, the app user will be rewarded financially via various payment mechanisms.
What’s more, users will also have an option to donate rewards to NGO’s focussed on communities and protecting Sabah’s unique biodiversity via Sabah Plastic Neutral too.
“With plastic waste soon to have a monetary value – this will mean ‘extra food on the table’ – in turn, incentivising the biggest and quickest clean up of Sabah’s local environment ever!” says Blu Hope founder, Simon Christopher.
“Essentially this is about ‘value’. Just as Covid is now forcing us to re-asses Nature’s intrinsic value to our very own survival, by combining value from people’s waste with significantly increased recycling efforts locally will be a great way to drive change as quickly as possible. Even better – those comfortable enough to feed their families each and every day in other parts of the world will also have the option to directly benefit Sabahan communities on the ground an ongoing basis too. This is the ‘Equaliser’ effect and our goal with ReWild is to help catalyse a global circular economy starting with Sabah and Timor-Leste,” says Simon.
Blu Hope is not only fighting plastic pollution. It connects and empowers other initiatives serving the greater good for the environment and biodiversity.
Partnering up with specialist French water-purifier manufacturer Fonto de Vivo and working closely with Sabah Education department, their upcoming Water Is Life! program promises to deliver reliable, safe/clean drinking water to all schools across Sabah.
As well as removing people’s reliance on plastic bottles, utilising super-engaging education and awareness programmes with Sir David Attenborough and fun ‘Plastic Detectives’ activities produced by Plastic Oceans UK, with well-known actress and environmentalist Maya Karin narrating in Malay, the aim is to trigger behaviour change in the home starting with school children.
Blu Hope are also working closely with Stop Fish Bombing Malaysia to help solve the very serious issue of fish bombing by providing alternative livelihood programmes from plastic collection, seaweed farming, etc too.
These initiatives are just the beginning. What Blu Hope foresees is that all the local initiatives in Sabah that are working on conservation and biodiversity protection, be it at land or sea, would connect with one another forming a single mission.
The big picture that is expected to steadily grow over the first few years of this decade is that Blu Hope’s success in Sabah and Timor-Leste will steadily expand out to other locations in the Coral Triangle, the world’s most important marine biodiversity region.
With these local initiatives combined, Blu Hope will be launching their Coral Triangle Plastic Neutral platform today, officially Coral Triangle Day – a move that would hopefully lead to the rest of the world to buy in and adopt what has been started in Sabah in their own back yard.
And Sabah and Timor- Leste both aiming to become plastic neutral is also hoped to take centre stage at Expo Dubai 2021, boasted to be the world’s biggest fair bringing people of different nationalities to share ideas and build relationships as well as celebrating a world of interdependence.
For Blu Hope, this will be the stage to send a strong message about how Sabah and Timor-Leste, as the two last bastions of biodiversity on the planet, have both taken all the right initiatives, starting with plastic, to rebuild a world where all species are indeed interdependent on one another.
Another key message leading to that global event and throughout the rest of UNESCO Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) has been that the health of the planet’s biodiversity rests in the hands of the younger generation.
Blu Hope’s dot-connecting effort starting in Sabah is hoped to be passed down to the world’s younger generation for in them, lies the hope for change.
“Blu Hope’s inspiration in-part comes from legendary naturalists Sir David Attenborough and ‘Her-Royal-Deepness’ Dr Sylvia Earle’s words of wisdom and through Blu Hope Youth, it’s mission critical we ‘pass the baton down’ to younger generations.
“Equally, with Blu Hope LIFE we’ll embrace the needs of Sabah’s unregistered and undocumented folks like the Bajau Laut sea gypsies and these are the extremely important, core, deep and meaningful themes behind Sabah and Timor-Leste Plastic Neutral at the beginning of UNESCO Ocean Decade,” said Blu Hope co-founder/Community Director Monica Chin.