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Surfers are creating a wave of change

Global Society & Global Goals
Surfers are creating a wave of change

Babacar Thiaw decided to take action when a tsunami of plastic-filled water crashed over him as he paddled out to sea.

By the time Thiaw's surfboard had returned him to Virage Beach on the northern edge of Dakar, the capital of Senegal, he already had a plan to take advantage of the surfing community he had established there.

Within a year, he had transformed Copacabana Surf Village, which he and his father had established 20 years earlier, into a gathering place for young eco-surfers in Senegal, organizing beach clean-ups, kid-friendly environmental classes, and the country's first zero-waste restaurant. Customers may read the posters in the Cáfe that explain why they don't use plastic cups, straws, coffee pods, or sugar sachets. “We live this every day, we see it every day — in the sea, on the shore. There are times when you go to the water and it seems like all the rubbish from the nation has gathered there. I adore this place, but it would be sad if I had to live with all of this garbage forever, says Thiaw.

This is our recreational area, yet notice how many people rely on it for their livelihoods, including folks like myself, fishermen, and the men selling sunglasses on the beach. Its economy is crucial. It will be extremely difficult on the staff if we lose control, just like we did during Covid when everything was shut down. The Copacabana Surf Village's foundations were built by Thiaw's fisher father, who would travel to Virage beach after a day of work to surf on a wooden board. Thiaw was raised in a fishing community close to the ocean. By renting out surfboards and then providing lessons with the assistance of visiting international surfers, they were able to turn their beachside location into a business.

It currently draws tourists and foreigners who want to surf. Additionally, Thiaw educates young Senegalese there how to surf and how to take care of the ocean, which they spend a lot of time in. Mohammed Sarr, 17, whom Thiaw taught to surf, adds, "We can see how much plastic is ending up here and it concerns us when we come to the water to surf."

Because he and his family live close to the sea, Sarr claims he has grown more mindful of how he uses and discards plastic.

"Our sport is impossible without the beach. We can't surf if we don't like the beach. When we dump plastic into the ocean, we not only hurt our own ecosystem but also the seafood we consume. The most recent rule banning bags and other plastic items was approved in Senegal in 2020, but enforcement has been a problem, as evidenced by the amount of trash that litters the city's beaches.

36 other restaurants are now lowering their usage of plastic, according to Momar Baby of the advocacy organization Zero Waste Senegal, which collaborated with Thiaw to pilot the zero-waste restaurant. He claims that by doing this, 29,000 bottles and 81,000 straws will no longer wind up on landfills.

According to Baby, a social media campaign his organization launched in 2016 to increase awareness about plastic pollution has grown into a movement that includes restaurants, schools, and businesses in addition to Dakar.

"Public awareness of the trash problem is growing. We discuss it frequently. We observe various movements that attempt to improve waste management in addition to the actions of our group.

People originally expressed skepticism toward the plastic-free campaign, according to Thiaw, and questioned whether it was hygienic for him to serve water in reusable glass bottles. But he emphasizes that everyone must be aware of the need for change. "What I often tell people is that even if you are wealthy but live in a bad neighborhood, your child, your family, and your friends will be exposed to it. Therefore, your riches is meaningless," he argues.

Our plates eventually include this plastic since it enters the food chain. Every year, thousands of marine species perish because of plastic bag trash after mistaking the bags for food like jellyfish. Plastic has been connected to diseases like cancer, weakened immune, hormone disturbance, and others.

Countless communities throughout the world have successfully changed their way of life to produce no trash. Everyone can look for discussion groups, message boards, or community centers in their area that are all dedicated to promoting a zero-waste way of life. These organizations can be encouraging and useful in giving the information one needs to successfully embark on a personal zero-waste journey to help the world and to achieve Sustainable Development Goals together.


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