When we were first told that during our field trip to the Ishigaki island, we would be collecting trash, my first logical question was: “There is no way people would leave trash on the beach in Japan!” However, shortly after, I understood that we are talking about trash which washes onto the shores from the ocean.

On that day we woke up early and took a bus to the designated beach. Upon arriving to our location, we were greeted by Tanaka Hidenori, the founder of “Ocean Plastic” company, and his team. Mister Hidenori was our guide and he has been cleaning these beaches every day since July 1, 2020 – when the plastic shopping bags started being charged in Japan.

After getting all the necessary equipment (gloves and trash bags) we started picking up trash and were mesmerized by the amount of it. One could find toothbrushes, glass and plastic bottles. Generally, plastics of 5 mm or less are called “microplastics” and the fish in the sea mistakenly eat this small plastic thinking that it is bait. As a result, they can get sick. Because of it, people are now also consuming about 5 gr. of microplastics each week. It has been confirmed that microplastics can be found in our tap water and other produce. These scary statistics show that each of us has a personal responsibility to start living sustainably. For example, one should use reusable coffee cups and water bottles.

This was one of the most humbling experiences. Given the amount of trash that was there, our whole team wished to stay longer. On top of that, we witnessed one of the most beautiful sunrises. It was truly a spectacular view.

I am grateful for this experience, and I wish more people could participate in such type of activities to see firsthand what humankind is doing to our precious planet, oceans, and animals.