Interview: Plastic & How It's Hurting Our Oceans

We recently had the privilege of watching the screening of No Mad, in Kuala Lumpur. The documentary, created in association with Nomads Surfing aims to bring to light some of the devastating effects that plastic pollution and illegal fishing have on our oceans. 

Hi Thomas! Could you give us an introduction as to who you are and what you’re passionate about? 

Hi! I am Thomas, I’m 30 years old. I am French and I have been living in Kuala Lumpur for the past 4 years. For all surfers, oceans are our playground so we love and respect them. I have surfed in pristine waters all over Asia, but I also started to realise that it was just a façade and as soon as you peel off the cover, I noticed how polluted these places were.

In 2017, with two friends of mine, we decided to launch a company called Nomads Surfing. We manufacture eco friendly products such as surfboards, fins and traction pads. We dedicate part of our sales to environmental associations in France and South East Asia. This helps us to have a direct impact on the issues we want to fight for.

What sparked the idea to create the No Mad documentary and what is your role in the project?

The No Mad documentary is an account of our trip to Busuanga island, in the Philippines where we met Scott Countryman and The Coral Triangle Conservancy. An association campaigning to establish networks of ecosystem sized marine protected areas while pioneering new technologies and social programs to end overfishing. Initially, we were supposed to make a short video out of it and that is why Alvynn Diagne was accompanying me and the Nomads Surfing team. However, once we came back from this incredible experience, he was so overwhelmed with footage and felt so compelled to the cause that he decided to edit an entire documentary. The version that we present now is 45 minutes because he could not make it any shorter.

Can you give us an overview of what the documentary is about? 

The No Mad documentary focuses on the association The Coral Triangle Conservancy which has several missions, including creating a no-take marine sanctuary in the North of Busuanga, fighting against illegal fishing (dynamite, cyanide) and replanting coral reefs through BioRock technology. It also looks at The Nomads Surfing group who brought two Precious Plastic machines for the local community to manage their plastic waste. The group was taught about reef conservation, threats to marine biodiversity and how urgent actions must be taken.

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What can people do to keep our oceans healthy? 

Cleaning up our oceans is a great thing, but what is most important is to close the “plastic tap” and tackle plastic pollution at its source. Depending on our lifestyle, each of us produces a considerable amount of plastic waste per year. We think that it is recycled but it is usually not; most likely, our waste is either burnt, dumped in a landfill or in the worst-case scenario, it ends up in the ocean. “The best waste is no waste!” People can not become zero waste in the blink of an eye. It takes time to make the lifestyle change from generating over 100kg of plastic waste per year to filling just one jar with your family’s yearly waste. By following the five R’s of zero waste: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Rot and Recycle, we can change our habits step by step. It starts with refusing plastic straws in your drinks, then bringing reusable bags while going shopping for groceries, buying in bulk stores and pre-loved items. If you change too much, too fast then you might feel overwhelmed and eventually give up, but if you tackle one waste area at a time, then you won’t even notice it.

What organisations can they get involved with to combat plastic waste?

There are plenty of ways to get involved, whether you are living close to the ocean or not. As a consumer, you should make sustainable choices by choosing brands that truly take into account the environment in their product design or manufacturing process. As an example, the “1% for the planet” companies dedicate 1% of their sales back to the environment. With Nomads Surfing, we are giving back 5%. You can join beach, river or marine cleanups, volunteer with local associations or support them and raise awareness. Worldwide associations that you can get involved with include WWF, Surfrider foundation, sea shepherd, the Ocean Cleanup, Trash Hero, Project Rescue Ocean, etc… but they might be local ones in your area which need even more help so make sure to do some research.

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I believe the film will be showcased on the European film festivals, where can people catch it? 

We are in the midst of many Festival submissions, and most of them remain unsure yet. We will screen it again in Malaysia for sure, we are under discussion to showcase it in Singapore and we will be part of the Portuguese Surf Film Festival on July 24th 2020, in Ericeira.

What is your hope for the future of our environment?

I believe our generation is facing three major crises: global warming, drinking water scarcity and pollution. In 2019, Earth Overshoot Day was on July 29th, when humanity’s resource consumption had exceeded Earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources.

At an individual scale, we should reduce our carbon footprint through food, clothing, shopping and transportation habits; manage our resources, especially water, and reduce our waste.

At a larger scale, I believe we will only see significant changes when companies start to pay the real price of water consumption, pollution and carbon emissions. Having every product available anywhere, all year long is not sustainable; neither the number of cattle raised or marine life being taken from the oceans. I hope we can initiate this transition as soon as possible, this will come from us through our commitment, actions and political choices.

Thanks to Thomas and Nomads Surfing for the work they’re doing to help our oceans! atotheme strives to support social enterprises that are helping the environment and uplifting the communities they’re involved in. If you’re an organisation working in the areas of waste management, tree planting or earth consciousness and you’d like to collaborate with us, drop us an email below!

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