Tetiaroa atoll, an almost desert island northeast of Tahiti (one single family lives there), is commonly seen as a well preserved island. But, flying over Tetiaroa in helicopter or walking along its beaches, one notices an important pollution due to waste and debris of all kind (bottles, drums, buoys, shoes, paint cans, fridge, etc.) washed ashore by the ocean.
Some have been laying here for weeks, others, for decades. All represent a threat to the beauty of the island and to the marine life.
From April 17th to 19th of 2007, in the context of the worldwide Earth Day celebration, with the authorization of the family owning the atoll, a team of 13 volunteers settled on Tetiaroa for a 3-days beach cleanup operation.
With the very crucial help of Teihotu Brando and his family, 70 % of all beaches of the 12 motu (islands) of the atoll were cleaned. The Onetahi motu, where the family lives, and where the former hotel was set, and the inside of the motu, were not cleaned.
On Thursday 19h, all the garbage collected was gathered on Rimatuu motu, and sorted by categories: recyclable waste, non-recyclable waste, large trash, other… All trash were then embarked on a fishing boat to be send to Tahiti, were the city of Arue (from which Tetiaroa depends) treated them properly.
Recyclable: plastic (5m3), glass (1 m3), aluminium and tin cans
Non-recyclable: plastic shoes, plastic bags, fishing material (3 m3), polystyrene (1 m3), and many other strange or large objects for a total of 840 kg.
15m3 of various trash have been collected but there may be at least the same quantity remaining on the atoll.
Plastic bottles were the most important in quantity. Interesting to note that all these bottles could have been recycled by their users, instead of ending up in the sea, where they can live up to 500 years and kill marine life. Unfortunately, damaged by the sea and the sun, all this supposedly “recyclable” waste could not be recycled any more.
Plastic bags and fishing material (ropes, nets and nylon) represent the most dangerous threat for marine life (birds, turtles, cetaceans…) by absorption or entanglement and suffocation. Unexpected objects were found, like parts of car, TV frame, old washing machine, fridge’s door, wheels, lighters, darts game, markers, lipstick, plastic chairs, toys, brushes, brooms, and dozens of light bulbs and neon… In a word, the usual content of a dustbin. Instead, all this trash has been thrown in nature, by irresponsible persons.
According to the large number of Vaimato and Eau Royale plastic bottles and “made in Tahiti” plastic shoes, it is very likely that a large part of the waste collected originated from Tahiti and Moorea.
The Tetiaroa giant beach cleanup operation not only cleared tetiaroa’s beaches from their garbage, but was also a good way for raising population’s awareness on ocean pollution an its threats to marine life.
Teihotu, Jean-Marc, Nicolas, Matthieu, Moana, Matai, Karynn, Sylvie, Nicky, Veena, Valentine, Eric, Elodie, Tepoe, Anne, Cécile, Benoît, the Sylviane 5 and its crew.
This operation was organized thanks to the help and support of:
– the Brando family
– Minister of Tourism and Environment
– City of Arue
– Moorea Dolphin Center
– InterContinental Resort&Spa