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August 26, 2022


Photography and words by Emy Maike

Floating garbage. Where does it come from?

Plastic pollution is a serious matter. The Pacific Ocean is ninety percent full of plastics. Plastic is not biodegradable, meaning it does not disintegrate, simply breaking into tinier and tinier pieces, known as microplastics. Microplastics can simply make the water look like a cloudy soup. Our world has been polluted for a very long time.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean. Also known as the Pacific trash vortex, the garbage patch is two distinct collections of debris bounded by the massive North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. Mixed in with microplastics are larger pieces of plastic. Most plastics are refuse from land activities in North America and Asia. Some plastics are dumped from ocean-going vessels.

Indonesia is among the world's top contributors to plastic pollution, in a world where more than 8 million metric tons of plastic are dumped into oceans every year. Scientists have warned that by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight in the oceans than fish. Proper management of plastic waste is lacking in coastal communities in Indonesia. Researchers from Indonesia and Australia found that waste management and infrastructure capacity in coastal communities in Indonesia was ineffective in stopping plastic debris from polluting the marine ecosystem. Plastic waste in the ocean negatively affects the marine ecosystem as sea creatures like whales, turtles and fish mistake floating plastic waste for food, swallowing material they can’t digest. The plastic accumulates in their bodies over their lifetime, killing them or working their way up the food chain and eventually circling back to humans.

At the other side of the beauty at the remote place just a few steps into eternity there is an abandoned place the Cemetery and this place is the garbage dump of humanity.

Uncollected waste contributes more to plastic waste discharges than leakages from final disposal sites, and very little plastic is recycled. Rural areas generate the largest amounts of mismanaged plastic waste due to very limited waste collection rates. Limited collection services and access to disposal infrastructure hinders improvement in waste handling behaviors. Direct disposal in water is the main pathway of plastic waste reaching rivers then dispersing into the ocean, often resulting from populations not having access to waste collection services. The inhabitants have no other way to dispose of their garbage. For the people living in this kind of area, this is how they live their life and they are happy, just the way they are, unknowingly having an impact on the world.

However they might live the life in this kind of situation there are always smiling faces. You must reach out and you are going to smile too as they do!

I travelled to the Philippines in 2019. For more than a year I sat at my computer and researched information and also bought books about the world's pollution and how the people manage their living life within it. It is a subject that seems to be overlooked. It actually wasn't my intention for me to deal with this information, but there was a change within myself, so I dared myself to do this documentary project.

As I travelled around places such as Davao, Mindanao and Navotas City, Manila, there were many surprising moments. The pictures speak more than words and you can try to understand how they live. A few local women were watching me and were curious to what I was photographing. I spoke to them. Josie from Davao City, Mindanao, described what it was like living there. "I am living in this area for so many years that there is now a lot of garbage under the house. Back when my children were little, they fell down but they are still alive and grown up."

The best way to reduce debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is to reduce, recycle, reuse — and clean up local beaches. Both local and national levels of government have taken the most important steps to end the crisis of plastic waste in Indonesia. The island of Bali banned all single-use plastics at the end of 2018. The capital of Jakarta also banned single-use plastic bags in its shopping centres and street markets in 2020. Our world needs us to make a difference for the sake of our planet.

Photography is Emy Maike's fashion. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, Emy graduated college as a Flight Attendant and now lives in Germany, and works in Switzerland. Photography now plays a somewhat vital role in her life. Photography is Emy's universal language.


The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and are not necessarily shared by The Pictorial List and the team.


National Geographic | Great Pacific Garbage Patch >>>

Washington Post | Indonesia Plastic Waste Museum >>>

World Bank >>>

Mongabay News Article >>>

Read an interview with Emy >>>

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