Adex Asia - Trash Hero Borneo


Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans“ -Jaques Yves Cousteau, an oceanographer

Adex Asia - Trash Hero Borneo

As chance would have it, some people cross our paths and influence us to become a part of a positive change. That’s exactly what happened to our Natalie, who, while on her trip to trough Southeast Asia, met Monica Chin. Monica is an inspiring woman, with a big smile, even bigger heart and one aim she’s pouring all her time and effort into – to make the ocean trash-free again. Natalie joined Monica, accompanied by her two kids for their regular weekly beach clean up. They spent together whole day picking up debris and plastic washed up on the shores. It was an eye-opening experience which made us in compelled to help Monica share her story and become a part of it. That’s how this collaboration came to life.

According to Study conducted by World Economic Forum, the scale of global plastic system breakdown is outrageous. 32% of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging produced annually ends up in oceans – the equivalent of pouring one garbage truck into the ocean every minute! It gets even worse, though. If we continue plastic production as it is now; pollution is expected to reach two garbage trucks worth of plastic per minute by 2030. And by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. On the other hand, only 14% of the plastic packaging is being recycled and only 2% is reused as packaging. Which is, obviously, waste of resources with horrendous consequences for our environment. This system needs to change and it needs to be done yesterday.

Luckily, there are organizations and individuals who recognized that. One of them is Monica Chin – a marine conservationist, a scuba diver, a mother of two and a Trash Hero!

„A Trash Hero?“, one might wonder. Let me tell you a secret: Trash Heroes wear no capes. But they proudly wear their yellow T-shirts. Trash Heroes dedicate their time and resources to fight pollution: every week they meet up for a trash clean up, making places trash free one location at the time. These heroes invest their knowledge into educating others; kids and adults – to adopt responsible behavior towards waste.

„Many of us ask what can I, as one person, do. But history shows us that everything good and bad starts because somebody does something or does not do something.“ -Sylvia Earle, an oceanographer

Monica is a co-founder of Trash Hero Borneo. She has been selflessly volunteering her time and knowledge towards this goal since 2013; raising awareness, organizing cleanups and educating children in her domicile Borneo Sabah. Trash Hero Borneo is recognized as a Chapter of Trash Hero World – a non-profit organization with a mission to create sustainable, community-based projects that remove existing waste and reduce future waste by inspiring long-term behavior change. They work with corporations, schools, and communities, organizing small actions such as picking up trash, as well as long-term projects that bring communities together to remove and better manage their waste. Trash Hero members are mostly concentrated in Southeast Asia, but also extend into Europe, Africa, and the USA. At the moment they count over 47,000 volunteers who helped remove 345 metric tons of garbage in nine countries worldwide.

Monica is always looking for new opportunities to raise awareness about damaging consequences of poor waste management to the environment and to promote Trash Hero mission. This April (6-8) she will be speaking at an international diving convention ADEX SINGAPORE 2018, along with few other members of TRASH HERO World! And if you happen to have an opportunity, do go listen what she has to say.

Adex Asia - Trash Hero Borneo

For those who are not able to attend her speech at the Convention, though, we took upon ourselves to ask Monica to share her story; which, we are happy to report, she accepted! Below we bring you our conversation in full.

Q: Your biography now is pretty impressive: a non-profit co-founder, a conservationist, and a scuba diver! However, we’d like to know a bit about your background prior to starting Trash Hero.

I was exposed to the deep blue ocean since my early age. I became a diver (not certified) at the age of 14, influenced by my late mom. She was an avid scuba diver and transferred her passion for the ocean to me.

I have graduated with BSc. degree in Business Administration & Management. Started working in 1997. By 2006, I was employed with a security and logistics company in Malaysia, a position which provided me with quite high income for Malaysian standards. It gave me a chance to dive around Asia and travel to 52 countries. That experience was really an eye-opener to me!

Every time I went back to visit my hometown in Borneo Sabah and drove around the island; I was saddened by the images I encountered: garbage all around – on the shores and underwater. And with time it got even worse. The situation didn’t look so bad back in the 1990’s. I felt that I need to do something for the ocean and the environment of Borneo before it’s too late. That’s why in 2015, I put in my resignation and decided to come back to my hometown for good!

Q: What compelled you to start Trash Hero Borneo? How did all start?

Back in 2013, I was in Ao Nang, Krabi, Thailand for a diving trip. One particular Sunday, a day before the end of the trip, turned out to be a no-diving day. So my friend suggested that we join a beach cleanup. I said, why not? When we arrived there, there were about 20 people wearing recognizable yellow T-shirts, with a print Trash Hero Ao Nang. They were mostly tourists and divers who cleaned the beach themselves.

That was my first cleanup. But I’ve got so inspired by the way they were doing it: so much laughter, so much happiness, so much joy and love! Everyone was just playing around, enjoying their time with a positive and productive outcome! They took before and after photos and the result was clearly there.

Everyone was so happy with a big smile and I noticed that the people who joined this activity loved the same ocean. No one there complained about being tired, being smelly, and being sweaty. They all came with the same goal: to make things at least a bit better. That is how what really inspired me! They are basically bringing their heart for what they doing not by force or because they have to do so. That made me eager and motivated to start the Chapter in Borneo Sabah. And that is how Trash Hero Borneo was born!

Q: What, in practice, means to be a Trash Hero?

The Trash Hero mission is to bring communities together to clean and reduce waste. We do this through:

  • Action and Awareness. We pick up trash. Whether a cigarette butt on the sand or 2000 km from an island beach – if we see it, we clean it! And we motivate others to do the same. By spending a few hours together picking up trash, people gain a profound understanding of the consequences of being careless about waste.
  • Education. We actively engage children through our multilingual kids’ program, connecting environmental values with hands-on experience of the impact that trash has on the local and global environment. Adults also learn experientially, backed up with information and workshops provided by our volunteers.
  • Sustainable Projects. We create long-term programs that help communities to remove and better manage their waste, and strategies that will reduce the amount of waste being produced in the future.
  • Inspiration. We motivate people to become Trash Heroes in their everyday lives. With consistently positive messaging, and a philosophy of “small steps”, we remove the barriers to change. Trash Hero volunteers have gone home to make their own heroic clean-ups around the world.

I believe our motto sums it up pretty nicely:

“We clean. We educate. We change, No cost. No sign-up. Just show-up! Change your mindset, STOP LITTERING.”

Q: Your programs are action-based and inclusive; engaging whole community. You reach out to communities to make their environment cleaner and reduce the waste through your weekly cleanups. How are the communities responding to your actions and raising awareness of your mission?

The response is 100% positive! Everyone is very supportive and easily gets on board with our mission. I have difficulty to convey in words what’s actually happening there in reality: just lot positive energy and a lot of LOVE in the air!

Q: Trash Hero also provides a way for smaller communities without municipal waste management to separate and manage their waste. How many communities are involved by now and what do you hope for the (near) future?

Eight communities are involved by now. Last year we have done 51 beach cleanups. There were 1994 volunteers involved and we managed to collect 8775 kilograms of trash. We also organized eight seminars in schools and there were more than 3500 students we reached out to. We want to raise more awareness to inspire and change people’s mindset. We hope more people will embrace that change which should result in forming more chapters under Trash Hero Borneo. We welcome and appreciate every single person, volunteer or leader, who is ready to dedicate their time to our vision.

Q: Another important part of your work is education. Where are Trash Hero organizing workshops and programs? How do they look like? What is your goal for the attendants to take with them after finishing programs?

In our Borneo Chapter, we have yet to organize specific workshops and programs. However, our way of education is primarily by action and activity. We talk with our volunteers during our cleanups; sharing our values through conversation, while picking up the trash. We are trying to include as many members of a local community as possible – especially kids. We have had educational activities in schools, as mentioned before. With adults, though, it mostly goes like this: some local people join us in our actions, see what we do and do the same. But it doesn’t stop there! They share it with people they love and by doing that help us spread our mission: to clean, to educate and to change. We are firm believers that actions speak louder than words!

Q: Trash Hero recognizes the importance of educating the children from the early age. What are the kid’s programs you provide?

For kids in schools, we organize awareness inspirational talk, screening of selected movies to make the topic more understandable, beach cleanup activity, eco-bricks project and tree planting.

Q: What were the obstacles your organization needed to overcome in areas where you are active?

As we are 100% non-government and non-profit organization; everything we do is 100% done by volunteers. We do face some small obstacles like shortage of items and tools for our cleanup. When engaging kids, we always lack presentation tools like a projector, audio speakers and some kind of activity materials. We hope more people step up and help us join the force to make every single project/activity more successful and effective.

Q: What are small steps ordinary people can take to impact positive change?

The mindset to Stop Littering! Pick up your garbage and recycle it when possible. The entire world is suffering, overwhelmed by trash. Our ocean is dying because many ignore the amount of trash in the ocean! As no one can see it, it’s easier to pretend it’s not there. However, if it was in front of our collective noses, it would be much more difficult to ignore. That’s why raising awareness is crucial.

Next step is to set your mind to stop using plastic bags, stop buying plastic bottled drinks, stop taking plastic straws, and stop using polystyrene food packaging.

Q: TRASH HERO @WORK aims to reduce corporate and business waste to a minimum. How well is accepted? What are further steps in raising awareness?

Trash Hero World is dealing with the global issue of corporate and businesses waste. The idea behind this program is to reduce the waste which we create as a result of our work in our businesses offices. It’s a two-step process: at first, we pinpoint the sources and the amount of waste an office produces and in second each employee is encouraged to individually reduce their own trash production. It’s a number of small steps (like using reusable food containers or using reusable bottles and bags instead of plastic ones) which make an impact when performed collectively. I’m happy to report, the response is very positive and it is being well accepted.

Q: Trash Hero launched a very interesting Bottle Refill program – which provides a sustainable, affordable alternative to single-use plastic bottles.  Can you explain how that works?

We encourage people to stop using single-use plastic bottles. People can purchase the bottle at actual cost and get a free refill with Trash Hero partner coffee shops and restaurants. However, different countries have a different infrastructure for this project – so it really depends on a location. In Borneo, for example, it is easy to get water refill as most restaurant and coffee shops have water refill machine. In Thailand, on the other hand, Trash Hero Thailand has set a Free Refill Location with Map.

Q: What are best ways to donate to Trash Hero’s cause?

The best way is to do cash donation to For our Borneo chapter, we prefer donations in items or sponsorship.

Q: 10Vorne is gladly joining Trash Hero campaign, as we recognize that time for change is long due. What do you hope for us to achieve with this collaboration?

Honestly, is not about the T-shirts. It’s about love! The shirt is only a token of appreciation for all volunteers and a united color of Trash Hero Family.

Future of Trash Heroes: judging by the success of all of the 52 active Chapters today, we are aiming to be one of the top 10 NGOs and Conservation Teams in the World. There is so much determination, teamwork, honesty, dedication, and sense of responsibility shared by all of our 52 chapter leaders and co-founders as well as volunteers. We are all very motivated and don’t give up. Saving the ocean and helping our planet recover from the maltreatment we all put it through is our goal. And we all put ourselves out there without thinking twice. Because we all love the same one ocean; we are all standing on the same planet Earth and we are all here only once. So there is no more time left to waste, and we need to act now. recognizes the importance of Trash Hero’s mission. To start off, we created a campaign selling T-shirts under a STOP PLASTIC! slogan, which are available for purchase in our shop. Soon we will have more goods available – among others Monica’s personal brand of bamboo reusable straws. We will keep you updated!

As a digital marketing agency, we might not be able to single-handedly fish out all the plastic from the ocean but we can help share Monica’s story and her contagious enthusiasm in hopes to motivate and inspire as many of our readers as possible to become Trash Heroes. Because, as Monica already said, anyone, anywhere can be a Trash Hero!

It’s simple: no sign-up. Just show up. Change your mindset, stop littering! Be the change you want to see in the World.

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