Picking up somebody else’s rubbish for environment’s sake

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Picking up somebody else’s rubbish for environment’s sake
By Emmanuelle Landais, Staff Reporter GULF NEWS Published: February 13, 2008, 17:08

Abu Dhabi: Black rubbish bags were filled in no time last weekend by members of Abu Dhabi 4×4 Club, who took turns in the desert specifically to pick up the mess frequently left out by campers and quad bikers.

Near Al Khatam in Abu Dhabi, silver foil wrappers and plastic bottles pepper the horizon. Already degraded by the sun, plastic bags, feed bags and coal bags, rusty tins and plastic containers break and shatter into fragments when picked up, leaving their trace in the sand.

Khaled Al Muqtab, an Emirati club member marshal and instigator of the environment-focused tryst in the dunes, said he organised the trip after reading a recent Gulf News report on the accidental deaths of camels from eating plastic bags. The plastic forms calcified rocks weighing dozens of kilogrammes, which starves to death four-legged desert wanderers like camels, donkeys or gazelles.

Snapping on blue latex gloves, the volunteer off-roaders look around them at the trash. They do not have to look far, and the group quickly separates to start filling bags.

“I didn’t expect there to be so much trash in such a small area. It’s everywhere,” said Al Muqtab, pausing to listen in to the walkie-talkie in his pocket used by all the off-roaders to communicate. He hears another group has made a find – a different kind of treasure however. He jumps in his car to take the trailer to them and load the abandoned water tanker, probably from a nearby farm.

“This area is so popular for families to come camping and have picnics but there is water bottles and plastic bags everywhere. Municipality seems to be making an effort by at least providing skips and dumpsters but people don’t make the effort to throw their trash there instead,” he said.

The Abu Dhabi 4×4 Club travels into the desert at least twice a week and has been witnessing the increase in waste forming small piles all over the place. “We’ve seen a camel trying to eat plastic today, before our eyes,” he said.

In hours, the cars pulling trailers have made too many trips to count to dump their load of bulging black bags into a municipality skip. A waste management truck even came and emptied the skip once before the group quickly filled it again.

“There is a huge lack of education and awareness. If one person thinks leaving a plastic bag won’t do much damage, then 1,000 people think this is creating a lot of problem. I’m really shocked by what we found today,” he said.

“I really think there needs to be more education in our schools, in a year the problem would not be what it is today.”

Driving over a newly-cleaned up area is a moment of pride for Carolyn, an Australian driver who lived in New Zealand for over a decade. “It’s great to see this spot so clean and to think that we did this.”

“At the end of the day, we have to realise that we have cleaned up a very small area of what is out there, I just hope that we have helped in some way,” said Al Muqtab.

A brief history

The Abu Dhabi 4×4 Club was founded in May 2006. The main purpose of the Club is to have an off-road club based in Abu Dhabi that gathers all the Abu Dhabi based off-roaders in a family-oriented association, meet new people and share the technical and driving knowledge with each other.
Club members are now in talks to organise a monthly desert clean up drive as the idea was very well received by all members and had a very good turnout. For more information on the Abu Dhabi 4×4 club, go to http://www.ad4x4.com

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