While shooting Discovery Channel’s #1 show Naked and Afraid in the Maldives, I was overwhelmingly shocked by the amount of plastic trash covering the uninhabited, picturesque island. This was only one island, and I couldn’t bear to imagine what the other 1,200 islands looked like, covered in trash. To leave the island, we actually made a raft out of bottles. As we paddled to our rescue boat, I swore I would come back and do something about the plastic pollution.
After returning from an “Everest of survival challenges” living with nothing for 21 days, I devoured a chocolate bar and took a much-needed shower. My first thought was, “How can I help transform plastic waste around the world into usable items?” The scariest thought was that only a portion of the plastic trash came from the inhabited islands. It was also coming to the islands from other countries brought by the ocean’s currents.
Over a year later, I returned to the Maldives, hosted by Shaahina Ali and accompanied by photographers and videographers Sarah Lee and Mark Tipple. Together we set off on a wild adventure back to the island wearing clothing made from recycled plastic bottles by a company called Repreve that transforms plastic into usable thread for world-renowned brands like Patagonia, Odina, Teeki, Volcom and Roxy. My surfboards are eco-friendly too and are Sustainable Surf-approved, made from recycled styrofoam.
My experience in The Maldives presents an opportunity to tell a crucial story about plastic waste and recycling that fits into my “Surf Survive Sustain” mission of living a non-invasive existence as environmentally responsible as possible.
While there, I collected trash in an effort to save the highly threatened biosphere and then retuned to the island that Naked and Afraid was filmed on to do a beach clean-up with a team of amazing volunteers. In only half an hour, covering about 50 feet of beach, we gathered plenty of bottles and the village’s residents took great pride in making sure I was no longer “naked” but “clothed” in plastic fashion.
All trash collected in the Maldives is taken to “Trash Island”, or Thilafushi, an island landfill made entirely of waste that stands as a sort of eerie, beautiful, apocalyptic art piece. Instead of looking at this wasteland as horrific, I see it as an opportunity to make a lot of pink bikinis!
I would love to see plastic disappear from this world all together – particularly single-use plastic such as bottles, straws, and plastic bags. In the meantime, I would rather see it in bikinis, jackets, and eyewear than strewn across the beautiful beaches of the Maldives and other beaches around the world – with bottles that have drifted all the way from the US and so many other countries and corners of the world! Please keep in mind, this is a global issue. It does not stem from one place and the fact that Thilafushi is covered in waste does not mean the Maldivian people are necessarily at fault. Together, as global citizens, the onus is on us to fix our wasteful ways so waterways and land around the world doesn’t suffer like the places I’ve witnessed.
Alison’s Adventures Maldives film will be released in 2015, so stayed tuned! For now, view the trailer below and help make this excellent project a reality by donating at alisonsadventures.com. To catch sneak peeks of the film, follow me on Instagram: @alisonsadventures.