Secret Plastic Paradise Beach

I have finally found the time to write another blog post. I’ve been away on holiday to the Philippines (which gave me some inspiration for posts) and when I came back I started a new job. I’m also planning my wedding at the moment and try to fit in some exercise and time to relax. This doesn’t leave me much time for other things, such as writing a blog post, at the moment. But I guess that’s life.

The first thing I want to share with you from my trip to Palawan in the Philippines is my visit to “Secret Plastic Paradise Beach” on Cadlao Island. The island is part of the Bacuit Bay Archipelago which can easily be reached from El Nido on the northwest coast of Palawan Island. I obviously made this name up, but it was a beach next to “Paradise Beach” and not far away is “Secret Beach”. And I assume you can guess why I added “Plastic”.

View of Paradise Beach, looking towards El Nido, Palawan
Paradise Beach on Palawan Island, Bacuit Bay Archipelago, Philippines
Paradise Beach on Cadlao Island

During our time in El Nido, Jack and I decided to kayak to “Paradise Beach” on Cadlao Island, which from afar truly looks like paradise. It’s a beach that is regularly visited by tour boats. With our kayak we stopped right in front of a large wooden crate filled with rubbish (which you can’t see from a distance). There were three or four of these, one every 15 metres or so. While it ruined the atmosphere a little bit, I tried to see the positive side and that is the fact that they at least used bins. Whether or not the rubbish actually stays in there is another question.

After a little while we decided to row to the next beach one bay along; “Secret Plastic Paradise Beach”, one that is not usually visited by tourists. To our surprise, the plastic pollution was worse. There was so much rubbish that we struggled to find a place to sit. Beyond the high tide mark and at the forest threshold we saw hundreds of plastic water bottles, and that is not an exaggeration. The sight of this just made me feel sad. Where did these bottles come from?

Cadlao Island, Philippines
“Secret Plastic Paradise Beach” on Cadlao Island

While (plastic) pollution is still a big problem on Palawan, things are changing: Many restaurants and cafes now use paper instead of plastic straws, to go on any tour you must pay an “eco charge” (although who knows where this money ends up…),  some hotels provide toiletry kits wrapped in paper or dispensers of shampoo, soap and lotion and there is signs with the slogan “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. However, the change that will probably make the biggest difference is the ban of plastic bottles on tour boats from the start of September this year.

I spoke to a couple of locals about plastic pollution as I wanted to know where all the plastic bottles on that beach had come from. Seeing all the rubbish on the streets and beaches on the main island made me wonder how much was theirs and how much from tourists. The two I spoke to said it was mainly rubbish from tour boats that would be washed onto these beaches. If so, the ban really should make a big difference. But then another thought crossed my mind: Assuming that most of these bottles were littered by tourists, is this Secret Plastic Paradise a reflection of our selfish consumer attitude? If we want something we get it and we don’t care what happens to it when we are done with it.

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