KK City Hall struggles with trash on beaches

The rubbish on the beach facing the Sabah state administration building. (Zero Waste Sabah Facebook pic)

KOTA KINABALU: More than 10 tonnes of garbage are washed up on beaches close to the state administration building every week.

They are waste that city dwellers throw into monsoon drains that pour into the Likas river mouth and then make their way into the sea, according to a spokesman for Kota Kinabalu City Hall.

“The photos that have gone viral showing the beach closest to the state administration building completely covered with trash are real,” he said. “It happens every time we have high tide.”

He told FMT that City Hall had conducted a number of workshops and other forms of campaigning to raise awareness among city folk about proper waste disposal.

“The problem is in the attitude and mentality,” he said. “It’s so hard to change people’s attitudes, maybe because it’s easier to simply throw rubbish into the drains.”

The kilometre-long beach facing the administration building is cleaned up every day by five contract workers.

“However, the trash keeps coming in,” said one of the workers, who called herself Mai.

“They come from everywhere, from the nearby squatter areas, from Kampung Likas and even Gaya Island.”

The island faces the beach.

At the time of the interview, the workers had already loaded a truck with trash, and the beach did look a little cleaner. But more loads of rubbish were coming in.

“The other day, even a mattress found its way onto the beach,” Mai said. “But most of the trash are plastic bottles, plastic bags and food containers.”

The beach has been earmarked as one of the few remaining public places in Kota Kinabalu. On nearly every weekend, it is full of tourists and city dwellers.

City Hall has provided parking spaces, gazebos and barbecue pits, and they all can be used for free. There are also jogging tracks, a bicycle lane, washrooms, changing rooms and a playground for children.

Not far from the beach are rows of stalls selling all kinds of drinks and food, including Sabah’s famous steamed beans and sweet corns.

For a few weeks recently, there was a no-swimming sign because raw sewage had found its way into the sea. The pollution has since been contained.

As Mai walked along the beach collecting small pieces of trash, a green plastic bag washed up near her feet. The writing on it showed that it came from one of the supermarkets in the city.

“These plastic bags are among the main items usually found on this beach,” she said. “They are cheap and easily produced and people have no qualms about throwing them into the drains and into the sea.”

Told that the trash from the beach and nearby beaches amounted to more than 10 tonnes a week, Mai said she was not surprised.

“There’s no end to the garbage coming in from the sea,” she said. “Mattresses, pillows, plush toys, even electronics, they all come onto this beach and we all haul them up into the garbage trucks. It’s a never-ending chore.”