21. Carter Cleanup with Ashwin

Follow the leader.

Pristine Ocean 

I remember an incident that happened to me sometime ago. I was walking down the shopping street in a large metropolitan city. It was in fact London and the street was Oxford Street, but it could have been anywhere. 

It was late in the day on a Saturday and I was literally up to my knees in trash. 

Trash that shoppers had thrown away into the street. 

I was shocked, but more than that I just felt so helpless. 

I felt so alone. 

Everybody must find this normal to be wading through trash, I thought.

But if someone spoke out, I’m sure the people would sign up.

Something was missing. 

A catalyst, a  lightning rod,  someone with the flag calling. 

“Follow me.  Together we can solve this.” 

We’re talking today to a catalyst, lightning rod, a flag carrier. 

As a little boy growing up in Mumbai in India, he dreamed of making waves. When he grew up, he became a master mariner. A sea captain in the merchant marine. 

One experience while he was travelling changed his view of the world forever. 

A patch of plastic the size of France, right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. 

Ashwin – Carter Cleanup

Most people don’t know about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 

Unfortunately I came across it and it was as horror scene. to see a huge patch of plastic waste in the middle of the Pacific. 

And being on a ship, I have just felt helpless at that point of time. I didn’t know how to react to it. 

What is going wrong? Every kind of plastic? I mean, everything that using in a daily household item like a straws. 

I even saw toilet seat, which you know are discarded. Toilet seat in the middle of the Pacific. So things that you don’t realise that using everyday and which sometimes has a finite life eventually shows up. I devotional anschel. 

An outlet, see I have seen ships. Just dumb plastic opening into the ocean because they didn’t want to pay for the garbage reception in a pot. 

Pristine Ocean 

He returned home to Mumbai, wanting to make an impact right in his hometown. 

Mumbai is on the West Coast looking out into the Arabian Sea. Because of the large concentration of coastal communities, 

a lot of plastic and other trash gets flushed into the ocean and with the next monsoon, the ocean spits the plastic out onto the beaches. 

Ashwin then met someone who is making a difference. A lawyer called Afroz Shah who was organising beach cleanups as a type of happening, drawing up to 12,000 volunteers and attracting the attention of politicians and the media. 

Ashwin – Carter Cleanup

He cleared almost 200 tonnes of plastic trash year. There was almost 5 feet of plastic on the beach. Today we have about 30,000 school kids who join Afroz. 

It’s become a large movement and he’s become known as father of the beach cleanups in Mumbai. So because of him, a lot of cleanups have taken place around the city. 

Mumbai has a vast coastline. I mean it’s not possible for one person to clean it up, so we’re trying to see encourage other groups. 

Pristine Ocean 

The Versona beach cleanup removed literally thousands of tonnes of plastic waste, but it was just one of the 19 beaches in Mumbai and is it has inspired a lot of other cleanups in Mumbai and other cities in India. Afroz Shah has become a leading light in the beach cleanup scene around Mumbai. 

Ashwin – Carter Cleanup

I think biggest fan benefit has been that he’s being a guiding force is at least you know in case because he’s been at it for long. 

He’s been in touch with a lot of world leaders and environmentalists. He is in touch with new technology to in case we need anything. 

Today, if we need help, we can go back to him and say Afroz “We need where we are facing this kind of problem. 

Can you help us out? “ He knows the authority the local ministers. He’s become kind of a guiding force trying to help out thcleanup. 

Pristine Ocean 

In 2015 it was one of the worst beaches in Mumbai. Today it’s one of the cleanest. 

Ashwin – Carter Cleanup

I think I think anyone who say there were five feet of plastic are on Verso, a beach, and when we cleared it we had already turtles nesting on the beach after 20 years, so that whole it was just magical to see them come out. 

So just a little just the power of people what wonders they can do. 

Afroz says that we are nation of 1 billion people. Imagine if we come together. What we can do so? 

So that’s that’s power of people, that kind of change transform that beach today, And it’s it’s it’s started a mass movement across the country, not just in Mumbai. 

People cleaning up rivers and lakes because of Versona Beach in Mumbai. So it’s hardly a chain reaction across the country. 

Pristine Ocean 

While the results have been encouraging, the questions that arise are possibly more valuable. Where is this stuff coming from and how do we stop it becoming? 

Ashwin – Carter Cleanup

It’s coming from a lot of places, So what happens is because the number the population Mumbai is approximately 20 million. 

The most large city has grown in an unplanned way. There’s there is human settlement come typically in watching called “Ocean Human Ocean conflict zone”. 

So they are very close to the ocean and they don’t have the best of segregation. 

So what happens is the discharge is the ocean.

Easiest ways to dump it out the oceans. 

A large amount of plastic gets washed up during the monsoon, which is right now between June to September.

Mumbai only recycles 1% of its entire solid waste. 

That’s awesome issue. This realisation that if you segregate waste at source, wet and dry waste, you make a huge difference in the recycling facility. 

Pristine Ocean 

Maybe one of the biggest benefits of the beach cleanups is to place a spotlight on the waste management systems that allow tonnes of trash to flow into the environment around Mumbai. 

But the spectacle of thousands of people coming together regularly to clean up the beach is maybe something that is unique to Mumbai. 

Ashwin – Carter Cleanup 

Mumbai is known for its spirit. It’s been through a lot. We have had terrorism. We had floods. What the common thing witch unites the  citizens? Mumbai has spirit. 

And wherever where there’s been a call out for help, we have seen phenomenal participation from locals. They come out and help in whatever little way there possible. 

So the spirit and determination to make a difference is probably sets what sets Mumbai apart, and that’s why I believe that a citizen. 

Plastic pollution and climate change doesn’t pick a religion or a community. It is going to affect everybody across the world. 

It helps because Mumbai is cosmopolitan. People from all across the country come and settle down here and try to make a living. So it’s easy to connect. 

So which is been very, very nice and we heart-warming city. 

Pristine Ocean 

Beach cleaning became a big part of Ashman’s life, but it was about to become an even bigger part when during one cleanup he met someone who would go from cleanup partner to life partner. 

Ashwin – Carter Cleanup

I met my wife and I know she was at about a party on a Friday night. I met briefly there. I said “ 

It’s 10:30 I need to rush back because I will be gettin up next morning. So like oh what is the beach cleanup” I said “why I do this? 

Well a gentleman called Afroz Shah cleans up every weekend”. She was new to Bombay. So next morning she was on the beach which is what I least expected. 

So we got to know each other beyond environment topics. I found out what she likes and dislikes and that’s realise I realise that you know if I have to be with someone, this is the person. There was

a mutual admiration. 

Yes, and that’s realise that, OK, this we can take this relation to the next level and that’s we decide to get married. 

Pristine Ocean 

A wedding with a lot of guests would normally generate a lot of waste. 

The eco friendly wedding took place with attention to eliminate plastic waste and food waste and to create a carbon mutual event by planting and geotagging 250 trees, one for each guest at the wedding. 

They wanted to take their vision of a lifestyle in tune with the environment. Further, they decided to share their experience of planning and executing an eco friendly wedding event with others who wanted to show the world their joy without leaving a big carbon and plastic footprint. 

Ashwin – Carter Cleanup

When we were getting married, we realised it all the trash you picked up over the over the years on a beach should not get a wedding and that’s how the whole concept of an eco friendly wedding came up. 

Pristine Ocean 

Ashwin and his wife now run an agency for planning eco friendly weddings called greenmyna. 

But on the weekends you can find them back on the beach in the Carter Rd area of Mumbai. 

Ashwin and his wife have teamed up with a group of ocean lovers and social media savvy types to create a new beach cleaning initiative called Carter Cleanup. I like the name. 

Ashwin – Carter Cleanup

There are there about six of us with me included.  

Pristine Ocean 

Ashwin, you’ve been cleaning the beaches for five years now. What have you learned during that time? That, yeah, you didn’t know when you started? 

Ashwin – Carter Cleanup

I think the problem is more deep rooted than what I thought cleaning a beach. It’s much easier than changing the minds of people. 

This is, I think, a huge learning and so I think the problem of plastic pollution is more in our heads than what we see in in the oceans. 

I’ve met a lot of wonderful people to the last five years. This is something I will never say that you know that I’m wasted every time that I know woken up early in the morning going up with which I’ve just met someone really wonderful that day. 

And you know, learn so much from them. So the last five years made learning. I’m still learning this is something which I’ve not studied. I’m not done any kind of environment, engineering or environmental science. Whatever knowledge of gain is is. 

And hands on ground, and I think that’s the best way someone can learn. 

Pristine Ocean 

Ashwin, thanks for talking to us today and giving us a picture of the great initiatives that are going on in Mumbai. 

Wish you all the best with the Carter Cleanup project. 

Ashwin – Carter Cleanup

Thank you, take care and all the best to you and be safe. 

Pristine Ocean 

That was Ashwin from the car to clean up in Mumbai. You can find out more about Green, minor and all the other references in the episode in the show notes. 

That’s it for this week. Thanks for listening. 

Please do subscribe to the Pristine Ocean podcast. We talked to people around the world about the scourge of marine plastic litter. 



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