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FEATURE STORY June 1, 2020

Meet the Innovators Protecting Our Oceans in Timor-Leste: Micky & Mardy


Since the age of six, twins Micky and Mardy Hinton, have always been passionate about the ocean. The dynamic duo, are now Youth Ambassadors for the local group Ekipa Tasi Mos (Clean Ocean Team), working closely with their communities to fight plastic pollution in efforts to protect their island home of Atauro.

Twin brothers, Micky and Mardy, were born and raised by the blue seawaters of Atauro Island which is about 20 kilometers off the coast of Dili, the Timor-Leste capital.

Since the age of six, twins Micky and Mardy Hinton, have always been passionate about the ocean. Their group, Ekipa Tasi Mos (Clean Ocean Team), organizes regular beach clean-ups, and they record their findings in an international marine debris database, allowing the community to trace the pollution back to its original source. After collection and recording, the plastics are then recycled and transformed into beautiful products that can be sold as local handicrafts. The group is now working with the Government of Timor-Leste to support the draft of new laws to prevent and reduce the impact of single-use plastic products on the environment.


Tell us about yourselves.

Our names are Micky and Mardy Hinton. We are 12-year old twins, and we are from the beautiful and unique Atauro Island, in Timor-Leste, where we have lived our whole lives. We love our island home.

Atauro Island is the best place to grow up, to discover the beauty of nature and to view the world from a distance. Our island is very popular and it is loved not only by tourists, but by Timorese people as well.


Tell us about your project.

We are part of Ekipa Tasi Mos Atauro, which in English means, “Clean Ocean Team Atauro.” The local organization was established in 2016 and was set up to find solutions to reduce the problem of increasing marine debris that our island is facing. The problem with just cleaning beaches is that we have no record of what we are collecting and where the debris is coming from in order to find out the source of all this plastic pollution. That’s why we joined forces with the Australian Marine Debris Initiatives Database and started to record how much plastic we pick up. This becomes proof of how much plastic has been washing up on the beaches and what types of plastic we’re collecting.

Our aim is to remove plastic pollution from our local waters, and to also find ways that will provide a source of income for our communities, as well as helping ban the importation of single use plastic cups into Timor-Leste in order to protect this Island paradise we call home.  We created a petition that you can sign up to and help us with achieve our goal of a plastic pollution free Atauro. We also created a Facebook page so people could follow our journey.

Members of the Ekipa Tasi Mos team with the results of one of their regular beach clean ups. (Photo: supplied)

"Our aim is to remove plastic pollution from our local waters, and to also find ways that will provide a source of income for our communities, as well as helping ban the importation of single use plastic cups into Timor-Leste in order to protect this Island paradise we call home."
Micky & Mardy
Youth Ambassadors, Ekipa Tasi Mos Team


Micky explaining the recycling process to Dulce de Jesus Soares, Timor-Leste's Education Minister. (Photo: supplied)

So far, the Ekipa Tasi Mos team has raised funds to buy four plastic recycling machines to help us process some of the debris, rather than burning it. We have a Shredder machine, Injection machine, compression machine and an extrusion machine. This means that we can now recycle the washed marine debris plastics into things like coasters, tiles and baskets. We then sell them to tourists that visit Atauro; they can have a souvenir that will remind them of this important program and our passion for protecting our ocean and reefs.

We also want to thank our parents who donated the land and finances to build a shed to house the recycling facility. So, “thanks Mum and Dad!”


What are you most passionate about? What drives you? 

When we were six years old, a group of marine biologists from Conservation International came to do research on the Island. They discovered that the reefs surrounding Atauro Island are the most biodiverse reefs in the world. The waters around Atauro are not only breathtaking – they have great global significance. A 2016 survey revealed that the island hosts the highest average marine diversity in the world. But sadly, like many coastal communities around the world, Atauro is under threat from plastic pollution.

Ever since that moment, we have been very passionate for the conservation and preservation of our beautiful island home. Seeing the increase in plastic pollution that was and continues to threaten our island home, drives us everyday to do more in our communities. We both hate plastic with a passion!


What do you see as the biggest challenges facing our oceans in 2020?

Humans throwing rubbish everywhere and not thinking about their actions is a major challenge. As almost half the world is locked down in their homes [due to COVID-19], there is reduced pollution and less plastic waste ending up in the ocean. There is also less litter in public spaces and the skies are once again clear. This has been noticeable on Atauro Island, with a reduced amount of marine debris so far this year washing up on the shores.  We need to ban the use of single-use plastic all over the world and we have to treat our planet, especially our oceans, with more respect and care.


If you had a magic wand and could change or fix one issue/challenge facing our oceans, what would it be?

If we had a magic wand, we would create a type of plastic that is biodegradable in both sea and fresh water. Not only would it be biodegradable, but it could also be a food source for fish and marine animals. This biodegradable, edible plastic could be produced in countries like China, India and Indonesia who could then replace all of their single use plastic cups and materials with this sustainable, innovative material. That would be cool!


What does the 2020 World Oceans Day theme, “Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean” mean to you?

It means being creative in how we think and work together with international volunteers and Atauro’s local community to help clean our beaches of marine debris.

It means how we can better protect our home reefs. Our mission is to model to our community on Atauro to take ownership, to take responsibility, to have more awareness of the plastic pollution, and to start being a part of the solution. Together we can!


What message would you like everyone to hear on World Oceans Day 2020?

To be more aware of the products you buy and use for your family and avoid single use plastic products. When you go to the shops, bring a reusable bag with you!  When you go to a restaurant, café or shops, take your own cup and a bamboo or metal straw to use instead of plastic cups and straws. Plan to choose to RE-USE! It’s that simple. We can protect our oceans together. Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Refill, Repair, Regift, Recycle, Repeat.

**The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the World Bank Group and its employees.