Careers: Removing plastic waste from our oceans
In our newest careers blog Pia Ocampo, founder of Pure Oceans, 2023 Intake Impact Scholarship recipient, and MA in Anthropology of Global Futures and Sustainability student, discusses her career, further education, and plans for the future.
I spent the early years of my career involved in the creative industries, primarily in advertising and communication, and I have taken some of the skills I acquired during this time––as an ideas facilitator, a confidence-giver and a creativity enabler––into my current work as a social entrepreneur with Pure Oceans, as well as with the work I do with The Asia Foundation on Philippine Human Rights organisations’ communication campaigns.
But I have never stopped being a life-long learner; always curious and with an insatiable appetite to develop new skills and gain understanding of new areas of interest. However, during the pandemic, I became aware of a lack of depth in certain areas of my knowledge.
I wanted to know about the unseen cultural, historical and economic forces, and possibly unheard voices, which end up subsumed in the designed experiences, objects, systems and content that I help to create.
I wanted to know about the unseen cultural, historical and economic forces, and possibly unheard voices, which end up subsumed in the designed experiences, objects, systems and content that I help to create. This led me to apply for the MA Anthropology of Global Futures and Sustainability at SOAS.
Bringing learning into practice
After completing my Masters, I plan to return to the Philippines, my social enterprise Pure Oceans and the work with the Philippine Human Rights organisations, armed with a deeper understanding of the contexts within which we co-design solutions and spark innovations in order to create, real impactful change.
Since 2018, Pure Oceans has diverted over 75 tons of marine plastic pollution with local communities. With the additional funding to scale our projects, this figure should more than double by next year. In our most active communities in Tingloy, Batangas, local people talk about the impact our projects have had on their daily lives, thanks to the benefit of cleaner shorelines and waters near their homes.
Since 2018, Pure Oceans has diverted over 75 tons of marine plastic pollution with local communities. With the additional funding to scale our projects, this figure should more than double by next year.
I've also seen how our project members have become active participants in marine conservation. Before Pure Oceans, these same people felt resigned to seeing waste wash up on their shorelines every day. It was either not their problem, or a problem they could do nothing about. All they would do was shrug their shoulders at it.
Now, we are regularly contacted by organisations requesting us to train them in how to manage their waste or prevent any plastic from polluting their water.
Long-term behavioural change
With the Philippines recognised as being one of the world’s largest polluters of the oceans with plastic waste (due to a lack of a waste management system), the task facing Pure Oceans is immense. It is a constant challenge to discover innovative ways to address the plastics problem, particularly in the geographically disadvantaged coastal and island communities we work with, who do not have access to many conventional waste-management solutions.
My goal with Pure Oceans is to initiate long-term behavioural change in the way communities and organisations think about plastic waste, and every day enact their deep relationship with the marine environment.
Picture credit: Naja Bertolt Jensen on Unsplash
About the author
Pia Ocampo is the founder of Pure Oceans, and has been awarded a 2023 Intake Impact Scholarship to join SOAS’s MA in Anthropology of Global Futures and Sustainability.