We’re all familiar with the image of a fisherman diving for pearls, on a beautiful, untouched tropical beach.

But now, there’s a new, troubling and tragic twist to this familiar story.

In the Philippines,13-year old Ranniel makes a living by diving for plastic. It is estimated that Phillipinos dispose of 163 million single pieces of plastic a day.

Ranniel gave up school at eight to begin his scavenging.  He supports his family by diving in the Estero de Vitas River, one of the most polluted waterways in Manila, looking for recyclable plastic. Ranniel uses an old fridge door as a raft and propels himself along with two emptied-out plastic containers, which act as oars. On a good day of scavenging and diving in the filthy, murky water, Ranniel can make three dollars.  But sometimes it’s as little as 50 cents. 

Ranniel’s legs show the physical impact of his work, with old scars from where he has cut himself on hidden debris such as metal and glass.

In the ultimate irony, Ranniel uses some of his earnings to buy goods for his family. These goods are, yes, packaged in single-use plastic.