July 2018 sampling events for NUS–NParks Marine Debris Monitoring Programme

PUgroupphoto

Participants of 12 May 2018 sampling at Noordin Beach, Pulau Ubin.

Are you concerned about marine trash and want to do more than just a cleanup? Then join us in the 2017–2019 NUS–NParks Marine Debris Monitoring Programme!

Join us in the upcoming sampling events for July 2018!
No prior experience is required, just your interest and attention to details and data accuracy! Briefing and sampling supplies would be provided. Please click on the links below to register.

  1. Selimang Beach on 07 July 2018, Saturday, 8:30am – 11:00am: https://marinedebrissampling07jul2018.eventbrite.sg
  2. Pulau Ubin on 08 July 2018, Sunday, 8:30am – 11:30am: https://marinedebrissampling08jul2018.eventbrite.sg
  3. Lim Chu Kang Beach and Mangrove, 21 July 2018, Saturday, 9:30am – 12:00pm https://marinedebrissampling21jul2018.eventbrite.sg

What is it about?
It is a citizen science programme that was recently initiated to engage volunteers, schools, and organizations with an interest to survey and collect data on marine debris found on Singapore’s beaches. Click on this link or the tab above to find out more!

What will we collect and why?
Data on both macro-debris (>5 mm) and microplastics (1 – 5 mm) will be collected from six sites every alternate month. These data collected would supplement the annual ICCS data and form the national baseline of marine debris for Singapore which would help inform marine debris management.

microplastics

A pile of microplastics collected using a sieve. Microplastics is ubiquitous and include plastics that were originally manufactured small and those that come from the breaking up of plastic products.

How can I get involved?
For individuals who are interested in participating in the data collection exercises, please sign up with this form to receive updates of monthly sampling events.

For schools / organisation, sign up with this form for the programme with 20‒40 participants and you will be guided through the data collection exercise. A research sampling kit and cleanup supplies could be loaned as required

For more information on this programme, please contact Joleen at joleen.chan@nus.edu.sg

Thank you for caring for the coastal and marine environment!

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Join us for a VERY tough cleanup? Sat 9th June 2018, the Sungei Mandai Kechil mangrove cleanup

Dear Friends,

Sungei Mandai Kechil mangrove is an important but unprotected mangrove forest in Singapore. Part of the Mandai Mangrove and Mudflats (MMM), this is a 15.4 hectare patch of mangrove swamp in the northwest of Singapore.

Midday of Sat 9 June 2018, with permission from SLA/PCG, the ICCS MMM team (Germaine, Adriane, Airani and Otterman) will be conducting a year-round coastal cleanup in the back mangrove there. We are calling out to experienced, hardy and dedicated coastal cleanups volunteers to join us on this mission!

Sungei Mandai Kechil mangrove trash

This site is difficult: we have to be very careful to prevent impact, and a lot of trash is trapped in the thorny and dense vegetation of the back mangrove. There may be snakes, hornets and glass pieces. We have to be well protected, very patient and tenacious!

Participants will work as a team to help with the safety, site allocation, site security and coordination of trash transfer.

You must have appropriate footwear to join us as your safety is important.
Details and registration here: http://tinyurl.com/mmm-09jun2018

All the best!

Cheerio!

Sivasothi


Coordinator,
International Coastal Cleanup Singapore
c/o Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
& Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

2018 03 24 11 37 53

International Coastal Cleanup Singapore 2018 – Registration for Organisers is open!

YRCC LCKeast2017

Greetings Organisers!

ICCS will be conducted on Sat 15th Sep 2018

The International Coastal Cleanup coordinated by the Ocean Conservancy is the data-gathering exercise held every September. Held in Singapore since 1992, we will conduct the exercise this year on the international date of the third Saturday in September – 15 Sep 2018.

Invitation to Organisers to register

We invite Organisers to register and to indicate your preferred sites and dates.

The ICCS team will review applications on end-May and end-June. Sites are allocated based on your familiarity with the site, your experience with ICCS, the site difficulty level and and your volunteer preparation, and the date of registration.

You will be informed by email.

Registrations will close at the end of June.

Workshops for Organisers in July

Workshops for Organisers and their assistants will be conducted by ICCS Zone Captains at NUS in July. Anyone who needs help in reviewing the site recce and safety assessment checklists must attend. While critical for new Organisers, the workshops can serve as a refresher for veterans who would contribute to the group discussions with peers.

You can choose ONE of three dates to attend the workshop – from Thu 05 Jul, Thu 12 Jul or Thu 19 Jul 2018. Please indicate your interest in the July workshop and we will re-confirm closer to the date. Should we open up more dates, we will make these available to you as well.

Other dates

If you are interested in conducting a cleanup at other times of the year (without data collection), please examine the options at this page: https://coastalcleanup.wordpress.com/year-round-cleanups/

Thank you for your interest in caring for the environment!

N. Sivasothi
Coordinator,
International Coastal Cleanup Singapore
http://coastalcleanup.nus.edu.sg
c/o Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
& Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

Call for volunteer site captains to join the ICCS Otters team! [apply by 10 May 2018]

The International Coastal Cleanup in Singapore coordinators are searching for motivated individuals who can help with the annual data gathering event in September.

The ICCS Otters are a dedicated team who have been coordinating the International Coastal Cleanup in Singapore for more than a decade. We work with Organisers from more than 70 organisations and institutions who lead some 3,500 volunteers to the beach and mangroves of Singapore in September.

iccsottersVolunteer Site Captains will help ICCS Zone Captains with coordination which involves:

  • site recces to evaluate trash load and safety issues,
  • updating recce reports,
  • liaisoning with and training Organisers through meetings and workshops,
  • allocation of sites for the September cleanups and
  • site supervision on the day of the cleanup event.

You must be able to commit to the five meetings and four field trips listed in the 2018 Calendar.

We keep meetings and emails to a minimum in order to sustain this effort alongside our regular jobs long-term. So to work with us, you need to be responsive and dedicated.

If you fit the bill and can make the dates, sign up here to join the ICCS Otters and we will be in touch!

Please apply by Thu 10 May 2018.

Thanks for caring for the environment!

May 2018 sampling events for NUS–NParks Marine Debris Monitoring Programme

PU 10 Feb 2018

Participants of 10 Feb 2018 sampling at Noordin Beach, Pulau Ubin.

Are you concerned about marine trash and want to do more than just a cleanup? Then join us in the 2017–2019 NUS–NParks Marine Debris Monitoring Programme!

Join us in the upcoming sampling events for May 2018!
No prior experience is required, just your interest! Briefing and sampling supplies would be provided. Please click on the links below to register.

  1. Pulau Ubin on 12 May 2018, Saturday, 9:00am – 12:00pm:
    https://marinedebrissampling12may2018.eventbrite.sg
  2. Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal Beach on 20 May 2018, Sunday, 9:00am – 12:00pm:
    https://marinedebrissampling20may2018.eventbrite.sg

What is it about?
It is a citizen science programme that is recently initiated to engage volunteers, schools, and organizations with an interest to survey and collect data on marine debris found on Singapore’s beaches. Click on this link or the tab above to find out more!

What will we collect and why?
Data on both macro-debris (>5 mm) and microplastics (1 – 5 mm) will be collected from six sites every alternate month. These data collected would supplement the annual ICCS data and form the national baseline of marine debris for Singapore which would help inform marine debris management.

SJI-mp sampling

Collection of microplastic sample using household sieve.

How can I get involved?
For individuals who are interested in participating in the data collection exercises, please sign up with this form to receive updates of monthly sampling events.

For schools / organisation, sign up with this form for the programme with 20‒40 participants and you will be guided through the data collection exercise. A research sampling kit and cleanup supplies could be loaned as required

For more information on this programme, please contact Joleen at joleen.chan@nus.edu.sg

Thank you for caring for the coastal and marine environment!

ICCS @ Nan Hua Primary School’s Earthfest 2018

The celebrations for Earth Day is in full swing!

ICCS was invited to Nan Hua Primary School’s Earth Festival, a meaningful week-long celebration (16 – 20 Apr 2018) organised by parents and teachers for the children. Several organisations including the National Environmental Agency (NEA) set up booths to nurture a strong pro-environmental mindset and green culture amongst students.

On 20th April 2018, we talked to students during their recess period – the students’ enthusiasm and knowledge of the dangers of plastics was impressive! Many were passionately explaining how various sea animals may accidentally eat plastic and hence die of  starvation.

WhatsApp Image 2018-04-21 at 9.19.12 AM (1)

At the ICCS booth, students learnt more about the different types of plastics found during coastal cleanups and the impacts they have on the environment. They certainly were surprised at the number of cigarette buds found on our shores!

WhatsApp Image 2018-04-21 at 9.19.13 AM (5)

The students also learnt more about the coastal cleanups that ICCS conducts and facilitates. Some of them were very excited and recounted how they had also been on coastal cleanups before, while others expressed interest to try it out.

A enthusiastic and informed students also kicked in to help us explain issues at the booth! Here’s a look at the amazing team:

WhatsApp Image 2018-04-21 at 9.19.13 AM (8)

After a quick briefing, they were off! Here is one of the girls sharing about otters with one of her schoolmates.

WhatsApp Image 2018-04-21 at 9.19.13 AM (7)

The student volunteers also helped manage the game of “Spot the trash”! After their fellow students looked for the different types of trash hidden in the picture, the volunteers explained how trash can be easily mistaken for food in the environment from their resemblance of marine prey.

WhatsApp Image 2018-04-21 at 9.19.13 AM (9)

The enthusiasm and passion of the students, and the ability of some to be able to advocate for the cause, was extremely encouraging. We are very thankful for being given the opportunity to reach out to younger students and share more about caring for the environment.

Special thanks to our volunteer Foo Tun Shien for helping out at the booth today!

“Plastics: Enough trash talk” – the urgent need for collective action on plastic use in Singapore

An Earth Day 2018 message from 10 NGOs and interest groups, first published as an op-ed in The Straits Times, 18 Apr 2018.

It’s time to end the talk on plastics as trash. It can be a valuable resource for a small country like Singapore. But this is possible only if governments and businesses approach plastics the right way, and when individuals can look beyond waste disposal and realise the real impact of our plastic problem.


A supermarket plastic bag serves its real purpose for 30 minutes, the duration of a journey in Singapore. In a drink, a straw is utilised for just 5 minutes. The use of a plastic stirrer is even more short-lived: all of 10 seconds.

These items have fleeting lifespans, but they outlive us by a long shot – 400 years, to be exact.

Left in our environment, plastics affect ocean health and biodiversity, including corals, seabirds and endangered species. The problem does not simply end there.

Before they even enter our homes, plastics already contribute to climate change. Globally, the manufacturing of plastics consumes the same amount of fossil fuel as the entire aviation industry1.

We are living plastic in every way: eating2, drinking3 and even breathing4 it. Around the world, microplastics have been found in the guts of one out of four fish2, in tap water samples of 14 countries2 and even in air pollution.

Convenience numbs common sense

Little is being done to address this. There was a huge public outcry when the four largest supermarkets in Singapore floated the idea of a plastic bag charge. Recently, the government announced a decision against a plastic bag ban5, highlighting incineration as a solution.

In this all-or-nothing debate that focuses solely on plastic bags, we are missing the point: that we continue to have a major problem with plastic use.

Meanwhile, Singapore generated over 800 million kg of plastic waste last year, only 6% of which was recycled6.

The rest of the world is far ahead in taking action on plastic waste.

More than 40 countries have plastic bag bans or taxes in place, including China, Rwanda and Italy7. Just across the Causeway, Johor is set to ban plastic bags plastics and polystyrene by this year8. Last year, 39 governments announced new commitments to reduce the amount of plastic going into the sea9.

By not taking action to reduce plastic’s widespread use, we are perpetuating this global problem. It is high time for a mindset overhaul on plastic in Singapore.

Use less and “useless” plastic

Rather than an all-or-nothing approach, the key lies in understanding what we should use less of, and what we can and should eliminate.

There are “useless” or unnecessary plastics – those that provide a few extra minutes of convenience but are disposed after use. Most plastic straws, lids, cups and stirrers fall in this category. Refusing these useless plastics is an easy step to cutting down on plastic use.

There are plastics that are useful that we can still reduce. A case in point: plastic bags. Singapore’s current usage of plastic bags borders on the excessive. A person in Singapore is estimated to use about 13 plastic bags a day, much more than any household would need for trash disposal.

Alternatives in the form of reusables are widely available in the market today. A recent study by the National Environment Agency has found that a reusable bag replaces the use of 125 single-use plastic bags in a year10.

A plastic bag charge can be an effective way to reduce plastic use. Consumption of single-use plastic bags fell by 95 per cent when Ireland introduced a levy in 200211.

In Singapore, lifestyle store chain Miniso witnessed a 75% drop in plastic bag take-up rate after it implemented a $0.10 plastic bag charge in April 201712.

Not all plastics are trash

Even as individuals focus on using less plastic, a wider systemic change is needed to make plastics more useful. Globally, 95% of plastics worth up to US$120 billion are discarded after the first use13. Effective recycling ensures that we do not lose economic value from this useful material.

Plastic packaging cannot be eliminated, but it needs to be recovered.

In Singapore, packaging makes up a third of domestic waste. But not enough is being done to hold businesses accountable for the plastics they introduce into the market. In countries such as Japan, for instance, there are laws in place to ensure that businesses do their part to recycle14.

Separating plastic waste at the point of disposal also enhances recycling. Currently, Singapore does not require plastics to be segregated from other types of waste. This model undermines recycling efforts and instead incentivises incineration, including that of plastics.

Singapore has made a name for ourselves globally in recovering value from precious resources. We do this for paper and even the water we drink. Why aren’t we treating plastics the same way? An expensive, highly pollutive method like incineration should only be the last solution when all other options are unavailable.

Stop trash talking, start fixing

We have limited time to turn things around. With the looming global plastics crisis, business-as-usual cannot apply.

Businesses need to be held accountable for used plastic, however useful its purpose. This includes being responsible for the entire life cycle of plastics, from packaging to recovery after use.

On a national level, the channels and infrastructure need to be in place to effectively enable recycling by businesses and individuals. Incentives encourage manufacturers to take more responsibility, while disincentives like a plastic tax help spur much needed behaviour change.

To expedite the move towards a more sustainable future, individuals should also play their part by using less plastic, and supporting business and government measures that help address this issue.

We need to stop pushing the responsibility between individuals, businesses and government.

Everyone needs to step up and take action for a problem we will share with the next 16 generations.
— end —

About – Ahead of Earth Day on 22 April, ten NGOs and interest groups have co-signed this opinion piece, representing their shared view about the urgent need for collective action on plastic use in Singapore. They are:

  1. ASEAN CSR Network is a regional business organisation promoting responsible business practices.
  2. Ocean Recovery Alliance is a non-profit organisation working on solutions and collaborations to improve ocean health.
  3. Gone Adventurin’ is a business consultancy focused on driving circular economy in Asia.
  4. International Coastal Cleanup Singapore coordinates and organises marine trash clean-ups on beaches and mangroves.
  5. Plastic Disclosure Project works to reduce the environmental impact of plastics in products and packaging.
  6. Plastic-Lite Singapore is a volunteer community raising awareness about the over-use of disposable plastics.
  7. NUS Toddycats! is a volunteer group with the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.
  8. Tingkat Heroes is an initiative working with communities, schools and businesses to go disposables-free.
  9. Team Small Change is a community that champions small individual changes for large environmental impact.
  10. WWF-Singapore is a global conservation organisation protecting the natural environment and resources.

Literature Cited

  1. Neufeld, L., Stassen, F., Sheppard, R., & Gilman, T., 2016. The new plastics economy: rethinking the future of plastics. In World Economic Forum. [link]
  2. Kosuth, Mary, Sherri A. Mason, and Elizabeth V. Wattenberg., 2018. “Anthropogenic contamination of tap water, beer, and sea salt.” PloS One, 13.4: e0194970. [link]
  3. Mason, S. A., Welch, V., Neratko, 2018. Synthetic polymer in contamination in bottled water. State University of New York at Fredonia, Department of Geology & Environmental Sciences, 17pp.[link].
  4. Gasperi, J., Wright, S. L., Dris, R., Collard, F., Mandin, C., Guerrouache, M., … & Tassin, B., 2018. Microplastics in air: Are we breathing it in? Current Opinion in Environmental Science & Health, 1: 1-5. [link]
  5. “Parliament: No plan to impose plastic bag levy, other types of disposable bags not much greener: Amy Khor,” by Samantha Boh & Audrey Tan. The Straits Times, 6 March 2018. [link].
  6. National Environment Agency, 2018. Waste Statistics and Overall Recycling [in Singapore], 2017. [link].
  7. “Kenya imposes world’s toughest law against plastic bags,” by Katharine Houreld & John Ndiso. Reuters, 28 August 2017 [link].
  8. “No more plastic bags in Johor supermarkets,” by anonymous. The Star, 14 Jun 2017 [link].
  9. “Nearly 200 nations promise to stop ocean plastic waste,” by Reuters Staff. Reuters, 07 Dec 2017 [link].
  10. National Environment Agency, 2018. Factsheet on findings from life-cycle assessment study on carrier bags and food packaging. 12pp. [link].
  11. Convery, F., McDonnell, S., Ferreira, S., 2007. The most popular tax in Europe? Lessons from the Irish plastic bags levy. Environmental and Resource Economics, , 38:1–11. [link]
  12. “Less demand when customers have to pay for plastic bags,” by Samantha Boh. The Straits Times, 24 Sep 2017. [link]
  13. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with the support of the World Economic Forum, 2017. The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics & Catalysing action. (Combined from the two reports, “The New Plastics Economy – Rethinking the Future of Plastics (2016)” and “The New Plastics Economy – Catalysing Action (2017).
  14. “Japan’s holistic approach to recycling,” by Leon Kaye. The Guardian, 17 Jan 2012 [link].