The Straits Times reports ICCS 2008: “S’pore coastline getting dirtier”

ICCS Pandan 2008 ST article

“S’pore coastline getting dirtier,” by Shobana Kesava. The Straits Times, 16 Dec 2008. More than 9,750kg of trash cleared during cleanup in September [pdf]

DESPITE public anti-littering campaigns and annual cleanups involving thousands of people, Singapore’s coasts are dirtier than they were five years ago, according to new data.

Over 9,755kg of waste, from plastic bags to refrigerators, was fished off beaches and mangroves during a mammoth cleanup in September, almost 400kg more than in 2007.

The cleanup was organised by International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) and was part of a worldwide drive.

Locally, over 2,500 people – from schoolchildren to business executives and civil servants – took part in the event, fanning out to coastal areas from Changi to Jurong.

The results of the cleanup were recently computed by the entirely volunteer-run ICCS.

Lead coordinator N. Sivasothi said he was not surprised by the volume of trash collected.

He described the cleanup as a stopgap measure, saying the only way to cut down on beach-front trash is to encourage conservation.

‘If we use less, that will mean fewer things we need to dispose of. Proper disposal is important so that trash doesn’t end up in drains which wash into the sea,’ he said.

This year, about 2,530 volunteers participated in the Sept 20 cleanup, down from 2,860 last year. Organisers said the numbers were higher when volunteers who worked on other days of the year were included.

The results of the cleanup show trash trends have varied little over the few years, said Mr Sivasothi.

‘It would take an enormous shift in behaviour to change the kind of rubbish we find. I’d be surprised if there was a significant change,’ he said.

Plastic bags, straws and styrofoam have been a constant on shorelines here and abroad for years. Larger items, such as refrigerators and tyres, have also been found, according to organisers.

While the September cleanup shows littering habits remain a problem, volunteers are undeterred.

Kranji Mangrove volunteer Cheong Wei Siong, 20, said he has seen the shoreline become progressively cleaner over the years.

‘I always feel good visiting the mangroves because they are much cleaner, and I played an important role in it,’ he said.

Mr Yasim Abidin, a volunteer who has cleaned the shores for 10 years, said he is not discouraged by the consistently high garbage load.

Every year, the 29-year-old gets 80 children to pair up with Nanyang Polytechnic students to help clean the shoreline. ‘It’s our small contribution to Singapore and hopefully the children will take the message home and into their future,’ he said.

Registration for next year’s International Coastal Cleanup will open in March at the website http://coastalcleanup.nus.edu.sg

skesava@sph.com.sg


“New cleanup site: Pandan Mangrove,” by Shobana Kesava. The Straits Times, 16 Dec 2008. [pdf]

ICCS Pandan 2008 - photo in ST
Among the peculiar items found at Pandan Mangrove off the West Coast was a muddy toilet cistern, probably washed up by the tides. — PHOTO COURTESY OF KENNETH PINTO

SITUATED off the West Coast, Pandan Mangrove has become the latest addition to the coastline being cleaned up by International Coastal Cleanup Singapore.

Fresh pickings could be the main reason for the unusually high number of bulky items found on just 350m of shoreline. More than the average number of tyres and building materials were found stuck in the mud.

In all, 3,448 pieces of trash were collected by corporate volunteers from Oil Spill Response and East Asia Response Limited (OSRL/EARL) and Wildlife Reserves Singapore – both new to coastal cleanups – and veterans from the Raffles Museum Toddycats of the National University of Singapore, a non-governmental organisation headed by zoologist N. Sivasothi, who coordinates the annual event.

‘We wanted to give them this fresh site, even though they have never done this work before, because they had a great ‘can-do’ spirit and were serious about wanting to do a good job,’ he said.

‘We wanted to cover only a small site because we wanted to minimise the damage to the site,’ said site captain Kelly Ong, 27, a marine biologist.

The volunteers found almost 1,300 plastic bags, 820 food wrappers and more than 440 glass bottles.

‘The most peculiar items found included traffic barrier lights, half of a vacuum cleaner, a rice cooker, a wooden statue of a smiling Buddha, a golf bag and a lot of plastic pipes,’ she said.

A human chain was formed to remove 39 tyres, which easily weighed about 740kg.

Ms Ong hopes this will reduce the places where rainwater can collect, as these can serve as breeding grounds for mosquitos.

Mr Wilson Tan, 28, who headed the OSRL/EARL team, said he had been searching for a way to help his company reduce its carbon footprint.

‘I went online to check if anyone was cleaning the beaches because the footprint is worse if trash is left in the open. It affects the mangroves and the marine life,’ he said.

SHOBANA KESAVA

Note – the volunteers mentioned are Site Captains of Sembawang Beach (Yasim), Kranji mangroves (Wei Siong) and Pandan mangroves (Kelly) and cleanup organiser Wilson.

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