Sungei Seletar – Rubbish Galore!

Sungei Seletar

On May 15th, the Northeast Zone people went down for a multiple northeast sites recce! Our first stop was a new location – Sungei Seletar – along Seletar Club Road. It’s always exciting to visit a new place, especially one that I did not even know existed. And it has a rustic feel!

The site entry was fairly easy, down a few rocks (trust me, if I can get there easily, so can most people!). But once we reach the shoreline, it got trickier. You really need to watch your step! Every step of the way, there’s rocks, branches, rubbish, rubbish and more rubbish! Also, part of the area is sandy but there’s also a muddy part. We are really going to have to watch out for safety while we brace ourselves for hard work.

Trash at every step

We ended the recce with a visit to the “kampong” there. We met a friendly uncle who told us he and his fishing kakis are regulars there. He was most enthusiastic about us cleaning up there and wanted to join in the event! The uncles had tried to clear the trash themselves but guess they were “outweighed and outnumbered” by the trash!

Rubbish Galore

Looks like we have a place for the students to sweat it out in September! And maybe for future regular cleanups too?!

Berlayar Creek: New ICCS Site!

On the early morning of 27 May during low tide, Yuet Hsin (our new Otter from Nparks and Site Captain for Berlayar Creek)  plus Siva and myself went to the creek at Labrador Nature Reserve for a site recce!

First thing we had to do was to climb down a rocky slope to get into the mouth of the creek – which we gals took a while to do to the amusement of Siva!

The site did not have as much trash as we expected, but still there were abandoned fishing cages, nets, wires and cables dispersed along the approximately 1km stretch. As we waded deeper into the creek, the mud got softer and we felt it would be a challenge for layman who are not familiar treading in mud. Furthermore, there would be difficulty getting the trash out since most areas leading to land had already been fenced up. Hence, we decided to just tackle the mouth for this year’s ICCS and when the boardwalk by URA is ready end of 2010, we can clear further in next year with the better accessibility.

We had to squeeze our way out back to solid land via a barb-wired small hole in the fence but oh! we saw  flowering sea hibiscus and Siva spotted 2 white bellied eagle hovering in the clear blue sky! Nice.

“Recycling: Time to get our act together,” by Grace Chua (Straits Times, 25 May 2010)

“Recycling: Time to get our act together,” by Grace Chua. The Straits Times, 25 May 2010. Singapore has First World technology but Third World attitudes

“THE cost of recycling in Singapore may go up, as a result of the National Environment Agency’s (NEA’s) review of the waste management industry.

The Straits Times reported last Friday that new initiatives such as having more recycling bins per Housing Board block could be in place in some estates next year. This is when the waste collection contracts of Bedok and Tampines come up for renewal by the NEA.

Right now, fees for waste collection range from $4.31 for flats to $24.08 for landed properties.

With expected higher costs, there is every incentive for the country to relook its recycling efforts. In addition, there are pressing non-financial reasons for Singapore to raise its recycling rate.

One imperative to cut waste and recycle more is the sheer logic of land-scarce Singapore.

For instance, what happens when the offshore Semakau landfill runneth over? Will Singapore ship its ash to neighbouring countries next, or find pricey ways to use the ash in construction?

Semakau landfill

The national recycling rate of 57 per cent last year may look impressive. Other countries’ overall recycling rates run the gamut from the Netherlands’ 65 per cent (in 2006) to Malaysia’s 5 per cent (in 2008).

But a closer look at what gets recycled reveals that the rates are highest for construction debris, metals, used slag and scrap tyres. Such waste is generated from industrial use and recycled by scrap dealers.

The recycling rate for waste types produced by both industry and households – such as paper, plastic and glass, at 48 per cent, 9 per cent and 21 per cent respectively – is paltry by comparison.

Taken together, the picture of Singapore’s recycling efforts suggests that households and businesses are not pulling their weight when it comes to recycling. It is mainly scrap dealers who are doing most of the work of recycling, going round to companies and households to buy or collect their waste materials, and making a living from these scraps.

What can be done for the recycling bug to bite in households and businesses?

First, change the laws. Recycling should be legislated, perhaps starting with industrial areas or malls that generate the most waste, and waste types like plastic which are not recycled enough.

In the United Kingdom, businesses with an annual turnover of over £2 million (S$4 million) and which handle more than 50 tonnes of packaging a year are required to recover and recycle specific amounts of such packaging. The exact amount depends on the business activity – for example, whether they are retailers or packers.

In Singapore, no laws mandate recycling, except that condominiums and HDB estates must have recycling bins.

That spells trouble for the handful of recycling companies here, as previous reports have noted. For example, food-waste recycling company IUT Global, which digests waste and powers electricity generators with the methane gas produced, is losing money. And a firm that leases machines to collect and sort bottles and cans has found few takers.

There are no laws that mandate the recycling of cans, bottles and food waste, and this is hampering the industry’s growth.

Apart from laws, financial incentives also work. Witness how people would rather sell their old newspapers to the karung guni man than put them in a recycling bin for nothing.

The United Kingdom has a landfill tax of £48 per tonne, and the sum rises every year. It is paid by taxpayers as part of their council tax, and encourages them to cut waste.

Rather than charge a flat rate for waste disposal, public waste collectors here could find a way to charge by volume of waste collected per estate or precinct. This way, residents will have a clear incentive to cut waste.

Apart from laws and monetary incentives, small improvements can help make recycling more convenient.

Recycling chutes in a handful of new HDB blocks have boosted the recycling rate to eight times that of the average block, after just one year. This project deserves to be introduced nationwide.

Madam Suky Leung, 48, lives in one of two blocks in Choa Chu Kang involved in the pilot programme. She appreciates the convenience of having two separate chutes (one for rubbish, one for recyclables) on her floor. Although these chutes are located along the corridor, outside the flat, she finds it a breeze to separate the recyclables from her trash.

She says: ‘New flats should have these chutes, it’s better for the environment.’

Madam Leung hails from Hong Kong, which she believes has a more environmentally conscious culture. People there, she says, take reusable bags when they shop at supermarkets.

Singapore is also way behind in recycling compared to Japan. There, recycling laws are set by municipal governments, which issue sorting guidelines and govern waste storage.

In 2005, the port city of Yokohama near Tokyo doubled its number of recycling categories to 10. There were teething problems in the densely populated city of 3.6million people at first. Some residents dumped unsorted trash at dustbins in public parks. But community policing efforts helped iron these out. Bags of unsorted trash are left uncollected with a warning note until a resident sifts out his recyclables.

In time, Singapore should aim to be a society where recycling is seen as part of one’s basic social duty, and an act of national if not global citizenship, to conserve the finite resources of the Earth.

For now, when it comes to green consciousness, Singapore still has a long way to go. It is a world leader in water-treatment technology, yet the national water agency still has to put up signs reminding people not to toss litter into drains that flow to catchment areas.

Singapore’s laws, recycling infrastructure and citizens’ behaviour have to play catch-up with its sophisticated incineration plants and complicated recycling machines.

Otherwise, it will remain known for its deep pockets, First World technology – and Third World attitudes.”

Status and Registration for ICCS 2010

Important dates

  • Sat 10 Jul 2010 – Organiser’s Workshop
  • Sat 28 Aug 2010 – Briefing for Site Buddies
  • Sat 11 Sep 2010 – Mangrove Cleanup
  • Sat 18 Sep 2010 – Beach Cleanup

Registration for ICCS 2010 has opened.

Site Allocation
You can check on the status of Site Allocation and availability at:

Registration by Organisers
Organisers may register at this page:
Note the workshop and briefing requirements.

Registration by Individual Participants
Individuals with no groups who would like to participate in the cleanup
or take on roles as Site Buddies may register at this page:

Gearing up for ICCS2010

After along hiatus since November 2009, the ICCS team began gearing up for operations this year with two meetings on 27th March and 8th May 2010. The team is as follows:

Zone Captains

  • Northeast – Ng Kai Scene
  • Northeast Dy – Cheong Wei Siong
  • Northeast Dy – Lim Chen Kee
  • Ubin – Marcus Tay
  • Ubin Dy – Athena Han
  • Changi – Teo Kah Ming
  • Changi Dy – Kok Oi Yee
  • East – Connie Hon
  • South – Kelly Ong
  • North West – N. Sivasothi

Site Captains

  • Labrador Beach – Toh Yuet Hsin
  • Admiralty Park, Woodlands – Nanthini Elamgovan
  • Pandan mangrove – Ou Yang Xiuling
  • Lim Chu Kang mangrove – Yeo Chee Hiong
  • Pulau Ubin – Zhang Dongrong


  • Data Coordinator – Airani S
  • Webpage – Charina Ong
  • Dy Coordinator – Andy Dinesh
  • Coordinator – N. Sivasothi

This team has a few new faces and we welcome them with warm wishes:

  • Toh Yuet Hsin
  • Nanthini Elamgovan
  • Ou Yang Xiuling
  • Yeo Chee Hiong
  • Athena Han
  • Connie Hon

Site Buddies are being recruited and registration has opened.
Here’s to a successful 19th year!

The Chek Jawa Recce [29 Aug 2010]: the weather threatened to let us down but not Andy!

I woke up in the morning with rainy weather and checked NEA’s forecast: “showers with thunder for the next 3 hours”!  I might have been tempted to call off the recce but thankfully, the few organisers I called were already on their way. 

This year, with supporting evidence from the tidetable, we got ALL the organisers to come for the recce on a single day. this saved us the zillion dollars that Andy and I spent last year on ferry and land taxis. Not to mention all the fat from ice cream and Ayam Penyet.

As usual, the “super-onz” group from Sukyo Mahikariwas already there punctually and waiting for the rest of us; next came Paul and his son, Will.

Andy Dinesh, who had relinquished his role as Zone Captain of Pulau Ubin this year to take on the role of Recce Captain had not abandoned me. In Changi for a planned bicycle ride (to help eliminate some of last year’s Ayam Penyet), he saw the scene at the Ferry Terminal and his heart weighed heavily on him; as he put it “How can I leave Marcus alone with 20 over people?” 

So the 27 of us, Organisers and Site Buddies, set off for Pulau Ubin. 

As I was about to embark on my grandmother story of introducing Chek Jawa to the new organisers, Site Captain or Chek Jawa North, Rachael Li, stopped me with the waring that the tide was rising.

So we spilt up:

  • A) Rachel and her site buddy Angeline, leading Zhu Lin of NPCC HQ as well as Matt, Kinksi, Siew Hui and Yan Ni (LTA) to Chek Jawa North.
  • B) Andy led Paul from St Joseph’s International, “going to be veteran” Juliet and her student Benedict from Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Humanities as well as my newly recruited Site Buddy Shriyanka to Chek Jawa Central. Shriyanka, a final year student from the NUS ESE program, travelled more than 2 hours to join us. I am pinning my hopes on her to be the Site Captain for Chek Jawa Central.
  • C) I led Mr Patrick Sng, Michelle, Mr Tan and Mr Soh from Sukyo Mahikari; Lynn, Mrs Koh and three other teachers from CHIJ Katong Convent ; Christopher from Dow Chemcals with his wife Charlene and Site Buddies Fucai and June to Chek Jawa South. I’d give kudos to this group as we crisis-crossed the site four times to the shore and back to the main path so that all groups were clear about the various access paths.

    Organisers of the Chek Jawa South Groups

    The evening before, Andy and I had looked for permanent landmarks at low tide which we could use to demarcate the sites along the coast to replace last year’s method of placing plastic orange signboards hanging on random trees 50m apart.

    This year (and thankfully Andy did take issue with this) the long Chek Jawa South shoreline was not going to be divided into 10 stretches of 50m which required breaking up participating groups into the right sizes. this was a lot of work. Instead, key landmarks were identified on shore to define variable stretches of beach which we could then use to insert appropriately sized groups or a mix of groups.

    Well, the recce went well, organisers had all their questions answered and we are good to go on the 11th of September!