Battling “A Carnage of Plastic” with motivated Independents @ Pasir Ris 6

25 Sep 2010 – After two weeks, we returned to the Plastic Paradise today, with 21 enthusiastic individuals. The trashload was as high as we had thought it would be – plastics a.k.a. Public Enemy No. 1 was out in full force yet again prompting the phrase, “A Carnage of Plastic.”

A carnage of plastic!

Undeterred, we were motivated to fight the plastic threat with our will and might. After a mere 90 minutes, we collected, categorised and counted almost 3,000 items weighting 707.5 kg of trash. Of these 1,534 were plastic bags!

This amazing feat would not have been possible if not for the never-say-die spirit of our Independent Participants – these are individuals who signed up either independently or without much prompting of full-scale event organisation. A date, a time and a meeting place was all they needed. So much so they kept going even as I tried to call them off the shore after the requisite 90 minutes of the international coastal cleanup.

Just some of the Independent Volunteers who made a difference!

And this is what I’ve come to realize about coastal cleanups – people make all the difference. When you have 21 unconnected people who turn up at a remote beach on a Saturday afternoon just before the F1 race and unfazed by the earlier downpour, you know you can accomplish much!

An unconnected group, they all wanted to help – they were people who read our blog posts, saw our tweets or facebook statuses and included a father who with his wife and daughter volunteered as a family, and a lady who rallied some colleagues to the cause.

Thank goodness the weather cleared up before we started work, for it would have been a pity or this hardworking group not to tackle some marine trash!

Group Photo by K.C. Au Yeong

Organising this revisit to Pasir Ris Beach 6, I was reassured by the presence of experienced fellow ICCS Otters, Andy, Kah Ming and Kelly. I could rest easy with data categorisation and the trash weighing operations were in their good hands. A special thanks to my pal, Meixuan, who put her engineering talents to great use as a very efficient data consolidator.

A passer-by ‘uncle’ asked us why we bothered – after all, we could not get the site clean. I think of the “Starfish Story” – sure, the next tide will bring more trash in. But each plastic bag we remove eliminates one more hazard to the marine environment. Every effort and everyone who came made a difference!

I wrote this as way to express a huge and heartfelt “Thank You!” to the 21 champions who battled the curse of marine trash today. May your spirits never waver! =)

Ng Kai Scene
Zone Captain,
ICCS North East Zone

Ed: Sembawang tides for this evening cleanup were 1.5m (4pm), 0.9m (5pm), 0.5m (6pm) and 0.7m (7pm).

1,263 styrofoam pieces, 610 cigarette butts and 0 sunburns – Northland Primary @ Changi Beach 1

[Ed’s note – Northland is the only primary school participant at ICCS, and this is their third year at Changi Beach]

18 Sep 2010 – “Tiring… but it’s a meaningful activity,” was the consensus among the 37 teachers, pupils and parent volunteers of Northland Primary School who were involved in the ICCS 2010.

Scattered all over Changi Beach Site 1 were pieces of styrofoam, cigarette butts, plastic wrappers and bottle caps. And that’s just to name only a few of what we had found today! Spurred on by the enthusiasm of the young children, teachers and parent volunteers worked even harder to pick up all the rubbish that they could see on the beach.

Many thanks to all the teachers, pupils and parent volunteers who woke up early on a Saturday morning to clear the beach under the blazing hot sun. A volunteer said, “I’m just glad that we could do our part for marine life and the environment.”

Hoe Kexin,
Teacher, Northland Primary School

Biswajit @ Pandan mangrove [People at the ICCS]

Biswajit Guha standing in the mud at Pandan mangrove on Saturday morning, 11th September 2010. The Director of Zoology at the Singapore Zoo is an enthusiastic ICCS volunteer who never fails to get muddy at Pandan. This was the third year running and we’ve removed most of the larger items by now, leaving us to the back breaking removal of plastic bags, strapping bands and plastic pieces. Still it’s only 90 back-breaking minutes and he agrees the mud must be good for his complexion. Until our next mud bath in 2011 then, Biz!


It’s always a greatly enriching experience having good clean “dirty” fun
with friends while helping our local ecosystems!!
Photo by Ou Yang Xiuling

Trash busters at Changi Beach Sites 3 and 4

18 Sep 2010 – This year I coordinated the Changi Zone with veteran Kok Oi Yee in support. As with all other ICCS coordinators, we joined the volunteers in action on the morning of the cleanup before returning with the data that afternoon for data entry, verification and submission.

A peaceful, ‘sleeping’ Changi Beach Site 3 was gently roused to life by the morning sun and the chattering of a small group of ICCS participants from FMC Technologies. Undeterred by the size of their site, the volunteers tackled their cleanup with tenacity.

Wrestling with trash
Wrestling with trash

A short while later, the students and teachers from ITE College East Nursing and Electrical Engineering joined them at the site. These boisterous and enthusiastic youth turned the beach into a vivacious and bustling cleanup site. They were quickly organised and started in no time.    

Unity is strength


Reusing plastic bags from home to collect marne trash!

Finally, everything was weighed and data collated.

The final verdict – The FMC volunteers collected 1,734 items of marine debris weighing 82 kg with just 15 participants! And ITE Collge East Electrical and Nursing collected 2,535 items (46 kg) and 1,121 items (56 kg) respectively. Well done!! 🙂  

Over at Changi Beach Site 4, the Queensway Sec Girl Guides showed their zest in doing their part for the environment as well collecting 3,376 pieces of marine debris, half of it styrofoam. 

Meticulous data recording

The other participants at Changi Beach Site 4 that morning whom I did not catch in action (Changi’s beaches are quite long!) were MEWR, Eco Leadership, NPCC HQ and NTU Earthlink. They all submitted their data promptly which is a great hallmark of the Singapore Organisers.

Happy participants from MEWR

Coastal cleanup is an activity for all ages. 

By the end of the event, the sweaty and hot participants left Changi Beach with smiles of triumph and satisfaction. 🙂  As I did – good job everyone!

Teo Kah Ming
Zone Captain,
ICCS Changi Zone

The wonderful spirit of the Independents @ Sungei Ubin

18 Sep 2010 – Every year, the bulk of the cleanup volunteers participate through organised groups. Some individuals, however, hear about the cleanup and sign up independently – the coordinators call them “The Independents,” to reflect their determined spirit which sees them step forward to participate without prompting and they are all a joy to work with at all the sites they turn up at.

ICCS Sg Ubin walkin

This year, about 30 Independents were allocated Sungei Ubin, where I act as Site Captain. This site requires volunteers to report to Pulau Ubin at 7.30am on a Saturday morning. With some volunteers staying in western Singapore and wet mornings for the past two days, I confess I was expecting some “no-shows.” However, everyone turned up – and the ones staying further were either on time or earlier than I was!

This sign of commitment was heartening for me to experience on an early Saturday morning!

ICCS Sg Ubin skitched-20100926-231235.png

With a quick briefing about procedure and safety, everyone started working and soon began pulling out the fishing nets which were deeply embedded in the mud or entangled around trees.

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Barely half an hour into the cleanup, the Independents had accumulated a large load of fish/kelong nets, tires and metal meshes. This group of participants also did not falter at removing large items such as oil drums. Their spirit was wonderful to behold!

ICCS Sg Ubin 2010skitched-20100926-231743.png

The Independents paid attention to details like cutting open tires to remove the sand inside. And the girls helped with moving the accumulated trash to the Trash Collection Point at the end of the cleanup, even though they were exhausted by then.

ICCS2010 Sg Ubin

In just 90 minutes, 30 independents had cleared about 450kg of trash from the site. – a huge load for such a small group, reflecting the effort each one of them put in!

It was truly great working with this bunch of energetic participants and I was energised by the experience – well done, everyone and good job!

Zhang Dongrong
Site Captain, Sungei Ubin
ICCS Ubin West Zone

Photos from the Lim Chu Kang mangrove cleanup, 11 Sep 2010

“Sun, sand, sea… and tonnes of debris” (The Sunday Times, 19 Sep 2010)

“Sun, sand, sea… and tonnes of debris,” by Melissa Pang. The Straits Times, 19 Sep 2010. East Coast Park beach is Singapore’s dirtiest, due to seaborne garbage and human litter. [WildSingapore News link]

Sun, sand, sea... and tonnes of debris

Sun, sand, sea... and tonnes of debris

“Flotsam and Jetsam may be just a pair of evil eels in a popular Disney cartoon movie, but flotsam and jetsam are real problems for Singapore’s beach cleaners.

The seaborne garbage – from seaweed to plastic bottles and stuff jettisoned from ships – gets deposited on local shores, thanks to the seasonal monsoons.

As much as five tonnes of debris are collected daily from East Coast Park beach during the south-west monsoon from May to October each year.

During the off-season, less than one tonne is collected every other day, said the National Environment Agency (NEA).

Besides cleaning up the 10.7km East Coast Park beach, NEA also ensures that Changi, Sembawang Park and Pasir Ris beaches are maintained.

Changi, which has a 6.2km stretch, can accumulate up to three tonnes of rubbish daily from November to April during the north-east monsoon. Off-season, one tonne is cleared every other day.

Pasir Ris and Sembawang Park are affected by the north-east monsoon too.

‘The most debris is at East Coast and Changi. You won’t know this because cleaners are out by 7am to sweep them clean,’ said Mr N. Sivasothi of the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS), made up of volunteers from the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research of the National University of Singapore.

ICCS adds to NEA’s efforts by organising coastal cleanups as well.

Yesterday, more than 3,000 volunteers from over 60 schools, institutes, organisations and government and corporate bodies took part in cleanup efforts across the island to mark the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) day. This year’s programme has attracted more than 4,000 volunteers, and will take place over three weekends.

ICC is an annual event conducted on the third Saturday of September in up to 100 countries.

Coordinated by the non-profit United States-based agency, Ocean Conservancy, it is now into its 25th year. It aims to remove debris and collect data on it – from shorelines, waterways and beaches worldwide.

During last year’s ICC day, over 3,000 volunteers here picked up more than 13 tonnes of trash from 20km of coastline.

The volunteer team that coordinates the ICC in Singapore also helps to conduct other cleanups here during the year, especially at mangrove and sandy shore areas that are not cleaned daily.

A spokesman for NEA said it spends about $1.4 million a year to clean the four recreational beaches here.

During the monsoons, cleaners scour the beaches twice daily; otherwise, they do it once daily or every other day.

A team of cleaners starts work as early as 6am, and the process can take as long as six hours. Because of the size of East Coast Park beach and the level of human activity, up to 30 cleaners are needed to help clear the debris. The other beaches require between three and 10 cleaners.

One cleaner drives and operates a machine that scoops up the litter, while the others, such as Mr Mahmood Amin, collect the litter manually using rakes.

‘Some of the stranger items I’ve picked up are car tyres and huge tree branches. I enjoy the work, but it would be nice if people helped by not littering,’ said the 38-year-old, who has been a cleaner for more than a year.

Collected debris goes straight to incineration plants and the Semakau landfill.

NEA’s spokesman said that other than seaweed, debris brought in by the tides is the waste thrown into the sea by people.

Earlier this month, NEA released findings of a survey of water samples which showed that the waters off Pasir Ris contained unsafe levels of enterococcus, which can cause gastro-intestinal illnesses with vomiting and diarrhoea if swimmers come into contact with it.

The spokesman said the removal of debris along beaches will not affect the enterococcus count of water, as the bacterium is found in the faeces of humans and warm-blooded animals.

Ms Nicola Carter, 44, who visits East Coast Park beach occasionally, thinks the cleanliness of Singapore’s beaches can be improved on.

‘When the tides go down, you can see plenty of trash, especially at the more popular areas. Individuals have a responsibility for keeping the beaches clean,’ said the sales manager.

Mr Sivasothi encourages the practice of ‘the three Rs’: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. He said: ‘Semakau’s landfill is where the ash of our trash goes to.

‘It was built at some cost to our natural heritage – coral reef and mangrove ecosystems in the area. We can make better use of that sacrifice by extending its lifespan if we reduce, reuse and recycle.’

Results from the last three coastalcleanups – Kranji Bund mangrove, Sg Cina mangrove and Pasir Ris 6 revisited

The International Coastal Cleanups have been spread over three Saturdays this year and the last of the series were three unique cleanups. Due to the tidal regime, these cleanups were conducted in the afternoon/ CLick the pie charts to examine the results in detail.

It’s a lovely finish to ICCS2010. There are still gloves to dry, zone and national data totals to add up. debriefs to conduct and reports to circulate. The operational aspects are over and were all conducted safely and all the organiser’s data is in, phew!

Kranji Bund mangrove
This is the Nature Society (Singapore)’s signature site where they also regularly conduct horseshoe crab rescue operations from ghost nets. They also set the standard by enjoying a sing-a-long session and a makan kechil at the site itself after they have washed up – with everyone encouraged to bring their own utensils!

ICCS2010 - Kranji Bund results

Pasir Ris 6
This site was revisited by a determined team as promised, for the trash load there is so high. They came away with 700kg of trash!

ICCS '10 @ Pasir Ris 6 ( Revisited ) - KCAY - Picasa Web Albums

ICCS 2010 Pasir Ris revisited

Sungei Cina mangrove
This mangrove patch lies within Admiralty Park and this is the first year of the cleanup there, which is heartening; one more mangrove patch looked after!

Facebook | Lee Bee Yan's Photos - ICCS'10 Sungei Cina Mangroves

1,208 plastic bottles at the first ICCS @ Sungei Seletar

18 Sep 2010 – Under a blistering hot sun, the first international coastal cleanup was conducted at Sungei Seletar. The volunteers who tackled this beach/mangrove shore were from Pei Hwa Secondary School’s NPCC & NCC units and the Australian International School. Well there was one more person – Independent sign-up Michael Wolstencroft, for whom the cleanup at Pasir Ris last week was merely an appetiser!

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At Sungei Seletar Site 1, Pei Hwa collected around 370kg of trash and topping their list of items was 940 plastic beverage bottles (less than 2 litres) contributing to a total at both sites of 1,208! Michael alone was able to collect 80 bottles in addition to a bi-fold door and a fishing net!


The Australian International School who cleared a further 140kg of trash picked up a bowling ball – this was classified under “toy”; surely, no one was bowling along the beach! Oh and two car accumulators.

It was a tiring effort this last Saturday, but it was good to see a job done well. We are really glad the first dent has been made of the accumulated trash and we look forward to future cleanups at Sungei Seletar!

Lim Chen Kee,
Deputy Zone Captain,
ICCS Northeast Zone