130 volunteers woke up bright and early on the morning of Saturday 17 September 2011 with one goal in mind – to rid the Lim Chu Kang East mangrove of trash.
A few thousand others would be doing the same in locations around the island, for the 3rd Saturday in September, date of the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore, was finally here!
I knew we were visiting a completely new site, and was told there was a “historical load of trash” to clear. But I didn’t know what to expect, just that nine of us had been roped in specially by ICCS Coordinator N. Sivasothi and were all there early by 8am to meet Organsers Vionna Luah, He Miao and Derek Ang.
Half-hour later, three bus loads of NUS staff and students led by the Environmental Science & Engineering Club students arrived. Organised into their working groups, they collected their materials and applied insect repellent while Siva chatted with the SPH reporter from Lianhe Zaobao.
After the welcome and briefing, we set out for the site itself, full of anticipation and energy.
And we were SHOCKED by what we saw – a complete cover of trash greeted us! Colourful plastics carpeted the stream, so it was completely hidden. A horrendous sight indeed!
We got to work with no hesitation and the trash bags filled up almost at once. Initially volunteers crowded the entry point so we herded them towards the inner reaches of the hidden stream to tackle the increasingly heavy trashload. It was literally heavy with oil drums, a tv set, a toilet cistern and a sink littered there! A load of of ceramic tiles on the banks, must have been illegally dumped there as well.
The NUS volunteers worked intently for almost two hours in the mangrove, while some took turns to move filled trash bags out to the weighing station. Slowly, the mangroves were uncovered.
I was very excited to unveil the mangrove and got pretty high from it, perhaps from the noxious hydrogen sulphide fumes! The greatest fun I had came from rolling out two oil drums with Jesicca’s help (:
Eventually we were called to halt the cleanup and came out with some very reluctant volunteers who wanted to continue. But it was now time to weigh all the trash collected and to form a human chain to move it to the roadside. Bulky items aside, we collected 181 bags of trash weighing 1887 kg!
While waiting for the data to be collated (the most important part of the job!), we took some time to pose with the pile of trash!
Eventually, we made it back to NUS to wash gloves and to do data processing
It was good fun cleaning up our precious mangroves. The best thing about it is was volunteers unfamiliar with the area realising that most of this trash was single use plastics from a consumer culture that needs to dispose of waste more carefully and better still, reduce waste production in the first place.
For more on the inaugural Lim Chu Kang East mangrove cleanup, do check out: Andy Dinesh’s blogpost