ICC Malaysia @ Terengganu – congratulations!

ICC Malaysia @ Terengganu – congratulations to them!

“Rubbish collected from the 2-hour clean up weighed a total of 395.6kg. Data collected showed that the top three culprits of marine debris were cigarettes and cigarette filters (11.7%), plastic bags (9.2%), and plastic beverage bottles (8.5%).

Rampai Niaga Sdn. Bhd general manager Jesse Siew said, “After years of organising the ICC in Malaysia, I am always distressed by the growing amount of trash we collect but heartened by the increasing number of volunteers and the changes we are able to bring about in ourselves to be better stewards of our environment,” she shares.

“This year, I want to highlight the harm that plastic causes to marine wildlife. We have just released three juvenile hawksbill turtles to the ocean and I pray everyday that they don’t choke to death on a plastic bag,” added Siew.”

See this article from earlier this year “Plastics Killing Terengganu’s Turtles” – Bernama, 24 Jul 2011.

Thanks to Ria Tan, WildSingapore for the alert!

ICCS Changi 2011: A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed

“Can you help me print 3 copies of the data card before you come down!” – I hollered over the phone to my primary school friend I had shanghai-ed as an ICCS Site Buddy, Dennis Chew.

Yes, I confess – yours truly, the Changi Zone Captain, had brought the gloves, trash bags, weighing scales and pens for the Independent Volunteers but forgot about the all-important Data Card!

So even as my dear friend Dennis was about to head out to pick me up, I was asking him to return home to print Data Cards!

After a mad rush of 30 minutes, we arrived on time at Changi Carpark 6 to start ICCS. Phew!! We did pay a price – we had to abandon our hot and eagerly anticipated Changi Village breakfast!

Some of the Independents were already waiting for us – a group PSB Academy students from Korea, China and Singapore. Too late to sign up as an independent group, we had invited them to sign up as Independents @ Changi instead.

Hardworking independents

Their site was not an easy one – I had allocated them Changi Site 3 which has a higher trash load than Sites 1 or 2 and is less accessible – the nearest bus stop is a 10-minute walk away. But here they were, bright and chirpy.

I set my trusty site buddy Dennis to work with the Independents and headed out to drop in on various groups.

My first stop was Compassvale Secondary led by Mrs Winnie Lim where I kicked-off their cleanup with a briefing. Some students were bleary-eyed but I piqued their attention by asking “Why are you here to clean the beach? This is a recreational beach cleaned by contract workers who do a much better job on a daily basis!”

Yup, that’s right. At recreational beaches like this one, the main objective of ICCS is the data collection aspect which helps all of us understand the trash profile on the shore. With the objective realised, I felt confident as I left them to the trash and data collection.

After dropping in to meet the hardworking Girl Guides Singapore (South Division c/o Queensway Girl Guides) and Baxter Bioscience, I then called up my chauffeur to drive me to Changi Sites 1 and 2.

That’s right – my chauffeur! Who was none other than my dear site buddy and good friend, Dennis Chew. So for the rest of the morning, he drove me around and accompanied me as if we were on a campaign trail – visiting groups, talking to Organisers and participants and finally collecting their votes.. erm.. I meant consolidated Data Cards.

I did not manage to visit some groups but they were doing great – such as Dow Chemical Pacific (Singapore) Pte Ltd led by Linda Lim. She texted me when she arrived and submitted the data all typed in excel that afternoon; great job!

It was cool to see Black & Veatch (SEA) Pte Ltd led by Chen Feng who were all togged out in an event T-shirt. Catrin Huxtable was leading the Australian International School Singapore, and they were thorough, picking up small lumps of crude oil probably left over from the oil spill last May.

Our final stop on the campaign trail was to debrief one corporate group. With one of their top trash items being plastic containers, I compared the disposable plastic water bottle Organisers had provided to volunteers and the reusable Camelbak water bottle one of the company staff was drinking from.

Yup, it is that simple. With ICCS data pointing to the prevalence of single-use plastics reaching our beaches, we emphasise many ways to combat this – responsible disposal of trash, less use of resources or the use of biodegradeable material. But the most effective method is to avoid the use of plastic disposables in the first place!

Easily available now are reusable water bottles, carrier bags, tupperwares and the like. With reducing disposables being the most effective strategy, it is no wonder that “Reduce” leads the way in the 3Rs.

If you wonder if washing a reusable bottles will use more resources such as water and detergent as compared to disposables, check out this ecological intelligence article by the author of Emotional intelligence, Daniel Goleman in New York Times.

“Reusing” is a concept not only for daily necessities but for friends as well. Hmm, I wonder if I can I use my friend Dennis again at next year’s ICCS!

See you at the beach, everyone!

Why I resist peeking into the gift horse’s mouth (Reflections from the NE Zone)

My 3rd year in the Northeast Zone sailed by peacefully. Thankfully, for the three of us in-charge (Lim Chen Kee, Cheong Wei Siong and yours truly Ng Kai Scene), it has been a “stable” year. We got back our veteran groups and the only changes were the re-opening of Sungei Tampines and the temporary closure of Sembawang Beach, due to renovation works.

Yes, life has been good! So good that one of the deputy zone captains wondered whether we should challenge ourselves with a more difficult zone next year?!

Northeast - Some sites at a glance

Me? I am just grateful for the stability. So what if this year I did not get to “start-up” new sites? (We started Pasir Ris Site 6 and Sungei Seletar respectively in the last two years.) To continue bringing participants to cleanup these new sites is good enough to me. In fact, we brought many more people (240 in total) to Pasir Ris Site 6 this year vs. 64 in 2010!

I am particularly keen on cleaning up at places such as Pasir Ris Site 6 and Sungei Seletar, because they are easily forgotten pockets of coastline in Singapore where trash accumulates. Another easily forgotten spot, albeit a way smaller one is the Sungei Tampines mangrove. So, I would count the re-opening and cleaning up of Sungei Tampines mangrove as something worth celebrating this year. Sungei Tampines is located right in the middle of Pasir Ris Park. However, its east and west banks are hidden by trees and bushes. Other than the odd fisherman or two, regular park users rarely bother to come here.

Sungei Tampines Mangrove - Volunteers at Work

Our enthusiastic group of 20 volunteers from Miss Earth Singapore, Environment Resource Management and other Independents did a great job clearing 282kg of trash from the site.  It was also gratifying to read that our new volunteer, Deanna, had a good cleanup experience there.

Fewer changes in the zone also meant more time to think of other issues – and Safety was at the top of my list. Although safety is always at the back of my mind, the discussion about safety guidelines with regards to the bloody syringe incident emphasised the issue and I was in a heightened state of alertness while briefing participants and talking to Organisers.

I also appreciated the trash weighing and data collation aspects of our operations more. During the Sungei Tampines mangrove cleanup, I wished we had filmed our volunteers systematically weighing the trash and the Data I/Cs gathering to collate site data. It would have been great footage for a “How to Conduct a Cleanup” video in the future! After I briefed the volunteers, they were really willing to contribute and were thorough!

Securing the trash bags before weighing

Data I/Cs concentrating on their task!

Your not-so-ambitious, easily satisfied Northeast Zone Captain signs off here as she happily looks forward to attending the upcoming ICCS debrief and chill out time with her fellow ICCS Otters.

For more pictures of the Sungei Tampines cleanup, see the Flickr album.

NUS @ ICCS 2011 – Going Green and Greener in our 9th year!

NUS Environmental Science and Engineering Students Club reflect on their efforts in leading NUS staff and students to the International Coastal Cleanup to a new cleanup site this year at Lim Chu Kang East mangrove. This is the 9th year of their efforts, which began in 2003!

On 17 September 2011, approximately 125 staff and student volunteers from NUS conducted a cleanup at Lim Chu Kang East mangrove as part of the annual International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS). They were also accompanied by a team of experienced personnel, including Mr N. Sivasothi who has been coordinating mangrove cleanups since 1997.

The International Coastal Cleanup is conducted in over 70-100 countries. Volunteers do more than remove debris from the shorelines and waterways, they also collect data on the type and amount of debris to bring about positive change. This is through recognition of the specifics of the marine debris problem as the data is public and also submitted to governments and international organisations

The morning briefing with the biodiesel-fueled buses
parked along Lim Chu Kang Lane 9

Each year, we re-use gloves and clipboards which are washed and kept away and ICCS data cards were printed on single-side used paper to minimise waste. An additional green touch was achieved by collaborating with Alpha Biodiesel – the three 44-seater buses which brought students and staff from and back to NUS were supplied with Alpha biodiesel – processed from used cooking oil, the net life cycle emissions of such fuel is 95% less than that of ordinary diesel fuel, thus reducing the amount of carbon dioxide released to the environment [Chua, C. B. H., H. M. Lee & J. S. C. Low, 2010. Life cycle emissions and energy study of biodiesel derived from waste cooking oil and diesel in Singapore. Int J Life Cycle Assess, 15 (4): 417-423.] .

We were glad to make this year’s ICCS event a little greener and hope this collaboration will continue!

The mangroves at Lim Chu Kang East have been choked by an accumulation of marine trash from various sources including shoreline activities, dumping and local construction debris over the years – this was the first time the area would be cleaned!

NUS staff and students endured the heat, dirt, mud, and even the occasional “rotten-egg” smell (due to hydrogen sulphide being naturally released from the mangrove soil) – for about 90 minutes. This effort to rid the mangrove of as much trash as possible eliminated a total of 1,887 kg of debris in 181 trash bags excluding bulky items such as oil drums and tyres – imagine the total amount of waste!

Plastic debris amidst the mangrove estuary before the cleanup

Count and categorise before clearing trash

Free of plastic once again, phew!

ICCS-NUS LCKeast 92iccs-lim_chu_kang_east-17sep2011[adinesh] | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
Data collation

The most frequently collected items included plastic bags and plastic beverage bottles. Several interesting discoveries included a television set, car bumper, basin and even a toilet bowl! There was indeed a stark contrast in the appearance of the mangrove before and after the cleanup. For details of the debris collected, see the ICCS Results page for LCK East mangrove at http://coastalcleanup.nus.edu.sg/results/2011/nw-lckeast-nus.htm

ICCS2011 - LCK East mangrove

This was the 9th year that students from the NUS Environmental Science and Engineering Students Club (ESESC) have been organising the cleanup for NUS students and staff. During the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium III held a week after ICCS on 24 September 2011, the club was recognised for its dedicated efforts and contributions.

NUS ESESC president, Algernon Hong receiving the ICCS citation
from the Minister of State for National Development, BG (Res) Tan Chuan-Jin

It was definitely great to see everyone toiling hard in the morning to play their part for the coastal environment. We hope the event serves as a reminder to each and every individual of the need to reduce the use of non-biodegradable items and to dispose trash appropriately to safeguard the health of the marine animals, ourselves and the environment.

Finally, we wish our juniors in the years ahead, great success at ICCS 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015…until our marine debris problem is eliminated!

By Derek Ang and Vionna Luah, on behalf of all the organisers of ICCS-NUS 2011. Photos by Andy Dinesh.