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
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
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.