‘Reduce waste and still have an enjoyable holiday?’ Possible, says MNS Marine Group

The MNS Marine Group, Selangor Branch reflected on their waste generation after a recent underwater cleanup in Perhentian Islands.

MNS Marine Group, Selangor Branch: Dive against debris? Strive against debris!

“While it was very satisfying collecting loads of trash in the Dive against Debris activity during the June (1-4) MNS Marine Group trip to Perhentian Island, the cynical part of us feels this movement is really just another excuse to scuba dive, and create more debris!

Let’s examine our own creations, just for this trip itself. What did we bring and consume? Really, for an island holiday, all you need are t-shirt and shorts. But so subsumed are we in consumerism that, for us, a holiday is not complete without bags of potato chips, 3-in-1 coffee packets, snack-sized chocolate bars, sweets, biscuits …”

They go on to list a few simple solutions.

It is heartening to see them do a self-audit and make suggestions. We hope this will evolve to a environmental code of conduct and checklist for all such trips in future.

Similarly, we need reminders too. At the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore, we asked the 70+ Organisers who signed up between Mar-Jul a few questions about their preparations for the international event in September:

  1. Are you cleaning and re-using your gloves?
  2. Are you re-using other equipment such as tongs, clipboards and banners?
  3. Are you supplying participants with bottled water?
  4. If providing food, are recyclable plates and utensils being used?

It’s time to examine the answers to provide a report card, which we will circulate to Organisers. Then see if we can encourage better practises through suggestions.

Thanks for the reminder MNS Marine Group!

A short walk to the sin bin – the trash-filled channel of Lim Chu Kang East mangrove

The North-West Zone of the International Coastal Cleanup is tackled by motivated groups led by experienced and/or capable Organisers.


Last Saturday, I hobbled into a little of pocket of mangrove in Lim Chu Kang East with Organisers from Bachelor of Environmental Studies of the National University of Singapore (NUS BES) and Singapore Land Authority’s Environment Engagement Group (SLA EEG).

Within the LCK East mangrove patch is a channel which is regularly filled with marine trash form the Johor Straits. It is a senseless announcement to the world about an uncaring and ignorant people.

A long time ago, this channel was carved out to create the road we used to walk in to the mangrove. Although ghastly when filled with rubbish, I was delighted – the channel serves as a marine trash trap. Instead of spreading over a wider area and onto more sensitive parts of the mangrove, harmful debris is consolidated into the channel.

This small area will be tackled by valiant volunteers during the International Coastal Cleanup by some 230 volunteers over two days:

  • Wed 18 Sep 2013: NUS BES ENV2101 (50) & SLA Environment Engagement Club (30)
  • Singapore American School (75); NUS ESESC (50); Raffles Museum Toddycats (25)

For the NUS BES group, the cleanup is scheduled as a practical session in ENV2101 Global Environmental Change,a module coordinated by my friend Dr. J. C. Mendoza. We figured it is critical for our students to sink their hands into the debris and realise the extent of the problem, as they collect, categorise and dispose the trash. The following week, we will discuss technical aspects of the problem with the data from the session.

At the site with them will be the Environment Engagement Club from SLA. The Organisers, Joanne and Juliana joined us for the recce.

Organiser’s from SLA’s Environment Engagement Club
are more than ready for this mission

A country lane leads to a secret world

Precious bits of mangrove pepper our north-west coast

A channel covered with marine trash, which has floated in from the Straits of Johor

JC Mendoza and I agree – undergraduates form the
Bachelor of Environmental Studies deserve a challenge
lck east mangroves1

A little less “styrofoam”? Or rather, expanded polystyrene (EPS),
this is plague on our shores

Message for Organisers: the new, 2013 Data Card for ICC Singapore

“Dear Organisers,

the international Coordinator of the International Coastal Cleanup, Ocean Conservancy, has issued a new Data Card for use by all participants in the globe from 2013.

The card has been modified for our use and the Singapore version of the card is attached. The Data Card has also been condensed so that Organisers will only need print one side of the card for your participants. This means less work and allows us to reuse one-sided waste paper for printing.

The 2013 ICC Singapore Data Card is available on the Organisers Page of the ICCS webpage.

ICC_Singapore_Data_Card-2013 (page 1 of 2) ICC_Singapore_Data_Card-2013 (page 2 of 2)

Why the new Data Card?
After considerable review by Ocean Conservancy, this version was issued to respond to increased efforts and strategies in tackling marine trash problems around the world. More efficient for general use, the 2013 Data Card also provides a focus on various types of plastic – hard plastic, flim plastic (plastic bags, etc) and foam plastic (what we commonly refer to as styrofoam).

Categories in the new Data Card

  • “Most Likely To Find Items” heads the new card. These items occupy most of data recorder’s time when we are picking, counting and categorising trash. So data collectors will find the right category very quickly most of the time.
  • Three clearly identifiable groups follow – “Fishing Gear”, “Packaging Materials” and “Personal Hygiene”.
  • “Other Trash” now includes cigarette lighters, tyres, appliances and fireworks.
  • “Most Unusual Item Collected” and “Dead/Injured Animals” are familiar.
    “Items of Local Concern” has changed (see next).

Estimating “styrofoam” pieces, or rather, EPS
While film plastic is already accounted for, “Items of Local Concern” lists the other two main plastic types – hard plastic and foam plastic.

What we refer to as “styrofoam” casually is actually “expanded polystyrene” or EPS! Well, EPS or foam plastic is a significant problem in Southeast Asia, so Singapore has already listed this category on the previous version of the Data Card.

Styrofoam is numerous, so we have always asked participants to estimate the amount conservatively. While this invariably underestimates the amount, it is preferred to an unreliable over-estimate. Our data thus provides some indication of the problem.

Last year, we reported that 42,263 out of 173,574 items collected were foam plastic pieces with about half of this coming from East Coast and Tanah Merah. This sort of data is needed in efforts to encourage alternatives.

Cannot categorise?
Remember that any trash item you cannot categorise in the Data Card need not be counted, simply collected and removed.

Cigarette Lighter collection
This year, please collect and send me your cigarette lighters! It is for Japanese researcher Shigeru Fujieda who uses cigarette lighters as an indicator item to trace movement and distribution of marine trash in oceans. I will write more about this later.

Excel Data Submission Form
The Excel Data Submission Form which you will use to submit your totals is listed in the Organisers Page of the ICCS webpage. This has been updated to reflect this new Data Card. You will need that only in September, after your cleanup. We will email you a reminder closer to the date.

If you have queries, please write.

Participants and Organisers in Singapore have done a wonderful job in collecting, reporting and publishing our data in great detail for over a decade. This has been useful not only in Singapore, but to others battling marine trash elsewhere too.

All the best with your preparations!



N. Sivasothi
Coordinator, International Coastal Cleanup Singapore
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

e: iccs@rafflesmuseum.net
w: http://coastalcleanup.nus.edu.sg/
b: https://coastalcleanup.wordpress.com/
f: http://fb.com/iccsg/
t: https://twitter.com/coastalcleanup/

Sherman’s Lagoon’s Jim Toomey talks about Marine Litter in two minutes (w/UNEP)

Chris Jordan’s Midway trailer has been critical in highlighting the problem of marine trash in our oceans.

Now Organisers of the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore have another tool, a succinct two minute video on marine litter by cartoonist Jim Toomey in collaboration with UNEP:

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has partnered with cartoonist Jim Toomey – of Sherman’s Lagoon fame – in developing a series of six two-minute videos intended to raise awareness of the importance of oceans and the coastal environment.

The videos use animation and humor to explain in clear and simple language the role oceans play in our lives and our very survival. “

See UNEP’s Two Minutes on Oceans with Jim Toomey for more.

Thanks to Lim Jialing and Andy Dinesh for sharing this through Facebook.

National Day coastal cleanup 2013 – 42 volunteers remove 752kg of marine trash in 75 trash bags and 36 bulky items

In celebration of Singapore’s 48th National Day, 42 volunteers worked hard on a Saturday morning of 10th August 2013 and removed 752 kg of marine trash which was polluting our precious Lim Chu Kang mangroves. The rubbish in 75 trash bags and 36 bulky items were set aside at the Trash Disposal Point above the waterline and close to Lim Chu Kang Road end where NEA’s Department of Public Cleanliness will arrange for a contractor to remove and dispose of that load.

Thanks to everyone for their fine effort!

See more photos and video on Flickr: Album 1, Album 2, Album 3.









“Debris ingestion by sea turtles is a global phenomenon of increasing magnitude”

Schuyler, Q., B. D. Hardesty, C. Wilcox & K. Townsend, 2013. Global analysis of anthropogenic debris ingestion by sea turtles. Conservation Biology, open-access, early-view article (free download).

[The authors] “analyzed 37 studies published from 1985 to 2012 that report on data collected from before 1900 through 2011.

Turtles in nearly all regions studied ingest debris, but the probability of ingestion was not related to modeled debris densities.

Furthermore, smaller, oceanic-stage turtles were more likely to ingest debris than coastal foragers, whereas carnivorous species were less likely to ingest debris than herbivores or gelatinovores.

… oceanic leatherback turtles and green turtles are at the greatest risk of both lethal and sublethal effects from ingested marine debris.

To reduce this risk, anthropogenic debris must be managed at a global level.”

Global analysis of anthropogenic debris ingestion by sea turtles

Global analysis of anthropogenic debris ingestion by sea turtles

The authors raised several points about debris management:

  1. “Standardized reporting methods on debris effects on wildlife, including debris type and size, species, and life-history stage of animals affected, would go a long way toward creating a globally consistent and comparable data set.
  2. Increased efforts to understand debris effects in underresearched areas where turtles occur in great numbers (especially Southeast Asia, western and northern Australia, South America, and Africa), and in mid-ocean pelagic turtles would be beneficial.
  3. Our results show clearly that debris ingestion by sea turtles is a global phenomenon of increasing magnitude. Our finding that oceanic-stage green and leatherback turtles are at higher risk than benthic-feeding carnivorous turtles means management actions to target these species and life stages should be considered. This is particularly important for leatherback turtles that spend the bulk of their lives in oceanic waters, and are listed as critically endangered (IUCN 2012).
  4. Ingestion prevalence at stranding locations was not related to predicted debris density, likely due to the long migrations of turtles. Thus, conducting coastal cleanups will not solve the problem of debris accumulation in the pelagic environment, where animals are most commonly affected, although it is an important step in preventing marine debris input into the ocean.
  5. Anthropogenic debris is not only a problem for endangered turtles and other marine wildlife, but also affects human health and safety (e.g., discarded sharps and medical waste and ship encounters with large items). Debris also has aesthetic and economic consequences and may result in decreased tourism (Ballance et al. 2000), reduced economic benefits from fisheries (Havens et al. 2008), and damage to vessels (Jones 1995). Furthermore, debris destroys habitats and aids in the transport of invasive species (Sheavly & Register 2007). It is therefore a high priority to address this global problem.
  6. An estimated 80% of debris comes from land-based sources; hence, it is critical to implement effective waste management strategies and to create and maintain a global survey and comprehensive database of marine debris ingestion and entanglement.
  7. Additionally, it is worth engaging with industry to create and implement appropriate innovations and controls to assist in decreasing marine debris.”
Green Turtle 01
Photo by Rafn Ingi Finnsson