The Earth Day Coastal Cleanup recce @ Pasir Ris Beach 6 – welcoming new volunteers!

12 Apr 2015 – NE Zone Captain Yi Yong and ICCS Intern Becky Lee welcomed four new ICCS Otters to our Earth Day recce at Pasir Ris Beach 6. These volunteers responded to the call for new volunteers issued in early March, and attended our our first meeting on 20 Mar 2015 to learn more about what we do in ICCS.

On the recce, they learnt about evaluating the trash load, identifying trash collection and disposal points and working out the risk and safety issues. It also gave us an opportunity focus to get to know each other better!

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Our new Otters! From left: Maludin (Deputy South Zone Captain), Elizabeth (Site Buddy), Hung (East Coast Zone Site Buddy), Fanghui (Site Buddy), with Yi Yong, our Northeast Zone Captain on the far right.

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Everyone was shocked by the amount of accumulated plastic, especially on the far end of the beach and on the high strandline. As we walked the 350m stretch of beach, Yi Yong shared his experiences of working this beach over the years and talked about many layers of trash that was still buried underneath the sand we were walking on. During the monsoon, high tide bring in higher amounts of flotsam which is dominated by plastic, styrofoam, and wood with sharp protruding nails.

In recreational beaches such as East Coast Park, trash is cleared daily by NEA workers below the strand line and sometimes twice daily! Above the strand line in these parks, NParks has workers tending to the cleanliness of our beaches. This is the reason why Singaporeans enjoy clean beaches! However Pasir Ris Beach 6 lies beyond the Pasir Ris Park area, so trash accumulates. This affects beaches around the world, even seemingly pristine tourist destinations such as Phuket.

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Amidst the trash of Pasir Ris Beach 6, marine life still persists. We were struck by the appearance of numerous horseshoe crab moults. These animals come form a line which has been present on the planet for more than 445 million years! Only four species are present worldwide and we are lucky to have two on our shores, the mangrove horseshoe crab (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda) and the coastal horseshoe crab (Tachypleus gigas).

Seeing the moults on the beach are a reminder of the life our coastlines still do hold despite all that trash. This is an important part of our motivation for the cleanups – we want to make our shorelines a more habitable environment for marine life!

The recce not only familiarised our new volunteers with examples of local biodiversity, but the beach itself. This is an important part of an organiser’s preparation for conducting a coastal cleanup. On 18 Apr 2015, the Earth Day Coastal Cleanup was conducted with rousing success!

Thank you Maludin, Elizabeth, Fanghui and Hung for assisting the ICCS’ Earth Day operations, and we look forward to working with you all together as ICCS Otters!

The first ICCS Volunteers’ Meeting 2015 – encouraged by new and experienced volunteers!

Friday evening (20 Mar 2015) @ NUS Life Sciences Lab 7 – The International Coastal Cleanup Singapore coordinators held our first Volunteers’ Meeting of the year. Zone Captains welcomed 14 new enthusiastic volunteers, introduced themselves to them and spent the night discussing the structure of ICCS and potential roles volunteers could play within ICCS.

Although the big event on 19 Sep 2015 seems to be a long time away, coordination has to begin early as there are recees, access permissions to obtain, training workshops for Organisers and other duties to execute. Entirely volunteer-run, we put out a call for help in early March. Individuals who share a desire to rid our shorelines of harmful marine trash and educate individuals and groups responded.

ICCS Volunteer Briefing 2015
Sivasothi a.k.a. Otterman , who has been coordinating coastal cleanups since 1997, begins the session.

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A vibrant atmosphere with meaningful conversation and determined spirits!

We were heartened by young Tamara Wise, who accompanied by her father, Jeremy was already engaged over the global issue of marine trash. She shared with us her motivation for joining ICCS and her frustration with water pollution – the impact of her teacher, Ms Gammon, was evident. Her desire for action illustrates the power of education in exposing and motivating young individuals about important issues.

Zhong Zhi from Geylang Methodist Secondary School is already organizing cleanups for his classmates at 15 years old! He discussed plans for a cleanup at East Coast Park, which he hopes to conduct after his exams. Meanwhile, he is joining us for Year-Round Coastal Cleanups to learn the ropes.

Volunteers Maludin, Li Choo and Madeline, who are already experienced participants or Organisers. They feel strongly about environmental issues and intend to take action. They would be invaluable in helping to coordinate the 24th year of International Coastal Cleanup in Singapore. Together with new ICCS volunteers Dada, Angel, Uttara, Xieheng, Hung, Chamila, Fanghui and Elizabeth, we hope they will reach out to many more communities and empower individuals to take ownership of the natural environment in Singapore!

Here’s to ICCS 2015!

TRASHED: Jeremy Irons explores beautiful destinations which have become landfills

TRASHED, a documentary that follows actor Jeremy Irons through once beautiful places – now converted into landfills, highlights the impact trash has not merely on the natural environment but also aspects such as human health and livelihood.

Stills from the documentary trailer, featuring highly polluted destinations:

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You can rent the film directly from the website for USD5.99 here: http://www.trashedfilm.com/purchase/
It is also available for rent or purchase on Vimeo and iTunes!

“Marine Life and the Threat of Marine Trash” – motivating students at the American Centre for Education (ACE)

15 Apr 2015 – I was despatched to the American Centre for Education (ACE) to deliver my first school talk about local marine biodiversity and the threat of marine trash. The fifty students I met there were being prepared for the Earth Day Coastal Cleanup at the trash-filled Pasir Ris 6 – where theory would become reality in a just a few days!

Students were delighted with the introduction to Singapore’s wonderful marine biodiversity and then appalled at the immense problem of trash on our shores. The mostly international students, accustomed to Singapore’s “Clean and Green” image, were visibly shocked when images of heavily polluted beaches and mangroves were flashed on the screen.

The talk ended with a short segment on lifestyle changes towards sustainability. Simple habits, such as saying no to plastic straws – items which are disposed after a mere 10 to 15 minutes – make a difference. Emphasis was placed on the REDUCE of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” to minimise our consumption of disposables.

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Students from American Centre for Education watch the MIDWAY Trailer by Chris Jordan attentively.

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Students study images of plastic pieces found inside a dead sperm whale.

This was my first talk as the ICCS Intern. Having no scientific background, I was initially unsure of my ability to communicate the issue of marine trash. However, research and practise made it possible for me to deliver this urgently needed talk. The information about trash in our ocean and the impact it has on biodiversity is voluminous and clear. I was given a long reading list, customised the ICCS slides, practised and received feedback from Zone Captains Sean Yap, Teo Kah Ming, Lim Cheng Puay and ICCS co-ordinator N. Sivasothi.

And then I sailed forth and delivered the talk. The audience response was the answer – they were shocked and motivated and I was glad I had ben able to share this urgent issue with them. If you are an Organiser of a Year-Round or International Coast Cleanup, you may contact us to arrange for a talk. I am looking forward to my next session!

Thanks to Vernessa Chuah for the photos.