The Leafmonkey Workshop – Trash Talking: Marine Trash and Us

28 Mar 2014 – ICCS Otters and The Leafmonkey Workshop combined forces to conduct a workshop on marine trash last Friday!

As always, November and Ria ran the workshop smoothly while I was the guest speaker for the night! Other ICCS Otters like Ng Kai Scene, Sean Yap, Suzanne Ou and Yang Yiyong were there too. Three of them were supposed to help as group leaders but the participants were such active contributors that they could relax!

It was a good mix of participants with varying degree of experience and all of whom bore a concern for marine trash issues. As most of the participants are nature savvy, I skimmed the marine life section of the ICCS talk and got into the main issue quickly – plastics. This section deals with a few issues:

  • the effects of trash on marine animals,
  • it’s eventual effects on humans through food chain,
  • our ‘throwaway’ lifestyle which is the main source of marine trash and
  • ways in which an individual could combat this problem.
  • The audience were a great bunch and turned the Q&A into an active discussion amongst all. It ended with the suggestion of a visit to recycling plant to better understand the recycling process, which Yi Han kindly offered to organise.

    Start of Trash Talking talk! Image taken by Suzanne Ou.

    Start of Trash Talking talk. Image taken by Suzanne Ou.

    The very keen and proactive audience of the night! Image taken by Sean Yap.

    The very keen and proactive audience of the night! Image taken by Sean Yap.

    Then we play a game in which participants acted out how they would convey a specific message to public and the audience would guess the message, out of a few options. Everyone threw up creative ideas and the skits by all the groups were hilarious! The most memorable skit was a “four horsemen of trash” in which four people surrounded a member of public and hissed out deadly effects of trash. It was indeed attention-grabbing!

    Four Horsemen of Trash!

    Four Horsemen of Trash!

    <img class="size-full wp-image-4157" src="" alt="The last 'White Turtle', Seannus Yappus. One of the group's presentation
    on how one’s action has impact on marine life.” width=”630″ height=”472″ />
    The last ‘White Turtle’, Seannus Yappus. One of the group’s presentation on how one’s action has impact on marine life.

    Finally we conducted a discussion about current issues related to marine trash, the gaps and possible solutions. It was fascinating listening to the ideas. One was about a “No Cleaners’ Day” to let Singaporeans realise the amount of trash and mess they generate daily, another was cool and sexy green marketing ideas and a narration with the ‘golden rule’ of a story in which the cute protagonist is killed in the end! A cute comic strip drawn by Sean ended with a punch line “But plastic didn’t kill the turtle, you did,” we thought was simple and effective!

    <img class="size-full wp-image-4161" src="" alt="Simple and effective comics that made use of the 'Golden Rule'!
    Comics and image by Sean Yap.” width=”630″ height=”707″ />
    Simple and effective comics that made use of the ‘Golden Rule’! Comics drawn and image taken by Sean Yap.

    The discussion lasted after the air-con was switched off! I was so glad that I was able to share my experience and the knowledge from ICCS and in the process, learn more through these discussion!

    For more info on the content of the workshop, check out the notes taken here. Thanks and good luck to everyone’s endeavour to save our oceans! 🙂

    The trash-lined beaches of Pulau Ubin [Teo Kah Ming reports]

    The Ubin Zone Captains Team conducted two recces in May and June as part of preparations for ICC Singapore 2013!

    Recce of Pulau Ubin Recce (11 May 2013)

    This was the first recce Sean and I did together of Pulau Ubin. We cycled to visit Ketam Beach, Noordin Beach and Sungei Ubin.

    At Ketam Beach, the tide was low (less than 1.0 m) and revealed a good thick line of trash along Ketam Beach 1, 2 and 3. There will be an ample amount of work for participants to do!

    Ketam beach is an excellent site for organisations who want an easy terrain to work on but wish to have plenty to do. Lots of small-sized fragments are concentrated along the strand line. The site lacks a nearby shelter or toilet.

    The trash that was lining along Ketam Beach 1

    Trash along Ketam Beach 1

    Trash that was washed up on the shore of Ketam Beach 3

    Trash that was washed up on the shore of Ketam Beach 3

    Next, we climbed the slopes on our bikes towards Noordin Beach – and found it closed due to erosion of the shoreline! We’ll check again in August.


    Out third site Sungei Ubin is a mere ten minutes’ walk from jetty. The site is generally easy to handle but there are rocky spots within the site.

    There is lots of plastic trash here! An the scene reminded us that public education is never done! And to think of our habits as an individual.


    Rockier shore at Sungei Ubin

    The rockier shore of Sungei Ubin

    It’s always a joy to conduct the ICCS recces and visit our shorelines. We were further rewarded while cycling, by the sight of a hornbill twice! Thanks to NParks and researchers, this once locally extinct bird in Singapore has made a comeback and is doing well in Pulau Ubin.


    Chek Jawa Recce (26 Jun 2013)

    After the skies were cleared of haze, Rachael Li and I recce-ed the coasts at Chek Jawa.

    The tide was close to 0.0 m when we started and we headed to Chek Jawa North which requires a very low tide to enter. As usual, the site was strewn with trash.

    Blue drums found along CJ North.

    Blue drums found along CJ North.

    Tyres are common sight along the shores at CJ North.

    Tyres are common sight along the shores at CJ North.

    Amongst the trash art CJ North were bulky items like tyres and drums. This site is difficult and we ail need a bunch of fit and adventurous people to tackle this site. This year, the afternoon tide would be more suitable for participants to do cleanup here as it remains low enough for at least two hours.

    Further up north in CJ North 2 is a site that is full of trash

    Further up north at CJ North 2 is a site that is full of trash

    Comparatively, CJ Central sites are cleaner than CJ North. Oscar, one of our veteran Organisers, commented that the CJ Central site she used to work at has become cleaner over the years, so her group has decided to tackle a more challenging site! There still is trash though but less of challenge finally!’

    CJ Central 2

    CJ Central 2

    CJ Central 4

    Finally at CJ South, we saw that the vegetation has grown dense, covering the small trails we use to access the beach. The trash volume remains high.



    Now that I have loked all the sites, I am looking forward to the ICCS Workshop and Organiser’s Recce where I will prepare Organisers for the cleanup on 21st September 2013!

    Chek Jawa Warriors in ICCS!!

    Pulau Ubin was unusually active on the morning of Saturday, 17 Sep 2011 – some cheery people were streaming in at considerable volume onto the sleepy island as early as 7.00am.

    They were participants of the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore, they were eager to get to work. With great anticipation, these ICCS participants gathered at the jetty and sorted themselves out.

    Bumboat trip to Ubin

    Participants gathering at Ubin Jetty

    The ICCS volunteers tackling the trash at Chek Jawa this year were veterans Oscar & Friends (led by Oscar Ng Hwee Leng) and Sukyo Mahikari (led by Patrick Sng). It also included newer groups such as NPCC HQ (led by Neo Zhu Lin), Blacks Rugby Women’s Football club (led by Christabelle Lim Mee) and SAF Transport Hub East (led by Winnie Seaw Swee Yew).

    They hit the shores and started work cheerily. Getting stuck in the mud did not dampen their spirits and all were in good humour.

    Cleanup starts! SAF Participants hard at work

    Extricating our 'victim'!

    Finally, the collected and categorised trash was weighed and dragged out of the shore. Everyone was beaming from satisfaction! The haul of trash from all of Chek Jawa South was a total of 963 kg!

    Trash collected on all of Pulau Ubin weighed almost 3,500 kg!!

    Plastic bags, plastic beverage bottles and food wrappers/containers were the top three trash items found – 4,818 plastic bags, 3,753 plastic bottles and 2,465 food wrappers. Other ‘noteworthy’ trash include straws, disposable utensils and styrofoam pieces.

    SAF Weighing Team having fun!

    Undaunted Sukyo Warriors carrying their trash out!

    Various groups did their debriefing with their hard-earned data ensuring that the participants gained an important awareness on how our daily lives impact the environment and how to reduce it.

    NPCC HQ Debrief

    Everyone was safe and sound and accomplished from the day’s efforts – see you again next year! 🙂

    1,263 styrofoam pieces, 610 cigarette butts and 0 sunburns – Northland Primary @ Changi Beach 1

    [Ed’s note – Northland is the only primary school participant at ICCS, and this is their third year at Changi Beach]

    18 Sep 2010 – “Tiring… but it’s a meaningful activity,” was the consensus among the 37 teachers, pupils and parent volunteers of Northland Primary School who were involved in the ICCS 2010.

    Scattered all over Changi Beach Site 1 were pieces of styrofoam, cigarette butts, plastic wrappers and bottle caps. And that’s just to name only a few of what we had found today! Spurred on by the enthusiasm of the young children, teachers and parent volunteers worked even harder to pick up all the rubbish that they could see on the beach.

    Many thanks to all the teachers, pupils and parent volunteers who woke up early on a Saturday morning to clear the beach under the blazing hot sun. A volunteer said, “I’m just glad that we could do our part for marine life and the environment.”

    Hoe Kexin,
    Teacher, Northland Primary School

    Trash busters at Changi Beach Sites 3 and 4

    18 Sep 2010 – This year I coordinated the Changi Zone with veteran Kok Oi Yee in support. As with all other ICCS coordinators, we joined the volunteers in action on the morning of the cleanup before returning with the data that afternoon for data entry, verification and submission.

    A peaceful, ‘sleeping’ Changi Beach Site 3 was gently roused to life by the morning sun and the chattering of a small group of ICCS participants from FMC Technologies. Undeterred by the size of their site, the volunteers tackled their cleanup with tenacity.

    Wrestling with trash
    Wrestling with trash

    A short while later, the students and teachers from ITE College East Nursing and Electrical Engineering joined them at the site. These boisterous and enthusiastic youth turned the beach into a vivacious and bustling cleanup site. They were quickly organised and started in no time.    

    Unity is strength


    Reusing plastic bags from home to collect marne trash!

    Finally, everything was weighed and data collated.

    The final verdict – The FMC volunteers collected 1,734 items of marine debris weighing 82 kg with just 15 participants! And ITE Collge East Electrical and Nursing collected 2,535 items (46 kg) and 1,121 items (56 kg) respectively. Well done!! 🙂  

    Over at Changi Beach Site 4, the Queensway Sec Girl Guides showed their zest in doing their part for the environment as well collecting 3,376 pieces of marine debris, half of it styrofoam. 

    Meticulous data recording

    The other participants at Changi Beach Site 4 that morning whom I did not catch in action (Changi’s beaches are quite long!) were MEWR, Eco Leadership, NPCC HQ and NTU Earthlink. They all submitted their data promptly which is a great hallmark of the Singapore Organisers.

    Happy participants from MEWR

    Coastal cleanup is an activity for all ages. 

    By the end of the event, the sweaty and hot participants left Changi Beach with smiles of triumph and satisfaction. 🙂  As I did – good job everyone!

    Teo Kah Ming
    Zone Captain,
    ICCS Changi Zone

    Recce for Changi and Tanah Merah on 22 May

    22nd May, like another usual weekend days, was a busy day for the Eastern coastline of Singapore. The hustle and bustle of Changi Beach Carpark 1 welcomed Connie and me when we arrived. Apart from the tinkling bells of bicycles and boisterous talks from the beach-goers, the gay atmosphere was also filled with an exotic-sounding music from a Malay dance performance at one end of the beach, attracting crowds of curious onlookers. Connie and I, with the mission of recceing Changi and Tanah Merah, cycled around and only occasionally stopped to perambulate the seemingly clean shorelines and places inland to have a quick scan of the trash load and profile of Changi Beach. Here’re some trash we found.

     As expected, trash load at Changi Beach Park 1 & 2 (CP 1 to 5) is very low. Even for Changi Beach Park 3 & 4 (CP 6 & 7) where the trash load is higher, the type of trash is still fairly similar but in greater abundance. No daunting oil drums but just cigarette butts, broken Styrofoam pieces and plastic bottles.

                                          Trash at Changi Beach near Carpark 7

    At Changi Beach Park 2, there was also some construction going on which is possibly to restore the shore.

    From Changi Beach, we cycled to Tanah Merah to have a quick survey before the sun set. While Tanah Merah 1 & 2 are quite clean, Tanah Merah 5 and 6 are very filthy indeed. (See pic below) Unlike Chang Beach 1 & 2, these places don’t have frequent cleaning by contractors.

    Filthy as they are, Tanah Merah still exudes beauty such that couples like the one in the picture below still come here and have their wedding pictures shot.

    Also at Tanah Merah, we came upon the route which was used for Passion Run on that day and were suddenly inundated by runners in bright yellow.

    This was just a snapshot of a day in a year of our Eastern coastline. With so many activities going on, it’s not difficult to imagine that a lot of trash is generated and being littered at the beach. While easy sites such as Changi Beach which do not yield magnificent results in terms of weight of trash or exotic trash as mangrove sites, they are important sites to us for the data we obtain tells us that the marine trash in Singapore is not mainly coming from our neighbouring countries but perhaps from within, much to the contrary of what many Singaporeans believe.

    Spring cleaning the homes of marine denizens @ Changi Beach 1

    50 participants from Northland Primary School, Bioprocessing Technology Institute and Oil Spill Response arrived at Changi Beach Site 1, bright and early on Saturday, 19th September 2009. Rainclouds had started gathering but the gloomy sky did not dampen spirits as volunteers merrily chattered. And a short briefing got the merry crew ready for a “spring cleaning”!


    As we began, a family of four at the beach observed us and decided to join in! They were kitted out with extra gloves from Oil Spill Response and a data card and that lowered the youngest age of our group to only three and a half years old!

    Our youngest Captain Planet at work in saving the Earth! See how meticulous she is.

    Our youngest Captain Planet at work in saving the Earth! See how meticulous she is!

    Andrew Tay, a veteran Site Buddy with the ICCS came once more to guide Northland Primary in their cleanup. As they worked on Changi beach, he filled them in on the status of marine trash in Singapore and how it affects the marine environment and marine life. The students were asking questions throughout and enjoyed Andrew’s stories!

    "May I ask you a question??"

    "May I ask you a question??"


    Even though everyone was enjoying themselves from the fulfilling work, it began drizzling an hour into the cleanup and most then headed for the shelter and totalling up of numbers began.



    Although the cleanup stopped short of the usual 90 mins due to rain, a considerable amount of trash was collected. The weight came up to 68 kg of trash and the most common items were cigarette butts and styrofoam pieces. We found a few odd things too – a tattered and thin mattress, some golf balls and a few table tennis balls.

    Many participants felt that this had been an eye-opening experience. They were taken aback about the amount of trash they had encountered on a seemingly clean beach!

    The trash that lies out there is innumerable and it is an impossible task to eliminate it all with a single cleanup. This exercise was primarily a data-gathering exercise and the effort was an important one in understanding the source of the problem.

    There was also that sense of satisfaction when leaving Changi Beach that their efforts had Changi Beach a better place for our marine creatures to live in.

    4,458 cigarette butts at Changi Beach 2!

    A lovely morning sun welcomed us at Changi Beach this morning when we visited NTU Earthlink at the cleanup site at Changi Beach 2!

    NTU participants staggered out of the bus after an arduous journey from the far west of Singapore where their campus is situated and everyone seemed sluggish. But the briefing prepped everyone and they began to get energised!

    The scattered around their site to start beach combing for trash. Numerous cigarette butts were encountered and this number turned out to be 4,458 after collating! Jokes were made about ICCS actually International Cigarette Cleanup Singapore

    Other common trash found there were food wrappers and containers, straws, caps and lids. All of this points to shoreline activities as the greatest source of pollution (see results here)

    It was hard work but everyone kept up good cheer. And there were interesting finds – two fish traps of about 1 metre long! Luckily, these trap were empty and we bore them away before they could cause any damage to the marine environment. Peculiar items that turned up were candles, a bar of soup and a shaving blade.

    A dead horseshoe crab on the beach was examined curiously – they were quite surprised to learn that the blood of this creature is blue and has medicinal uses.

    Everyone was having so much fun that they forgot about time. After 90 minutes though, we gathered to weigh the trash, Many of the Earthlink volunteers wanted to continue, remarking that the cleanup was over so quickly!

    21 kg of trash (excluding the fish traps) were collected along this 500m stretch of coastline within 90 mins and the data revealed a dominance of cigarette butts!

    We were certainly glad to witness how such detailed work is conducted with such positive spirits amongst the participants!