Singapore’s National Action Strategy on Marine Litter was launched on 5th Jun 2022

Singapore’s National Action Strategy on Marine Litter [] was launched on 5th Jun 2022 and reported in the media:

  • “S’pore launches national strategy to tackle growing problem of marine litter,” by Prisca Ang. The Straits Times, 05 Jun 2022 [link]
  • “Singapore launches national strategy aimed at combatting marine litter.” Channel News Asia, 05 Jun 2022 [link]

Comprised of six priority areas, several aspects are ongoing as a clean and green Singapore was fundamental to our national identity since independence. The hope is that this further galvanises action from all sectors of society.


The development of NASML has seen various coastal cleanup groups come together and enter a dialogue with the government’s National Environment Agency. We have had existing functional relationships as we already work with Public Hygiene Council (See the R.I.S.E. network) and now there is a stronger grasp of issues in a holistic manner. It is an encouraging development in the fight again the relentless burden of marine pollution and unsustainable practises.

You can download and read the details of our NASML at

The change to coastal cleanups during the pandemic (and beyond): Safe, independent and sustained small group action!

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, small group (as per national guidelines) cleanups have been suggested to anyone hoping to conduct coastal cleanups. With the infectivity of the Delta strain, a return to large scale cleanups are unlikely for the near future. 

Still, what our coasts really require are year-round attention. So sustained independent action is a timely change for all to consider, even when things improve.

So here are the guidelines: 

I – Safe, independent and sustained small group stewardship

  • Independent action – conduct coastal cleanups independently in masked and distanced groups of as per prevailing government guidelines. Supply yourself with a pair of tongs, gloves and a few trash bags per session hit the beach. 
  • Sustained stewardship – organisations keen to involve many people should consider adopting a beach at which small groups can be deployed over several weeks or months. Share the experience and appreciate the larger experiences of nature offered at your adopted site.
  • Which tide? Well, any time is suitable as trash accumulates on the high shore but a low tide will expose partially buried trash on the inter-tidal shore. 
  • Monsoon trash – East Coast Park is burdened with trash load particularly during second half of the year by the South West Monsoon from June to September. The north-east monsoon strands more trash to northern shores in the Johor Straits  such as Changi and Pasir Ris Park. 
  • Be safe – consult our safety guidelines for participants on the ICCS webpage (link).
  • Stash your trash – ensure your trash is properly tied up and placed next to a trash bin, and not left on the beach.
  • Be part of a community – the ground-up movement East Coast Beach Plan  arose during the pandemic, and you can join the supportive 3,000 members (and counting) on the Telegram channel.

If you meet others on the beach, enjoy the great company of fellow environmental stewards, take a photo and tag #coastalcleanup and the local #coastalcleanupsg on Instagram and gladden hearts of environmental stewards here and around the world!

International Coastal Cleanup & the Clean Swell app – contribute data directly to Ocean Conservancy’s global movement, which Singapore has been part of since 1992. 

  • This annual data-gathering exercise which works towards Trash Free Seas involves categorising, counting and weighing marine trash, in addition to clearing it.
  • Download the ICC Singapore Data Card here.
  • Originally scheduled on the 3rd Saturday of every September, you can conduct the exercise at any time of the year. They have carefully revised the guidelines  with the pandemic in mind, which is useful. 
  • Use the Clean Swell app (available on Apple Store and Google Play) to upload your data directly to the Ocean Conservancy’s global database: they consolidate global data to take action for the planet, so this is useful.
  • You can use the app to upload uncategorised data too; e.g. total number of trash bags and weight of trash removed. Upload this the same day, or else indicate the date in the remarks if updating past events.  
  • Note that the Clean Swell app  accepts data for weight of trash in pounds, so be sure to convert your weight in kilograms to pounds!

Organisations registering cleanups in Singapore – Organiser’s can register with the National Environment Agency’s Public Hygiene Council for the “Clean Singapore Learning Trail (Beaches and Parks)”

  • If you have a plan to deploy several distanced groups over a park, please register with the NEA’s Public Hygiene Council at
  • Please register three weeks in advance to help them coordinate cleanups. 
  • They offer several beach sites, and their page has maps and guidelines for organising cleanups. 
  • Register and identify yourself as a part of a network of concerned individuals and organisations. 

We are heartened by the interest, motivation and perseverance to tackle the problem of marine trash on our shores. Awareness of the issues has heightened and many new small groups have sprung up to take action – regularly and persistently! That has certainly been a heartening outcome of this pandemic. 

During the pandemic, the ICCS Otters have conducted masked, small-group mangrove cleanups, with rostering and safe distancing measures. We were glad we could still execute our National Day mangrove cleanups at Lim Chu Kang, albeit in a much smaller scale. And we have been planting and maintaining a coastal forest ecosystem at Kranji Coastal Nature Park.

Every action still counts – conduct a cleanup when you can, and join the One Million Trees movement to experience the therapeutic effect of nature. Keep well everyone!


Suspension of organised coastal cleanups during Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) COVID-19 mitigation in Singapore (until mid-Jun 2021)

NUS Toddycats suspended all group activities by 2nd May 2021, and on 11 May 2021, NParks advised for a halt to volunteer coastal clean up activities. NEA’s Public Hygiene Council has updated their webpage likewise, suspending applications by organised groups (and the use of Cleanpods).

PHC Phase 2 (May 2021)

Singapore announced Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) on 14th May 2021, to dampen emerging community cases due to more infectious variants of the virus. This suspension thus extends to 13 Jun 2021, when there will be further updates.

And the mantra for the moment is to stay at home, so sit tight for the moment, everyone!

For active updates, discussion and advice, see the East Coast Beach Plan Telegram Chat.

Announcement: Suspension of the annual data-gathering International Coastal Cleanup Singapore 2020

Dear Organisers,

I hope you have all been keeping well during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I write to inform you that the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore will not be conducted this year. Yes, we are indeed suspending our annual data gathering coastal cleanup activity which has run since 1992. This is the fourth year in which the ICCS Coordinator has had to announce a suspension  in 29 years:

  1. 1998 – tropical storms washed out all the beach cleanup sites 
  2. 2015 – Transboundary haze
  3. 2019 – Transboundary haze
  4. 2020 – COVID-19 pandemic

Ocean Conservancy staff were supportive when I informed them last month of the likelihood of a suspension. Since then, my assessment of the news still concluded we needed to avoid promotion of a mass participation event this year. With 80+ organisations managing more than 3,000 participants in groups of 30 to a few hundred people, the safety precautionary principle applies and we will forgo the data-gathering coastal cleanup this year.

It will be a good time instead to reflect on the message of our many years of data, and to provide suggestions about how we can help to promote awareness of the issue, and review our practical actions for plastics reduction and sustainability. Last year, the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources unveiled Singapore’s inaugural Zero Waste Masterplan with a new target – to reduce our solid waste disposal by 30 per cent by 2030. This national target does require everyone’s attention and meaningful effort, especially with the new challenge COVID-19 has introduced.  

For individuals who are very keen on a safely-organised coastal cleanup, do monitor the Facebook pages of various volunteer and corporate social enterprise groups at Many marine conservation groups are also offering educational online events as never before, which we featured earlier.

Meanwhile, let’s look forward to visiting our shores once again, first to appreciate what we still have, and motivate that urgency in all of us to do better for nature and the environment.

Stay safe and stay informed everyone!

N. Sivasothi aka Otterman
International Coastal Cleanup Singapore 
National University of Singapore 

Haze advisory for coastal cleanup Organisers: monitor the 24-hour PSI forecast and the 1-hour PM2.5 hourly levels

Dear Organisers,

Do read and understand the information in these links:

Do adopt these NEA recommendations.

Screenshot 776

Individuals who are unhealthy or sensitive to smoke should be advised to opt out of the cleanups even at moderate levels.

If your participants are all healthy individuals,

  1. Examine the 24-hour PSI forecast the previous night to decide if you ahould attempt go ahead.
  • The two paragraphs of the forecast are provided under the headings, “Air Quality” and “Health Advisory”.
  • If forecast is that the levels will be moderate, i.e. < 100 PSI, you can plan to go ahead.
  • On the event day, refer to the 1-hr PM2.5 readings.
    • Only if levels are normal, i.e. < 55 ug/m3, would you consider going ahead.
    • Otherwise, call off the cleanup. 

    The haze is here for sure. The 1-hour PM2.5 readings in the south today were already more than 55ug/m3. If we had a cleanup scheduled, I would have had to cancel it.

    These might be conservative levels at which to cancel an event. This is because a coastal cleanup can be strenuous event, and not all individuals use an N95 mask securely whilst conducting strenuous work. We will not risk a person’s health for coastal cleanup data. As we explain during the workshops, the first principle an Organiser exercises is that of safety.

    Let’s hope for good clear weather!

    Stay safe and all the best!


    Sivasothi aka Otterman
    Coordinator, ICCS

    International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (Sat 21 Sep 2019): Registration for Organisers is open!

    Greetings Organisers!

    International Coastal Cleanup will be conducted around the world on Sat 21st Sep 2019

    The International Coastal Cleanup is the annual data-gathering exercise held on the 3rd Saturday of September. It is coordinated by the Ocean Conservancy globally and it has been conducted in Singapore since 1992. This year, the tides are suitable for us to conduct the exercise with the rest of the world on Saturday, 21st September 2019.

    Organisers, register here

    Invitation to Organisers to register

    We invite Organisers to register and indicate your preferred sites and dates.

    The ICCS team will review applications in end-May, end-June and end-July. All sites have limits to participants based on terrain, size and impact. Sites are allocated based on the site difficulty level, the Organiser’s familiarity with the site, experience at managing cleanups, their volunteer’s age group and preparedness, and the date of your registration.

    Organisers will be notified of the results by email.

    Registrations will close at the end of July.

    Workshops for Organisers in June and July

    Workshops for Organisers and their assistants will be conducted by ICCS Zone Captains at NUS in July. These 2.5 hour workshops will provide Organisers with a grasp of marine life and marine trash issues globally and in Singapore, discuss the various steps in organising a coastal cleanup and allow Organisers to arrange for site recces with their zone captains.

    Anyone who needs help in reviewing the site, conducting the safety assessment checklists must attend. While critical for new Organisers, the workshops can serve as a refresher for veterans who would contribute to the group discussions with peers.

    The workshop registration options will be sent to registered Organisers in May. We will offer a sufficient number of sessions for all to attend.

    Organising coastal cleanups on other dates, without data collection

    If you are interested in conducting a year-round cleanup at other times of the year (without data collection), please examine the options listed at this page with several wonderful local groups:

    Thank you for your interest in caring for the environment!

    N. Sivasothi
    International Coastal Cleanup Singapore
    c/o Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
    & Department of Biological Sciences
    National University of Singapore

    Call for Volunteer Zone Captains for ICCS (briefing on Wed 8th May 2019)

    Dear friends,

    We are assembling a new team to coordinate the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore, the annual data-gathering exercise in September which involves some 3,500 volunteers led by more than 70 organisations who will fan out to sites all around Singapore to collect, categorise and dispose of marine trash.  

    Our hardworking Volunteer Zone Captains conduct site recces, recce reports, lease with Organisers, site allocations, training workshops  and public education through roadshows. We are briefing interested individuals to explain the process and details of how we organise this annual data-gathering exercise on Wed 8th May 2019: 7pm – 9pm.

    We are looking for enthusiastic and responsible individuals who are keen to help coordination as Zone or Site Captains. For an idea of the commitment required, please see the tentative 2019 calendar.

    Please sign up with this form by Friday 3rd May 2019 and we’ll get in touch!

    All the best!


    Sivasothi aka Otterman
    For the ICCS Otters

    Monitoring has ended for the NUS–NParks Marine Debris Monitoring Programme!

    A big thank you to everyone who has helped out in the NUS–NParks Marine Debris Monitoring Programme! The monitoring programme which began in late 2017 ended in Feb 2019. With the help of volunteers, we achieved the primary objective of collecting year-round data about macro-debris and microplastics. This is a helpful complement to the ICCS dataset to address the marine debris issue in Singapore.

    Locations of marine debris monitoring programme

     We are now deep in analysis with the dataset to identify seasonal trends, compositional variation and relative burdens on our shores. We have also begun stakeholder engagement workshops and will be pleased to welcome you to this sharing in the months ahead!

    Once again, thank you very much for your kind support and for caring for the environment!

    International Coastal Cleanup Singapore 2018 – Registration for Organisers is open!

    YRCC LCKeast2017

    Greetings Organisers!

    ICCS will be conducted on Sat 15th Sep 2018

    The International Coastal Cleanup coordinated by the Ocean Conservancy is the data-gathering exercise held every September. Held in Singapore since 1992, we will conduct the exercise this year on the international date of the third Saturday in September – 15 Sep 2018.

    Invitation to Organisers to register

    We invite Organisers to register and to indicate your preferred sites and dates.

    The ICCS team will review applications in end-May, end-June and end-July. Sites are allocated based on your familiarity with the site, your experience with ICCS, the site difficulty level and and your volunteer preparation, and the date of registration.

    You will be informed by email.

    Registrations will close at the end of July.

    Workshops for Organisers in July

    Workshops for Organisers and their assistants will be conducted by ICCS Zone Captains at NUS in July. Anyone who needs help in reviewing the site recce and safety assessment checklists must attend. While critical for new Organisers, the workshops can serve as a refresher for veterans who would contribute to the group discussions with peers.

    You can choose ONE of three dates to attend the workshop – from Thu 05 Jul, Thu 12 Jul or Thu 19 Jul 2018. Please indicate your interest in the July workshop and we will re-confirm closer to the date. Should we open up more dates, we will make these available to you as well.

    Other dates

    If you are interested in conducting a cleanup at other times of the year (without data collection), please examine the options at this page:

    Thank you for your interest in caring for the environment!

    N. Sivasothi
    International Coastal Cleanup Singapore
    c/o Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
    & Department of Biological Sciences
    National University of Singapore

    “Plastics: Enough trash talk” – the urgent need for collective action on plastic use in Singapore

    An Earth Day 2018 message from 10 NGOs and interest groups, first published as an op-ed in The Straits Times, 18 Apr 2018.

    It’s time to end the talk on plastics as trash. It can be a valuable resource for a small country like Singapore. But this is possible only if governments and businesses approach plastics the right way, and when individuals can look beyond waste disposal and realise the real impact of our plastic problem.

    A supermarket plastic bag serves its real purpose for 30 minutes, the duration of a journey in Singapore. In a drink, a straw is utilised for just 5 minutes. The use of a plastic stirrer is even more short-lived: all of 10 seconds.

    These items have fleeting lifespans, but they outlive us by a long shot – 400 years, to be exact.

    Left in our environment, plastics affect ocean health and biodiversity, including corals, seabirds and endangered species. The problem does not simply end there.

    Before they even enter our homes, plastics already contribute to climate change. Globally, the manufacturing of plastics consumes the same amount of fossil fuel as the entire aviation industry1.

    We are living plastic in every way: eating2, drinking3 and even breathing4 it. Around the world, microplastics have been found in the guts of one out of four fish2, in tap water samples of 14 countries2 and even in air pollution.

    Convenience numbs common sense

    Little is being done to address this. There was a huge public outcry when the four largest supermarkets in Singapore floated the idea of a plastic bag charge. Recently, the government announced a decision against a plastic bag ban5, highlighting incineration as a solution.

    In this all-or-nothing debate that focuses solely on plastic bags, we are missing the point: that we continue to have a major problem with plastic use.

    Meanwhile, Singapore generated over 800 million kg of plastic waste last year, only 6% of which was recycled6.

    The rest of the world is far ahead in taking action on plastic waste.

    More than 40 countries have plastic bag bans or taxes in place, including China, Rwanda and Italy7. Just across the Causeway, Johor is set to ban plastic bags plastics and polystyrene by this year8. Last year, 39 governments announced new commitments to reduce the amount of plastic going into the sea9.

    By not taking action to reduce plastic’s widespread use, we are perpetuating this global problem. It is high time for a mindset overhaul on plastic in Singapore.

    Use less and “useless” plastic

    Rather than an all-or-nothing approach, the key lies in understanding what we should use less of, and what we can and should eliminate.

    There are “useless” or unnecessary plastics – those that provide a few extra minutes of convenience but are disposed after use. Most plastic straws, lids, cups and stirrers fall in this category. Refusing these useless plastics is an easy step to cutting down on plastic use.

    There are plastics that are useful that we can still reduce. A case in point: plastic bags. Singapore’s current usage of plastic bags borders on the excessive. A person in Singapore is estimated to use about 13 plastic bags a day, much more than any household would need for trash disposal.

    Alternatives in the form of reusables are widely available in the market today. A recent study by the National Environment Agency has found that a reusable bag replaces the use of 125 single-use plastic bags in a year10.

    A plastic bag charge can be an effective way to reduce plastic use. Consumption of single-use plastic bags fell by 95 per cent when Ireland introduced a levy in 200211.

    In Singapore, lifestyle store chain Miniso witnessed a 75% drop in plastic bag take-up rate after it implemented a $0.10 plastic bag charge in April 201712.

    Not all plastics are trash

    Even as individuals focus on using less plastic, a wider systemic change is needed to make plastics more useful. Globally, 95% of plastics worth up to US$120 billion are discarded after the first use13. Effective recycling ensures that we do not lose economic value from this useful material.

    Plastic packaging cannot be eliminated, but it needs to be recovered.

    In Singapore, packaging makes up a third of domestic waste. But not enough is being done to hold businesses accountable for the plastics they introduce into the market. In countries such as Japan, for instance, there are laws in place to ensure that businesses do their part to recycle14.

    Separating plastic waste at the point of disposal also enhances recycling. Currently, Singapore does not require plastics to be segregated from other types of waste. This model undermines recycling efforts and instead incentivises incineration, including that of plastics.

    Singapore has made a name for ourselves globally in recovering value from precious resources. We do this for paper and even the water we drink. Why aren’t we treating plastics the same way? An expensive, highly pollutive method like incineration should only be the last solution when all other options are unavailable.

    Stop trash talking, start fixing

    We have limited time to turn things around. With the looming global plastics crisis, business-as-usual cannot apply.

    Businesses need to be held accountable for used plastic, however useful its purpose. This includes being responsible for the entire life cycle of plastics, from packaging to recovery after use.

    On a national level, the channels and infrastructure need to be in place to effectively enable recycling by businesses and individuals. Incentives encourage manufacturers to take more responsibility, while disincentives like a plastic tax help spur much needed behaviour change.

    To expedite the move towards a more sustainable future, individuals should also play their part by using less plastic, and supporting business and government measures that help address this issue.

    We need to stop pushing the responsibility between individuals, businesses and government.

    Everyone needs to step up and take action for a problem we will share with the next 16 generations.
    — end —

    About – Ahead of Earth Day on 22 April, ten NGOs and interest groups have co-signed this opinion piece, representing their shared view about the urgent need for collective action on plastic use in Singapore. They are:

    1. ASEAN CSR Network is a regional business organisation promoting responsible business practices.
    2. Ocean Recovery Alliance is a non-profit organisation working on solutions and collaborations to improve ocean health.
    3. Gone Adventurin’ is a business consultancy focused on driving circular economy in Asia.
    4. International Coastal Cleanup Singapore coordinates and organises marine trash clean-ups on beaches and mangroves.
    5. Plastic Disclosure Project works to reduce the environmental impact of plastics in products and packaging.
    6. Plastic-Lite Singapore is a volunteer community raising awareness about the over-use of disposable plastics.
    7. NUS Toddycats! is a volunteer group with the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.
    8. Tingkat Heroes is an initiative working with communities, schools and businesses to go disposables-free.
    9. Team Small Change is a community that champions small individual changes for large environmental impact.
    10. WWF-Singapore is a global conservation organisation protecting the natural environment and resources.

    Literature Cited

    1. Neufeld, L., Stassen, F., Sheppard, R., & Gilman, T., 2016. The new plastics economy: rethinking the future of plastics. In World Economic Forum. [link]
    2. Kosuth, Mary, Sherri A. Mason, and Elizabeth V. Wattenberg., 2018. “Anthropogenic contamination of tap water, beer, and sea salt.” PloS One, 13.4: e0194970. [link]
    3. Mason, S. A., Welch, V., Neratko, 2018. Synthetic polymer in contamination in bottled water. State University of New York at Fredonia, Department of Geology & Environmental Sciences, 17pp.[link].
    4. Gasperi, J., Wright, S. L., Dris, R., Collard, F., Mandin, C., Guerrouache, M., … & Tassin, B., 2018. Microplastics in air: Are we breathing it in? Current Opinion in Environmental Science & Health, 1: 1-5. [link]
    5. “Parliament: No plan to impose plastic bag levy, other types of disposable bags not much greener: Amy Khor,” by Samantha Boh & Audrey Tan. The Straits Times, 6 March 2018. [link].
    6. National Environment Agency, 2018. Waste Statistics and Overall Recycling [in Singapore], 2017. [link].
    7. “Kenya imposes world’s toughest law against plastic bags,” by Katharine Houreld & John Ndiso. Reuters, 28 August 2017 [link].
    8. “No more plastic bags in Johor supermarkets,” by anonymous. The Star, 14 Jun 2017 [link].
    9. “Nearly 200 nations promise to stop ocean plastic waste,” by Reuters Staff. Reuters, 07 Dec 2017 [link].
    10. National Environment Agency, 2018. Factsheet on findings from life-cycle assessment study on carrier bags and food packaging. 12pp. [link].
    11. Convery, F., McDonnell, S., Ferreira, S., 2007. The most popular tax in Europe? Lessons from the Irish plastic bags levy. Environmental and Resource Economics, , 38:1–11. [link]
    12. “Less demand when customers have to pay for plastic bags,” by Samantha Boh. The Straits Times, 24 Sep 2017. [link]
    13. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with the support of the World Economic Forum, 2017. The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics & Catalysing action. (Combined from the two reports, “The New Plastics Economy – Rethinking the Future of Plastics (2016)” and “The New Plastics Economy – Catalysing Action (2017).
    14. “Japan’s holistic approach to recycling,” by Leon Kaye. The Guardian, 17 Jan 2012 [link].