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!

Auntie Oscar’s Field Experience Tips for Chek Jawa Coastal Cleanups – perfected over a decade of TLC Part 2

Following the previous blogpost on the useful tools, Auntie Oscar continues to share her invaluable experience with some practical field tips for a messy mangrove cleanup:

Bags Area  – Centralize bags together so that volunteers do not have to carry them while working. Appoint a volunteer (usually the data recorder) to look after the bags.

Get a Pole –  In every cleanup we can always find a strong pole or branch for our weighing.  The spare hook here allows us to hoist up the weight using the pole instead of sheer muscle man so girls can do the job too!

Losing your Sole – Classic example of a good shoe ruined by the mangrove. Usually volunteers with inappropriate shoes will be tasked as data recorder and sit near the dry area to guard our bags and monitor time.

Large Tire – [Operation Tire] took about 40 mins to extract as it is buried in compact sand. After some loosening, the tire resurfaced and adds onto our collection of treasure.

Buried Barrel – It took 6 people to dig for 30 mins for the barrel to surface. Hence tools are essential such as a foldable shovel.  We yell for [Operation Barrel] as a code to rally nearby volunteers to support. 😉

Marine Life – This large crab attacked us as he escaped from the barrel we dug up. We are happy for the feisty creature and set it free after a photo record.

Entwine – The tussle ends of large marine rope are often found wrapped around mangrove roots. Volunteers can wriggle free some parts but eventually cutting tools such a handsaw would be needed in this instance.

Silent Killer – It is amazing to see how plastics can choke up the mangrove tree roots as the tides comes in and goes out daily, the plastics find their way to wrap themselves tightly, suffocating the roots.

Sorting Area and workflow:  In muddy mangroves such as at Chek Jawa Central Sites, it could get a little difficult to record and pick up marine trash at the same time. Hence I have created the following workflow:

  • S1:safely briefing & group forming
  • S2: gathering of trash (no recording)
  • S3: bring all trash to Sorting Area
  • S4: sort out types of trash
  • S5: count trash collectively (data recording)
  • S6: packing & weighing (data recording)
  • S7: move  trash to trash disposal point.
  • S8: take group photo

That ends my field experience tips for a cleanup at mangrove sites. If you have any other questions, do chat with auntie Oscar:

– Auntie Oscar

Auntie Oscar’s Toolkit for Chek Jawa Coastal Cleanups – perfected over a decade of TLC

Auntie Oscar speaks:

“Every year I look forward to raiding the mangrove with my team of volunteers during the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore and over the years, we realized that a pair of scissors is just not enough! Gradually over the years we have a good collection of tools for our team.

Below is a glimpse of “barangs” which I have learnt to bring to my field site over the past decade of Organising volunteers for the ICCS, and I hope this helps you prepare your team with adequate tools for a cleanup. Clean and maintain the tools and they will last you during repeated visits over the years.”

Sturdy bags – One for dry items and another for wet & dirty items. Large opening means you can find and store things easily in an emergency.

Clip Board & Writing Material  – Clip board is handy for data recording. Always bring spare pen and go for the cheap ball point without caps instead of those ink type with caps that you can easily lose in the environment. Have a spare felt tip marker for labeling items, just in case. A plastic folder is useful to protect your data in a rainy weather.

Personal Bag – A change of clothes in case you get really dirty, sun hat, towel, water bottle filled up – no point buying mineral water and add on to more trash, insect repellent, sun block, candies for energy and loose change for the bum boat and van ride to Chek Jawa. The calculator is for the group final check, you can use your mobile phone (if your hands are clean).

Tarp Sheet – I carry this for volunteers to leave their bags on a clean base instead of allowing the volunteers to carry their back pack when they are working (not safe and not convenient). The tarp is also useful for emergency as a stretcher if anyone gets hurt, it can also be use as a temporary shelter if a sudden storm comes in.

Cotton-Latex Gloves – Ah my famous orange hands. I have been using these gloves for past 8 years and after a good washing and store properly, they still look as new! My team avoids industrial welding gloves because of their poor fitting. The cotton part is breathable even when it is wet; the latex part is still safe enough for us to pick up cut glasses.

Weighing Tools – I always bring extra to ensure the weigh is accurate and use the largest scale for trash such as thick marine ropes.

Hooks – Come in handy for holding up water bottles or bags off the ground, and can be used with the weighing scale as an extension.

Scissors and Cutters -I usually ask volunteers to bring their own scissors or cutters, they are useful for cutting off fishing lines and plastic bags that are caught on the mangroves. I also carry a plant trimmer (yellow) for thicker ropes. They must be promptly clean and oil with WD40 after use so that they can be reused.

Long Tongs – Useful for volunteers with bad back and for reaching that rubbish that is stuck between hard to reach places. The mini shovel is use to dig up edge of buried item.

Foldable Shovel –Extremely useful for a quick digging in muddy site and also used for leveraging hard or rusty trash that is stuck in mud.

The pick edge is also use for prying up rocks and other debris. Safe for sorting trash too.

Hand Saw -Used for trimming plastic drums and larger items that is half buried in the mud.

Measuring Tape – This optional tool helps us to measure size of peculiar trash or dead marine life.

Trash Bags – There are different grades of trash bags, the best are good quality black industrial ones. I will carry about 20 units. Usually I will ask volunteers to bring 2 standard super market bags for their walk around collection and dump it at our sorting and counting site before we weigh them collectively. The green recycle bag is too thin for use so please avoid them.

First Aid Kit – It is essential for a team leader to bring this for the team. Volunteers are asked to bring their own plasters in case they have small cuts. My first aid kit has gloves, elastic and triangle bandages, Opsite spray , antiseptic cream, tweezers for splints and micropore tape.

Storage Box – In order to keep your group tools and materials in order, do pack them neatly into a carton box and label it so that you can get ready for the next ICCS!

Footwear – It is essential to have the right footwear not only for your own safety but also not to create more trash!

The 4 pairs on the left are GOOD choices as they cover the toes, hang on to your feet tightly and can be washed after the cleanup.

The 4 pairs on the right which are light materials means you will get stuck in the mud! They are BAD choices as you might slip and fall or have to give up your ballet flats after the clean up.

Have a meaningful and effective coastal cleanup everyone!”

– Auntie Oscar

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! 🙂

Adventures of Hope at the Chek Jawa cleanup

A “late” Zone Captain

The day didn’t start well for myself, the ICCS Chek Jawa Zone Captain and my entourage of Site Buddies – we were lost in Sengkang trying to pick everyone up! So we were not first volunteers on Pulau Ubin, ready and waiting to greet everyone else, as we are tradition-bound to do.

Instead Sukyo Mahikari beat us to Changi Point Ferry Terminal – they were there by 6.30am! Well, they did not need any hand-holding as they are efficient veterans, but still, it was that Recce Captain Andy Dinesh was on hand so early to greet them.

Programme Sheet of Sukyo Mahikari

The Commando Group
Volunteers from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) too were early, reaching Chek Jawa by 8am. here to tackle a new site – Chek Jawa North 2 – they had to walk more than 400 m from the Chek Jawa gates, past a rocky headland to get to their site.

This headland is the first point to be submerged by a rising tide so in my mind, they became the “commando” group – get in quickly, count, collect and categorise the marine trash they could lay their hands and GET OUT before the tide swallowed the headland.  Despite the limitation of time and extremely long distance to the Trash Disposal Point, they managed an impressive 420 kg!


“Commando Group” – LTA

Meanwhile, NPCC HQ’s site in Chek Jawa North was a 150 m walk from the CJ gates to reach their first data categorisation and cleanup spots – but first they had to brave a really muddy patch – NPCC’s Zhu Lin later reported one her students left his bootie inside the mud!

Rachael Li was new but a great Site Captain at Chek Jawa North – having spent the previous year on Pulau Ubin for hr honours year research project, she is an Ubin veteran. Supporting her was my old friend Dennis, a Site Buddy who is familiar with “heavy load” shores, after years at Lim Chu Kang beach.

The right tool for the right job
Meanwhile, the other “war theatre” saw Site Buddy Shriyanka head off with Juliet and her group from Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Humanities.

Juliet impressed me as she got her students to a 6.45am rendezvous at Eunos MRT – with the warning that she planned to leave late-comers behind. The reason? From last year, she knew that tide certainly waits for no man! With experience from last year, they brought kitchen knives and cutters to tackle the ghost nets common on the Chek Jawa shore and did a great job of removal!


Juliet (far left, wearing yellow in a blue tub) with her students from Ngee Ann School of Humanities

Every two can do the job
Paul of St Joseph’s Institution International was accompanied with only his son, Will.  Unable to get anyone else on this Hari Raya weekend, they turned up gamely and worked well after everyone had ended to collect, count and categorise trash. Kudos to their determination and the reminder to step forward to a good job even in the absence of additional support!

Chek Jawa South – the last “war theatre”
At Chek Jawa South, Site Buddies Fucai, June and myself waited at Ubin’s big Pulai Tree to wait for Dow Chemicals and CHIJ Katong Convent. Fucai who exemplified the “buddy” in “Site Buddy” by hitting it off well with Christopher of Dow Chemicals, taking photos and working well with them.  The Dow Chemicals volunteers too took out the heavy nets along the shoreline which Team Seagrass had painfully dragged all the way from the inter-tidal area on a previous occasion.

Chek Jawa South was tough for coordinators because the access points are not obvious. One organiser even got a little lost with about 40 students in the bush!

Stalwarts CHIJ KC consisted of young girls unfamiliar with the wet inter-tidal environment but still, they got down to dedicated work and categorised over 2,000 items.  The school sends down their entire Secondary 2 Cohort for ICCS, providing them a unique experience at a unique site in Singapore’s environmental history!

Grow a little each year
I’ll end the post, and a tough spell for me as coordinator at this site, with my observations about the growth of the Sukyo Mahikari.

They started out in ICCS facilitated by the Nature Society of Singapore several years ago, at Chek Jawa. Last year, they stepped forward and organise themselves independently and reported at 6.30am with an operations chart with various subgroups defined.

This year, they added further refinements

White Paint Marker to label weight on trash
Pole with weighing scale tied with cable tie


Using Plastic Kapaline Boards to mark out the sub sites


Gloves and plastic boards washed and reused as they wait for debrief! Talk about efficiency!


No money to buy clipboards?  Cheap Plastic Kapaline Boards come to the rescue.


Sukyo Mahikari!

A well prepared group is a heartening sign. By working the same site each year, you can become better prepared, work more safely and efficiently, improve your education programme, increase your independence, improve methods and become a champion of your site and a stalwart of ICCS. What a sustainable and meaningful way to contribute to healing the planet.

In ICCS, we have been providing such groups registration priority and they can register early too. A few groups have evolved to become anchors for the ICCS and Zone Captain for this site, this is a hopeful sign for the continued protection of the precious shore we all treasure so much at Chek Jawa!


The ICCS Volunteer team for Chek Jawa:

From Left: Marcus Tay, Dennis Chew, Shriyanka Nayak, Rachael Li, Kuay Yingxuan, Yan Fucai, June Lim and Andy Dinesh!

Size DOESN’T matter… Chek Jawa’s youngest hero! [People at the ICCS]

At 4 yrs and 10 mths, Jackie Lim was Chek Jawa’s youngest hero today. Accompanying her parents who were part of the Dow Chemicals ICCS 2010 contingent, she gladdened the hearts of all who saw her at work on Chek Jawa’s southern shore.

Taking full advantage of her light weight, she ventured onto parts of the muddy shore adults had to be cautious about for fear of sinking! Deftly using her pair of tongs under the watchful eyes of her parents, she made quick work of many pieces of plastic accumulated since last year’s cleanup.

Size DOES matter!
An early start to environment responsibility

Jackie volunteered to help carry one of the abandoned kelong fish nets retrieved by adults from the shore.  Calling out the items for the data recorder to note, Jackie showed that size doesn’t matter.

One can start caring for the environment at a very early age.

Kudos to Jackie Lim!

Andy Dinesh
ICCS Recce Captain

The Chek Jawa 2008 cleanup video!

Ubin Zone Captain Andy Dinesh has completed his video of the ICCS Chek Jawa 2008 cleanup – the video footage is from Chek Jawa and it is peppered with facts from the 2008 ICCS results.

This is our first video out since Wesley’s in 2004; congratulations, Andy!

Pulau Ubin – 2.8 tonnes of trash removed but there’s more!

altogether now!...1, 2, heave!!!!!

altogether now!...1, 2, heave!!!!!

About 325 people, schoolkids and adults, got up really early today to head for Pulau Ubin for their part in the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore 2009.

It was a glorious morning with clear skies and they got to work immediately picking, pulling, tugging, cutting, digging, sweating, huffing, puffing, heaving, hauling, carrying and pushing the trash. This was followed by counting, classifying and weighing the trash items recovered from the approximately 475m of shore covered.

The groups that battled on Chek Jawa were :-

  1. Australian International School @ Noordin Beach
  2. CHIJ St Nicholas @ CJ Central 2 – results link
  3. Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority @CJ Central 3 – results link
  4. Pei Hwa Secondary School NPCC cadets @CJ Central 4 – results link
  5. Advantest (Singapore) Pte Ltd @ CJ South 4 – results link
  6. Girl Guides of Hougang Sec & Changkat Changi Sec @ CJ South 5 – results link
  7. Gemalto Pte Ltd @ CJ South 6 – results link
  8. Land Transport Authority @ CJ South 7 – results link
  9. Independant signups @ CJ South 9 – results link;

The total weight of the items collected= 2.786 tonnes.

This is a very large amount of trash – however it is only a small fraction of the total amount still remaining at Chek Jawa and Noordin which we will tackle in the years to come.

Pulau Ubin’s high trash load was either deposited there in the past and present, or floats in with the tide. As with last year, many fish nets and large plastic drums were seen on the shore but the groups only managed to remove some of them.

See the detailed results from the day’s work at Pulau Ubin and other sites in Singapore at

Photos are also online, see pictures by James Koh, pictures by K C Au-Yeong

More news after the second phase of the International Coastal Cleanup on 19 Sept 2009 – this date is the actual date of the global community’s data collecting exercise.

“Chek Jawa checkout”

The International Coastal Cleanup Singapore programme at Pulau Ubin collects annual data from Chek Jawa. In the process, we made yet another dent to years of accumulated trash on this precious marine environment. Determined volunteers huffed and puffed as they collected fine debris and dragged out tyres and long-abandoned fishing nets embedded in the sand and mud of Chek Jawa’s shores.

Getting to Chek Jawa means getting up really early! Volunteers reached Changi Village early to board bumboats to the island where eagerly awaiting Ubin taxi-vans brought them to Chek Jawa after a bumpy, 15 minute ride! The advance team from the Raffles Museum’s ICCS ‘Otters’ thought we were early but we were beaten to the first bumboat by an eager volunteer from the US who had only recently arrived in Singapore!

Looking down at the efforts of the 222 volunteers who removed 2.1 tones of marine debris were majestic white-bellied sea eagles, soaring high in the skies above. A few volunteers also saw a troop of wild boars foraging in the rubber plantation near House No. 1 who must have welcomed the removal of so much plastic from their island sanctuary. Other volunteers exclaimed over dinner plate-sized jellyfish they saw at the low water mark and a day after the cleanup, one participant is still abuzz by the mud lobster he saw in bright daylight!

Chek Jawa was once the site of a sizeable kampung village, and this is revealed by remnants of structures. The couple of wooden fishing jetties left behind jetty leg stumps and these are now host to numerous abandoned fishing nets, some stuck deep in the shifting sands and mud. Not all are old though, and new nets indicate the continued dumping of unwanted nets by local fishermen. Nets trap and kill organisms especially the many species of crabs that make Chek Jawa their home. Horseshoe crabs are especially vulnerable and the indestructible nets wreak havoc on this endangered living fossil we are lucky to still be able to see in our seas.

Forty blue drums irretrievably stuck in tangle of the tree line fronting the shore were proven to be extricable when volunteers bravely ventured into the thickets to remove a good number before the fast rising tide forced many to be left behind – this time! Less noticeable but easily outnumbering these large items were the omnipresent plastic bottles, styrofoam bits and plastic bags that plague our shores.

A conservative estimate suggests that we removed only 5% of the total load at Chek Jawa. Help to tackle this could come from small, low-impact, year-round cleanups as has been coordinated for some of the mangrove sites elsewhere. Tourists on NParks’ special intertidal tours at Chek Jawa might be happy to contribute to this effort once they learn about the issue. A 30 minute cleanup exercise after the regularly-conducted tour would do wonders!

Let’s all think about a regular check-out of the marine debris load at Chek Jawa. Slowly but surely, we will relieve the ecosystem of the burden man has imposed for so many years.

Andy Dinesh,
Pulau Ubin Zone Coordinator
International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Thanks to Ivan Kwan for the photos!

Posted by email from International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (posterous)