888kg of marine trash removed from Lim Chu Kang during the Chinese New Year/World Wetlands Day coastal cleanup

67 NUS Toddycats & Friends battled trash at Lim Chu Kang mangrove on Sat 4th Feb 2017 and removed 888kg of trash. Huat ah!

The scene at Lim Chu Kang beach during a recce on 14th January 2017 was really one we had expected. Despite six coastal cleanups between Feb – Sep last year, the inflow of trash from the Johor Straits is ceaseless, and high loads of trash wash in over the monsoon season.

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The same grim sight greeted the advance party conducting the pre-cleanup recce on the morning of 4th of February 2017, as they checked for hornet nests (which would require the cleanup to be cancelled), mangrove pit vipers (which we would be careful to avoid disturbing), and crocodiles (which we would encourage either the crocodile or ourselves to leave the site).

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There was enough of us and we worked hard and fast in that 90 minutes. The final “prosperity” figure of 888kg of trash was purely accidental, and I was actually hoping we’d clear at least one tonne of trash. A chain gang was organised and we transferred the trash out to the pre-arranged Trash Disposal Point. Later that day, an NEA contractor despatched by the Department of Public Cleanliness would remove the load and see to its disposal. Like most of our solid waste trash in Singapore, all of it is destined for the incinerator and its ash will be sent to the landfill at Pulau Semakau.

The 888kg amount made for a good byline later that day as a Straits Times reporter and photographer had accompanied us and posted reports the same day and on the next day, with video.

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  • “888kg of rubbish cleared during mangrove clean-up on 8th day of Chinese New Year,” by Zhaki Abdullah with video, and with photos by Alphonsus Chern. The Straits Times, 04 Feb 2017 [link] [video].
  • “Almost 900kg of rubbish cleared from Lim Chu Kang mangrove,” by Zhaki Abdullah with photos by Alphonsus Chern. The Straits Times, 05 Feb 2017 [link]

There is still trash left behind and other Year-Round Coastal Cleanups will continue to whittle away the trash load surely and sensitively.

LCK  CNY World Wetlands Day Coastal Cleanup 04 Feb 2017

Photo album by Kenneth Pinto on Flickr. Thanks to NUS Toddycats Airani S, Ng Kai Scene, Joelle Lai, Adriane Lee, Yang Yi Yong, Ong Say Lin & Joleen Chan.

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Sat 04 Feb 2017: 7.45am – 11.00am @ Lim Chu Kang – Let’s throw out the trash this Chinese New Year

Help throw out the trash this Chinese New Year with a Coastal Cleanup @ Lim Chu Kang beach and mangrove on Saturday 4th Feb 2017: 7.45am – 11.00am. Join us in extending some tender loving care to one of our precious mangrove fragments in Singapore. But you will need to ready for hard work, properly fitted out and ready for action – this is not for the faint-hearted!

Transport will be provided from Kranji MRT.

Please sign up by Wed 1st Feb 2017.

For details, please head over to the Eventbrite Registration page. Do read the details about safety and preparation please.

Lim Chu Kang beach, Sat 14 Jan 2017

Battling the curse of marine litter – a challenge we will face with determination!

I joined the ICCS team as the IKEA Intern in early February but had yet to experience an actual cleanup until the Tanah Merah Chinese New Year Coastal Cleanup! As part of the GEM1917 Understanding And Critiquing Sustainability module, RVRC student volunteers were led by their lecturer and ICCS Coordinator, N Sivasothi aka Otterman to Tanah Merah Beach 7 on Thursday 26th February 2015.

Toddycats SG50 Interns Sankar and Lynn joined me on this important outing as we spent the morning with students and lecturers, inserted ourselves into wild pandan and other coastal plants, indefatigably pulling out the plastic bottles and styrofoam bits insulting our shores!

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After the safety briefing and collection of logistics by students, we walked to the Tanah Merah beach, which initially appeared untainted, except for a few plastic bags and bottles.

Lynn thought to herself, “what are we going to clean up? Seaweed?”

Once we looked into the coastal forest, however, we were appalled by the countless number of disposable bottles, styrofoam bits, ropes and fishing nets littered the forest floor.

At once we spread ourselves along the beach and began working – calling out the type and number of trash items to the data collector, and storing everything in the heavy duty trash bags. Some volunteers dove into the wild pandan to retrieve the bottles, bottles and more bottles buried amongst the roots and underneath leaf litter.

Sankar later said, “despite trying to help Mother Nature out, she seemed to be working against us. We were assaulted by colonies of ants, sharp Pandanus leaves and a hot sun!”

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The presence of various polymers, be it styrofoam or plastic was harrowing! Even more distressing were the tiny bits of styrofoam that had broken down into pieces less than 5mm in size. These were impossible to completely remove from the strandline – they were interspersed amongst leaf litter and roots and buried in soil and sand. We tried our best to pick up the tiny pieces, but there was a limit to what we could do.

“It really is frustrating to think that people will so casually dispose of styrofoam into the sea, where they will break apart and either be ingested by fish or litter the beaches,” Lynn protested.

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The antidote to the distressing scene was the view of students and lecturers working hard non-stop throughout the beach, removing trash with a determination. It certainly did give us a glimmer of hope.

“Lynn said “it was heartwarming to see everyone work hard together to do their part for the environment.”

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The other glimmer of hope was the persistent presence of marine life – amidst the busy work, we saw land hermit crabs, a carpet anemone (attached to a plastic bag), and a thunder crab! Nature’s persistence in the face of pollution is something we should respond to.

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We removed some 6,700 items weighing more than 386 kg of trash, consisting mostly of single use plastics a 50 kg 50 metre rope! All that trash piled into 43 trash bags from just 90 minutes of activity made us pause to reflect on many of the things we do on a daily basis – I overheard an RVRC student say he’d never use styrofoam boxes again!

“It made me realize the seriousness of human actions on the environment at a closer basis.”
– RVRC Student Wong Shuyii

“I cannot say I “enjoyed” our morning at the beach. The words that come to mind are more like “gobsmacked”, “shocked”… Very educational for me personally. So thanks very much for that.”
– Lecturer, Hugh Anderson

Tanah Merah Beach 7 is a non-recreational beach and the piles of trash recruited everyday is a symptom of the larger problem of marine trash in our oceans. It is critical that we reflect on our actions and make a change to our lifestyles, share the message and ideas about battling this curse which ails the planet.

And it begins with the very small things – do we really need that plastic straw? Or that bottled water?

ICCS will continue to organise beach and mangrove cleanups for immediate relief to the habitat and for long-term educational impact. Physically though, the extent of marine pollution is immense and will require more ideas, action, influence and lots of determination!

Sankar felt “we as a society need to take a good hard look at where our trash goes. I hope that one day, ICCS will not be necessary to keep our shores clean.”

Making a positive change for our oceans is a tough goal, but we will meet this challenge with determination!

A Chinese New Year Coastal Cleanup @ Tanah Merah 7 with NUS’ RVRC!

On 26th of February 2015, 35 students and staff from Ridge View Residential College, National University of Singapore conducted a Chinese New Year Coastal Cleanup at Tanah Merah Beach 7. This date had been carefully picked last December by RVRC lecturer and also ICCS coordinator, N Sivasothi. aka Otterman, who was very pleased with the outcome.

The team worked tirelessly for two hours, and survived attacks by ant colonies and the slashing of wild pandan! The hard work paid off with 386 kg of trash in 43 large bags of trash, including a 50kg giant rope! There were also oil containers, a mountain of styrofoam and lots and lots of plastic bottles dominating the data card which saw moe than 5,000 pieces of marine trash removed forever from Tanah Merah 7.

What a great way to celebrate the Chinese New Year!

RVRC briefing at TM7
Briefing about Tanah Merah and the marine trash challenge by the student’s lecturer, ICCS Coordinator, N. Sivasothi

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Several groups, including Professor Anderson fought their way into the wild pandan, tolerating the cuts, to reach marine trash on the high strand line.

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Plastic pieces with sharp edges will cause harm to animals if ingested, as it can puncture gastronomical tracts leaving animals to die.

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Indomitably tackling a sand-filled drum!

Nature will find a way – on this reclaimed shore, peppered with marine trash, marine life persists – land hermit crabs, carpet anemone and thunder crabs fascinated students.

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We saw five hermit crabs and one was nestling on a plastic bag. As hermit crabs grow bigger, they change their shells, changing to larger ones which can protect the retracted body. So don’t pick shells on the beach, you may be depriving a hermit crab a potential home.

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A sea anemone was found attached to a plastic bag. This group of students remove it from the plastic bag successfully! Carpet anemone share a mutualistic relationship with single-celled algae known as zooxanthellae. The algae is able to photosynthesise, i.e. produce food from sunlight, and this food is also consumed by the anemone. In turn, the algae receives shelter from the anemone.

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Thunder Crab! Legend has it that if you were unfortunate enough to be pinched by this crab, only a clap of thunder will force it to release its pincers and let you go. In reality, contact with the ground and an escape route will persuade the crab to let you go.

To find out more about marine life in Singapore, visit http://www.wildsingapore.com

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Weighing the trash and data collection. Spring balances are used to weigh trash bags. The total weight today amounted to 386 kg.

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A human chain was formed to transport the trash bags to the Trash Collection Point (TCP), for the NEA contractor to collect and dispose of eventually.

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Half of the trash bags load from the morning with more on the way!

Our next coastal cleanup in conjunction with World Water Day, will be conducted on 21 March 2015 at Sungei Pandan mangrove. Mangrove cleanups are a different experience and the fauna and flora is different too. For information about this cleanup, see News from ICCS

Thanks to everyone for their effort on the Chinese New Year coastal cleanup!

RVRC at TM7 group photo
The team back at NUS!