Plastics in the gut of the sperm whale carcass in Singapore – “a grim reminder to reduce plastic waste”

Staff of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum salvaged a sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) carcass (10 Jul 2015) with the help of the Maritime Port Authority (MPA) and National Environment Agency (NEA), and have been working since Friday 10 Jul 2015 to extract tissue for genetic work, gut contents to understand diet and preserve the skeleton for display in the museum gallery.

While working on the carcass, museum staff found “pieces of plastic food containers and wrappers in the whale’s gut, a grim reminder to reduce plastic waste” and to ensure “proper disposal of these items.” Museum Officer Marcus Chua and Conservator Kate Pocklington were on Channel News Asia on 14 July 2015 to update Singapore  about the carcass salvage, and highlighted the issue of marine trash with some of the gut contents – numerous squid beaks and a plastic cup.

Do watch their segment between 33:00 to 38:15 here, and follow the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum facebook page to keep updated on their progress. You can also learn more about The Singapore Whale here!

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Source: Channel News Asia

sperm whale plastic 2 sperm whale plastic

Source: Lee Kong Chian Natural History Musuem Facebook page

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:
It is also available for rent or purchase on Vimeo and iTunes!

Stranded dolphin at Kota Kinabalu, dies with 4.25 kg of plastic in its stomach

News from Sabah shared the heart-wrenching reason for the death of a stranded dolphin – 4.25 kilograms of plastic materials inside its stomach.

Borneo Post  4 25kg plastics in dolphin

Screen shot 2015-03-29 at AM 12.22.54Location of Likas Bay in Malaysia, click image to visit Google Maps.

Villagers found a stranded dolphin in the shallow waters near Likas Bay in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, barely able to move, on Thu 19 March 2015 at 5.30am. The dolphin was treated at the Borneo Marine Research Institute (BMRI) at  Universiti Malaysia Sabah. identified to be a male Short-Finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus), he succumbed to chronic starvation and died on 25 Mar 2015.

The cause? 4.25 kilograms of plastic pieces in its stomach, severely impairing the gastric muco. Asst Director Dr Sen Nathan at Sabah’s Wildlife Department explained plastics prevented the digestion of food “leading to severe malnutrition. … The dolphin may have ingested these plastics, having mistaken them for squids due to “similar textural or visual quality of the plastics to squids,” Dr Nathan added.

Read the original article, ” 4.25kg of plastics in dolphin,” by Jenne Lajun. Borneo Post online, 28 Mar 2015.


Celebrate Earth Day with a Coastal Cleanup @ Pasir Ris Beach 6!

In conjunction with Earth Day, volunteers with the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) will be conducting a cleanup at Pasir Ris Beach 6 on Saturday, 18th April 2015: 4.00pm – 6.00pm.

Registration has closed! Thank you to those that have signed up!

We will meet directly at Pasir Ris Park Carpark E before walking over to the cleanup site together

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What is Earth Day? Earth Day is an annual event to celebrate our Earth, proposed by peace activist John McConnell. It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now commemorated by 192 countries every 22nd of April.

Why Cleanup? In Singapore, our coast lines host innumerable amounts of biodiversity. Trash present in these areas impact our wildlife adversely, releases toxic chemicals and devalue the natural beauty of the landscape. Coastal cleanups are conducted by volunteers around the world to remove this trash, raise awareness of the plight of our oceans, and motivate us to rethink our habits in daily urban living towards sustainable practises.

Pasir Ris 6 is a beach located in the East of Singapore, next to Pasir Ris Park. It is not frequently visited by members of the public, and the beach is therefore not regularly cleaned.

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Meeting Point All participants will meet at Pasir Ris Park Carpark E, before walking over to Pasir Ris Beach 6 together. Below is a map for reference: Pasir Ris Beach 6 Directions from Pasir Ris MRT to Carpark E

Directions from PR MRT to bus stopParticipants can take Bus 403 from Pasir Ris Bus Interchange, a short walk from Pasir Ris MRT. They will alight at “opp Unit 104” bus stop, (BUS CODE: 77129) after the bus goes around a roundabout, 10 stops later.

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Left: The roundabout that the bus will go around before it stops at “opp Unit 104.”
Right: Water Venture, which lies at the side of the Carpark. The Carpark E sign is visible at the left side.

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This is what the participants will see opposite “opp Unit 104.”

We will have volunteers dressed in bright red shirts, standing at the bus stop to guide you to Carpark E. See below:

People to look out for


16:00 – All participants to meet at Pasir Ris Park Carpark E, start walking to Pasir Ris Beach 6
16:15 – Briefing and identification of Trash Collection Point (TCP). Brief of wet weather plans (which is to carry on unless there is a lighting threat). Organize everyone into groups of 4, apply insect repellant, collect gloves, trash bags, ICCS data cards, and other required logistics.
16:30 – Cleanup begins
18:00 – Transportation of trash to TCP.
18:15 – End of clean-up. Trash is weighed and discussion/ reflection time.
18:30 – Participants clean up. Toilets are available at Pasir Ris Park, a short walk away.

Things to note

  1. You must wear hard-soled covered shoes or booties to to protect your feet from hazards.
  2. A change of clothes is recommended after a sweaty workout.
  3. Long pants are recommended to protect your legs from insect bites, but bermudas are fine.
  4. Water-proof your belongings, in the case of bad weather.

Things to bring:

  1. Water bottle (with at least one litre of water)
  2. Hat and/ or sun block
  3. Raincoat/ poncho (we will work in rain)

Be prepared:

  1. Sleep early the night before
  2. Have a decent lunch – it’s hard work!
  3. Be punctual – we are unable to wait for latecomers; tide waits for no one!
  4. Refer to this recce report of PR6 for more information on the cleanup site.

Thank you for caring for our planet this Earth Day!

ED poster 1

Seeing the light of day – plastic bottles light up zinc-roofed homes in the Philippines

This is happening in Philippines and social entrepreneur Illac Diaz hope to brings this to other developing countries.

Thanks to Ng Bee Choo for the link.

See also “Illac Diaz: the Making of a Global Leader,”, 19 Mar 2008.

Exploring ways to improve our Plastic Karma: Electrolux’s Vac from the Sea

Vac from the Sea – Plastic parts of these vacuum cleaners below were made from plastic debris harvested from the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans and the Mediterranean, Baltic and North Seas.

“The vacuum cleaners embody the plastic paradox: oceans are full of plastic waste, yet on land there is a shortage of recycled plastic for producing sustainable vacuum cleaners. Electrolux makes Green Range vacuum cleaners from 70% recycled plastic, but wants to reach 100%.”

Vac form the Sea

They are on twitter

Confession of a former plastic bottle junkie

This is the confession of a former plastic bottle addict – I was drinking water regularly from disposable bottles which I would discard them every few days. Spoilt by the conveniences of a throwaway society, there was no excuse for my behavior.

In our current time, groups and organizations encourage this addiction, feeling the need to give out free bottles of water at events, conferences (yes, even environmental ones) and corporate functions. Hospitality at the expense of the environment.

A sea of plastic bottles on Singapore’s shores
Every year, during the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS), we get a glimpse of the tip of the iceberg problem with thousands of plastic bottles collected along our shores.

In the morning of 11th September 2010 alone, we collected 4,920 plastic bottles from various locations in Singapore. In another single cleanup at Sungei Seletar on 18th September 2010, 1,208 plastic bottles were taken off the shores! All this in clean Singapore? Plastic bottles, improperly disposed, certainly are the bane of our oceans and coastal ecosystems.

Plastic, plastic everywhere
Disposable plastic water bottles lining the shores of Sungei Seletar

A hazard to marine life
Plastic bottles pose a hazard to marine life. They can be mistaken as food by marine creatures and being non-biodegradable, they accumulate indefinitely – posing a permanent threat. The Wildlife Trusts estimated that in the UK alone, 177 species of reptiles, mammals and fish are at risk as a result of consuming litter at sea [see “Plastic waste threat to marine life,” by Juliette Jowit. The Observer, 16 Sep 2007]. Given its sheer volume, plastic is a significant threat in the ocea. Over a long period of time, plastic can break down into very small pieces which can enter the food chain. Even in Singapore waters, the microplastics are prevalent [Ng, K. L. & J. P. Obbard, 2006. Prevalence of microplastics in Singapore’s coastal marine environment. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 52(7): 761-767].

“How long ’til it’s gone?” (click to enlarge)

Bring your own water bottle?
Going cold turkey can be tough. I am the North East Zone Captain for the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore, yet I have been unable to eradicate plastic bottles completely from my life. I have often succumbed to a the allure of a old bottle of isotonic drink after a workout. While dining out, I try to avoid bottled drinks and my choices are reduced to water – which sometimes comes bottled! And all my favourite drinks which I have mostly given up, such as green teas and fruit juices, all come in pretty plastic bottles.

So how did I reform myself? Well, I simply bring my own water bottle wherever I go!

In Singapore, water out of our taps are safe for drinking! So why are we BUYING water in bottles?

Disposable plastic bottles should be an alternative rather than the standard option. That would reduce the unnecessary impact of manufacturing plastic bottles and reduce littering on our waterways drastically.

Organisers of outdoor events can contribute to this effort to retrain the masses by actively encouraging everyone to bring their own water. They need only keep an emergency supply at hand – we have exhorted ICCS organisers to do likewise and they are responsive.

There are more options indoors – meeting participants can be provided with reusable glasses and jugs of water or be asked to bring their own water. We can’t behave the way we did twenty years ago; our impact on the planet has been excessive!

And if you should drink from a plastic bottle, the least you can do is recycle it. Proper disposal is important for clean plastic water bottles are recycled in Singapore. Do make the effort to collect and dispose them properly in recycling bins – we really don’t want to see them wash up by the tide on our shores, near or far!

Recycling bins for the proper disposal of plastic bottles

Let’s drink to the good health of the oceans!

A year ago, I switched to carrying my trusty red water bottle wherever I go in the process, I no longer use a disposable plastic water bottle each week and have reduced my consumption by at least 52 plastic bottles. If we all doing this, think of our impact – or rather, our reduced impact!

While we drink to our good health, let us, in all good conscience, be able to raise our glasses to the good health of our oceans and seas too!

Article written in support of Blog Action Day

A Penny of My Thoughts: the Pasir Ris Beach 6 cleanup with the “Independents”

It is dawn over Pasir Ris. We must be early as we are racing against the tide. Pasir Ris Beach 6 (a.k.a No Man’s Land) will disappear under the rising seas by 11am.

Beach 6 is “No Man’s Land” not because no one is visiting it. But rather, no one is looking after it – even the few who visit do not take care of it.

Trash, mostly plastic bags and food wrappers, are scattered all over the beach and buried beneath a thin layer of sand. It is astounding to see such an amount! I wonder what it will take for visitors to the beach to bring their trash out to nearest bin, a minute’s walk away. Or for people on the adjacent lands to bin their trash instead of letting is fly away into adjacent waters.

My spirits were uplifted by the excellent job done by the Independent Sign-ups. Many thanks to Valerie, Jyothi, Subbiah, Boon Wee, Mindy, Mike, Swee Gek, Vivien, Yi Yong, Nicole, Pei Ern, Jia Hui, Jasmine, Sim Hong, Noemie, Heather, Anand, Kiat and Emma – they bent their backs with volunteers around the world to do their part for the planet!

The 21 of us collect, categorised and removed 360kg of debris in two hours. We did our best and know that we contributed to efforts to conserve marine life.

The site was just too dirty for us to finish. Even as we left, yet another plastic bottle floated in with the tide……

But we will be back, with even more help, once again.

Lim Chen Kee
Deputy Zone Captain,
ICCS Northeast Zone

[Ed’s note – Independents are individuals who sign up on their own, without an organisation and with little prompting for an event without fanfare, goodie bags, t-shirts or souvenirs and with only the promise of hard work and the satisfaction of their contribution. The ICCS Otters have a special affection for these individuals who find us each year, from all walks of life, to pitch in for a morning’s work.]

“The Majestic Plastic Bag”

The Majestic Plastic Bag” – Heal the Bay, 2010.

This article explains the motivation behind the video: “Heal The Bay releases mockumentary promoting legislation banning plastic bags in California,” by Steve La. LA Weekly Blogs, 16 Aug 2010.

A mockumentary released today by Heal the Bay aims to promote the passage of AB 1998, a state measure that would ban the single-use of plastic bags in retail stores in California, according to a release by the nonprofit.

Actor Jeremy Irons narrated the four-minute piece, dubbed “The Majestic Plastic Bag,” that follows a plastic bag’s journey from a supermarket parking lot to the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” in the Pacific Ocean.

The short film delivers a message of environmental conservation wrapped in comedic satire.

“Rather than lecturing the audience, we wanted to create a film that would capture people’s attention with humor,” stated Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay. “At the same time, we saw this as subversive way to make viewers realize the serious, far-reaching problem of single-use plastic bag pollution.

Around 19 billion plastic bags are used by Californians that amount to 123,000 tons of waste. Many bags end up in the ocean with less than five percent being recycled, according to Heal the Bay.

The bill is scheduled for a floor vote in the California Senate at the end of August. Governor Arnold Schwarzennegar has expressed support for it. If passed, California would be the first state to ban single-use plastic bags at retail locations.

Update, 31 Aug 2010 – “the state Senate failed Tuesday night, August 31, 2010, to approve AB 1998, the Heal the Bay-sponsored bill that would have barred the distribution of single-use plastic shopping bags at grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies statewide.” More at Heal the Bay.

Thanks to Tan Kai Xin for highlighting this on facebook earlier!

Visit to KK Asia Plastic Recycling (August 2006)

Amy Choong from Republic Polytechnic was asking me about plastic recycling in Singapore and I mentioned this email from Wong Yueat Tin, one of the ICCS Otters, from 2006. I reproduce it here and hope I can persuade her to do an update soon.

We were then looking into the feasibility of recycling out the plastics from our beach cleanups, some of which does come out pretty clean.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Wong Yueat Tin
Date: Wed, Aug 30, 2006 at 12:13 PM
Subject: Visit to KK Asia Plastic Recycling Factory
To: otterman

We will KIV the plastics recycling for our coastal cleanups, but here’s some relevant and interesting notes.

Huaqin and I went to KK Asia Plastic Recycling Factory (now under SembEnviro) yesterday to discuss the possibility of recycling plastics collected during our coastal cleanups. Since the factory washes the plastics it receives prior to processing them and that same water used is recycled, plastic items we bring to the factory must be free of sand. So we should either set aside only relatively clean plastics during the cleanup or we can set aside plastics and clean them after collection and before sending them to the factory.

Photos of the visit are posted on flickr.

The factory collects all sorts of plastics – according to Mr Anthony Mark Chong, plastics of the same family can be processed together (eg. HDPE and LDPE). The plastic bottles are washed and sheared into flakes, and can be made into pellets. Pellets are sold to Australia and processed to make irrigation pipes.

Plastic bottles are also processed into tubular form in China, which can then be stretched into polyester and made into clothes.

Styrofoam is compressed into brick form which is a material found in the interior of our disposable cutlery. A layer of prime plastic coats the disposable cutlery. So do not bite into them!

Plastic bags (films) are processed into pellets which can then be recycled into black trash bags. These recycled trashbags are sold at a cheaper rate (15 cents per piece) than virgin material (unlike paper).