‘Reduce waste and still have an enjoyable holiday?’ Possible, says MNS Marine Group

The MNS Marine Group, Selangor Branch reflected on their waste generation after a recent underwater cleanup in Perhentian Islands.

MNS Marine Group, Selangor Branch: Dive against debris? Strive against debris!

“While it was very satisfying collecting loads of trash in the Dive against Debris activity during the June (1-4) MNS Marine Group trip to Perhentian Island, the cynical part of us feels this movement is really just another excuse to scuba dive, and create more debris!

Let’s examine our own creations, just for this trip itself. What did we bring and consume? Really, for an island holiday, all you need are t-shirt and shorts. But so subsumed are we in consumerism that, for us, a holiday is not complete without bags of potato chips, 3-in-1 coffee packets, snack-sized chocolate bars, sweets, biscuits …”

They go on to list a few simple solutions.

It is heartening to see them do a self-audit and make suggestions. We hope this will evolve to a environmental code of conduct and checklist for all such trips in future.

Similarly, we need reminders too. At the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore, we asked the 70+ Organisers who signed up between Mar-Jul a few questions about their preparations for the international event in September:

  1. Are you cleaning and re-using your gloves?
  2. Are you re-using other equipment such as tongs, clipboards and banners?
  3. Are you supplying participants with bottled water?
  4. If providing food, are recyclable plates and utensils being used?

It’s time to examine the answers to provide a report card, which we will circulate to Organisers. Then see if we can encourage better practises through suggestions.

Thanks for the reminder MNS Marine Group!

Connecting urbanised youth with their natural heritage – Woodlands Ring Secondary School students reflect on the Sungei Loyang mangrove cleanup

03 Sep 2011 – As schools in Singapore close for the September break, about 50 students from Woodlands Ring Secondary School spent a meaningful Saturday morning at Sungei Loyang for the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS).

Each year, the Secondary Three Biology students kickstart their September holidays by doing their part for Mother Nature. This is the 11th year Woodlands Ring Secondary School has participated in the ICCS, led by Mr Jack Chong, HOD for Character and Citizenship Education, and assisted by former students who volunteer year after year to guide their juniors.

Most of the students were coming face to face with a mangrove habitat and its biodiversity for the first time – hence the event provides a platform to connect our urbanised younger generation back to nature.

Here are excerpts of some of the students’ reflections:

“I feel that ICCS is a meaningful programme as it enables us to know more about our environment, as we are living in a developed area. In this way, we can have a more holistic education and we can learn about taking care of what Mother Nature has entrusted to us. Initially, I did not like the idea of ICCS. After going through the process, I have learnt to enjoy the activity and learn about the importance of our environment.” – Camilia Koh Ching Wen

“I felt that the whole programme was relatively tiring, but it was worthwhile. I also came close to a real swamp life as I saw the habitat of mud lobsters and many seagrasses. Overall, the trip was an eye-opener and was meaningful.” – Azizul Hakim Bin Mohamad Said

“Before the cleanup, I felt very sad to see rubbish cluttered all over the mangrove and the strong stench from the litter made me even more depressed. I knew that I had to play my part as a concerned citizen to clean the mangrove and to preserve the wildlife. However, I had a great sense of satisfaction when I saw all the rubbish being cleared up and seeing the mangrove so clean once again. As a Biology student, I can help to raise awareness of the public and organise more projects to clean these areas more often.” – Matthew A/L Kumar

“When I heard that we will be going for the cleanup, I was pretty bummed about the trip as I knew it was going to be hot and tiring. However, on the actual cleanup, due to my stomach upset, I was unable to help with the picking up of trash and was instead assigned to help weighing and loading the trash. It gave me time to chat with some of the assistants which made me realise such cleanups are important as the amount of trash has been increasing each year. Thus my initial view changed and I now feel that such cleanups are very meaningful.” – Ong Qian Wei

“I felt that the cleanup of the mangrove is a once in a lifetime experience and this trip also made me realise the importance of decreasing the amount of pollution, as this will greatly affect the animals’ natural habitats and it will spoil the natural beauty of the environment. I am glad that ICCS provided my schoolmates and I a chance to experience and learn more about our natural environment. After the cleanup, I felt that I contributed in my own way and I am proud of myself. I hope that there will be more of such learning journeys” – Cheong Wee Kee

– Chua Yi Teng, Biology teacher, Woodlands Ring Secondary School.

From Student Participant to Volunteer Site Captain

Data cards? Checked. Gloves? Checked. Transport arrangements? Checked.  I was going through my checklist, determined not to make a fool out of myself in front of 30 ICCS volunteers from the European Union and NUS University Scholars Programme the next morning.

Having volunteered with Toddycats (nature and environment volunteers with the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, NUS) at Pandan and Lim Chu Kang Mangroves, and with Nature Society Singapore at Kranji Mudflats, I was now roped in to take on a larger role in one of Singapore’s largest environmental conservation programmes – International Coastal Cleanup Singapore.

It was not just about picking up marine trash anymore. It was about taking the driver’s seat (ok maybe not that of an 80-seater coach); organizing, communicating and executing. The cleanup site (Pulau Ubin Ketam Beach 3) was recced about a week before to ensure that every possible glitch could be avoided.

But of course plans are seldom carried out seamlessly. I was greeted with an enthusiastic bunch of participants and everything went smoothly until a minor hiccup during the briefing at our cleanup site. I did not brief the participants adequately enough to hold their attention for long (or they were just too excited to start the cleanup!). Fortunately, Siva’s (ICCS coordinator) timely interjections made my first experience as site captain a great one.

‘Oops..did I miss something out?’

Everyone went home with bright smiles on their faces knowing that they did something for their environment. And you know it is a decent first job done when you receive an email from one of the volunteers after the cleanup saying ‘Thanks so much for babysitting us, and for being such a great site captain! :)’.

Phew.

Trina Chua
Site Captain, Ketam Beach 3
ICCS Ubin West Zone

“The Earth’s Call,” by Julienne Reblora

“The Earth’s Call,” by Julienne Reblora, Hougang Sec Red Cross Unit

All my life, I’ve never seen a polluted beach. All the beaches I have ever seen were in beach resorts which are kept clean by hired help. As a volunteer with the International Coastal Cleanup, however, our school’s Red Cross Unit gave me the opportunity to be part of the all the beach cleaning action.

Initially, we only found bits and pieces of styrofoam. Penetrating deeper into the swampy area, however, my golly, you wouldn’t believe it – we discovered a LOT of styrofoam had been washed into the mangrove! My group got very excited as the day progressed because we found more and more styrofoam and the pieces got bigger and bigger. Engrossed in the activity, we wanted to finish collecting it all, but a lot of styrofoam was stuck in inaccessible areas.

We gathered all our debris and recorded the weight and the number of pieces collected. Other trash items included barrels, fish nets, plastics and so on. It was surprising to see that beaches are polluted by so much trash.

This experience opened my eyes to what’s happening around me. We are so preoccupied with unnecessary things – don’t forget that there’s a world out there that needs attention. It needs our help. We were the ones that brought bad changes to the environment, but we are also the hope for a better and cleaner world. The Earth is the only inhabitable planet. The future lies in our hands.

Let us work together to make a difference; this is the best gift we can give to Mother Earth, who has sustained us and nurtured us for a long time. Change in the society starts in each one of us, so do your part!

“A meaningful cleanup,” Bernice Seow

“A meaningful cleanup,” Bernice Seow, Hougang Sec Red Cross Unit
I was expecting the usual pick-up-litter-only-to-get-the-beach-dirtied-less-than-one-hour-later community involvement project. However, this was clearly different – for starters, it was a mangrove cleanup at Lim Chu Kang mangrove and not an East Coast beach cleanup. And we weren’t only going to pick litter but collate data too! 

This last aspect of the cleanup made it a more meaningful activity than normal – by collecting data on the amount and type of debris accumulating at the mangrove, the people with the ICCS programme will figure out the most common material or type of litter thrown.

This will enable the individual to take action and educate the public on the harms of littering. This include the destruction of natural habitats and unfortunate incidents of unsuspecting animals devouring these rubbish and falling sick!

It took a lot of hard work ( and an entire morning! ) to pick up most of the debris there, but it sure was worth it!

“A rubbish dump instead of a beach!” By Chan Wen Xin

“A rubbish dump instead of a beach!” By Chan Wen Xin, Hougang Sec Red Cross Unit

Lim Chu Kang mangrove swamp was littered with different kinds of rubbish. My group collected a total of 842 pieces of styrofoam when we ran out of time – but there was still more to collect!

Can you imagine what will happen if this large amount of rubbish lay uncollected year after year? We would have a rubbish dump instead of a beach!

We can do our part to reduce the amount of litter dispose of, choose to pack our food with reusable lunch boxes and use own recycled bags instead of plastic bags.

Fishermen could be educated not to dispose of their fishing nets by just leaving them on the beach or swamp area. I think we could all work harder to keep mother earth a cleaner place. 🙂

“The extent of man’s imprudence,” by Ian Tan

“The extent of man’s imprudence,” Ian Tan (HS Red Cross Unit)

I have been blissfully unaware, or perhaps ignorant, as to the extent of man’s imprudence. Now, I am aware. And one short trip to the beach was al it took.

When I arrived at the beach, my first impression was ‘’It’s filthy with dead plants and crabs…’’ I soon learned, however, that the filth did not come merely from dead carcasses of beach animals and rotting logs. No, the problem lay far deeper than that. Upon closer inspection, me and my fellow cadets found traces of man’s ‘’work’’ lying all around us.

Our mission? To collate data of what kind of trash could be found on the beach, to see what materials made up most of the trash. Plastic, styrofoam, glass – all these had to be collected. Armed with gloves and trash bags, we set off, and my group sure found a lot of styrofoam!

When you aren’t looking for trash, you tend to ignore it. When you are looking for it, you suddenly realise how much of it there is. That was exactly what happened. I was left shell-shocked at the scene – discarded plastic bottles and bags, shredded styrofoam boxes covering the expanse of the beach and more. What shook me to the core was a tree. A mangrove tree.

Discarded fishing nets had found their way to the beach where the nets got entangled with the roots of the tree. Over time, as the tree grew, and more fishing lines washed up on the beach, the nets and ropes became embedded and tangled with the mangrove roots. As I lent a helping hand in extricating the nets which were choking the roots, my surprise doubled – there metres-long worth of nets and ropes with some embedded so deep into the plant, it was impossible to pull out! That was when I woke to the true implications of man’s destruction – it had been going on for so long, the results were devastating.

Five of us working together did so little to help the plant. An hour’s work didn’t even clear a quarter of what lay entangled within its roots. But yet, it made me feel so much better, that I had contributed in helping the tree breathe more easily and that the beach looked a lot cleaner than when we first started.

I feel that activities like this truly help to open our eyes to the harshness of reality. It brings us out of our comfort zone and shows us the bitter truth—that our world is dying, and it is dying fast. Not only does this kind of activities help with team bonding, it helps the environment, and this single activity may have given the beach a longer lifespan.

I feel very happy that I have been able to help the world, even if what I did is only a millionth of a fraction compared to what others do. I feel that we should do this more, as it has been said ‘’A little difference can set in motion a chain of events that can either destroy, or save this world’’.

I opt to have the difference do the latter. We can’t stop global warming, but we can slow it, for the sake of the next generation. They did nothing to deserve a life filled with misery and hardships physically. But all of this starts with that very small effort to help the world.