Plastic recycling is just not economically attractive enough to be a solution

Marcus Tay from International Coastal Cleanup, Singapore (ICCS) visited the Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL) Singapore base for one of their regular ‘Lunch & Learn’ sessions, on Tuesday, 4th September, to share on International Coastal Cleanup and what marine trash has got to do with each one of us.

About 30 staff turned up and boy, was it an eye-opening session for some! The pictures and videos shown were indeed worth a thousand words. Marcus began by showing us a trailer of “Midway” – it was moving, to say the least. See it here:

During the session, more than a few got to find out that there are indeed marine life here in Singapore.

After all, everyone loves baby turtles! And who can forget, the “Olympics” monitor lizards competing in Judo!

Marcus also shared video excerpts by Capt. Charles Moore on the seas of plastic, who uses the iconic term “plastic soup” to describe our ocean today. One particular slide on the bioaccumulation cycle stood out.

On International Coastal Cleanup, Marcus shared the why the cleanup is more than cleanup – data collection. It was heartening to see a map of so many concurrent Cleanups that will take place these few weekends throughout Singapore!

One of the take-aways was what personal action we can take as an individual. Marcus was compelling in asking all to help solve the plastics waste problem at source: to only use what you really need.

Only this is the real solution as even plastic recycling has its own issues: It is not as easily recyclable as compared to aluminium and glass due to its low melting point.

OSRL Singapore has been taking part in the International Coastal Cleanup since 2008 and was at Tanah Merah site1-2 last Saturday, 8 September 2012. It was a first-time experience for a number of the staff and most cannot believe how much trash we pollute our recreational beach with. Needless to say, it was a tiring but well-spent morning. J

By Jeannie Kwara from Oil Spill Response Limited

“Marine Life & Trash in our Seas” Talk for first cohort of Frontier Primary School

We were approached by an enthusiastic Mr Zainal Haron from the new Frontier Primary School who wanted to expose their pioneer batch of students to environmental issues at a young age. The school had only just accepted their first batch of 240 primary one students this year and they even have their own blog!

Frontier Pri School- Brand new school which was opened in 2012 (Photo by Jocelyne Sze)

Luckily for us, Jocelyne Sze, ICCS Manpower Captain, who was in-between trips was back in Singapore and managed to conduct the 8am morning assembly talk on 6th August 2012, Monday.

Jocelyne introduced many local marine wildlife to the children and made them realize that several of the marine organisms seen in movies (eg. Nemo) and cartoons (Spongebob and Patrick) can also be found in Singapore. She also showed photos and videos of our more charismatic animals like turtles, dolphins, otters and even monitor lizards which captured their attention.

At the end of the talk, Jocelyne told the students how they can make a difference to the marine environment such as reusable bottles as their water bottles instead of disposable ones.

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We all have our reuseable bottles, what about you? (Photo taken by staff of Frontier Pri School)

Lastly, in order to encourage interaction, she brought along some of her very own aquatic soft toys to get students to participate in an animal ID quiz and if they could be found in Singapore! The students looked like they had great fun learning about Singapore’s marine biodiversity, threats and how they can help to reduce marine trash!

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The kids enjoyed the quiz (Photo taken by staff of Frontier Pri School)

Well done Jocelyne! For more details, you can read all about her impressions of her  journey to the West in her blog!

Assembly talk – 400 Nanyang Primary students learn about marine life in Singapore!

Some 400 Primary Five students at Nanyang Primary School had a different sort of assembly on the 23rd July 2012, Monday. This was during Green Week 2012 and a special time in the year where teachers could arrange for guest speakers.

I was all setup with five minutes to go and the primary five students streamed in to the assembly hall for an ICCS talk on local marine biodiversity, threats and how each person can make a difference.


Students filling up the assembly hall

Throughout the talk, there was a healthy level of response from the students. Many were fascinated by photos of marine organisms that could be found on our shores. The group was also mesmerised by the video of the baby turtles scrambling out to sea and the wrestling monitor lizards in our mangroves!

I was bombarded with questions from the floor about each of the animals that I talked about. and on cue, before I talked about the threat of ghost nets killing our precious horseshoe crabss in the mudflats, one of the students walked up to me to ask,” Why do you need a pair of scissors when you are inside the mangrove?” .

During the section about threats to marine life, I showed them Chris Jordan’s Midway Trailer Which has great impact in conveying the severity of man’s impact.


Start of the ICCS Talk

At this point, some students hid their plastic bottles -these had bottle caps similar to the ones found in the bodies of the dead young albatrosses! GReat awareness that an innocent item in the wrong place can be harmful to the planet.

During the more sober atmosphere which followed the trailer, I ended as usual with some suggestions about simple ways in which we can reduce our use of single-use plastics, and by now, the familiar 3Rs had a greater significance – and everyone can make a difference!

It is always heartening when we can go down to talk to students about Singapore’s marine biodiversity and the threats ecosystems and animals face here and elsewhere. With awareness, students can be motivated to make a difference to the planet.

Join us at the “Conserving our Biodiversity Symposium”, Festival of Biodiversity (26-27 May 2012)

Find out more about all the events at the first Festival of Biodiversity in Singapore at the Singapore Botanic Gardens (Tanglin Gate), 26-27 May 2012 at!

Earth Day celebrations – Sea Grass Angel Jocelyne Sze speaks at Queenstown Primary School!

As part of Earth Day celebrations this week, Jocelyne Sze the ICCS Manpower Captain aka “Sea Grass Angel”, spoke to students at Queenstown Primary School today.

She discovered for herself just how excitable primary school children every time we show them an animal from Singapore’s marine ecosystems! Their chatter is frenetic but it is exactly the effect we are hoping for!

Read about her experience on her blog at “Nature rambles“.

nature rambles


Earth Day 2012 celebration by ICCS team:

  1. 19 Apr 2012 – “Earth Day celebrations by ICCS begin with Maxine Mowe delivering our talk, “Life and Trash in the Sea”” – link
  2. 20 Apr 2012 – “I Think, I Care, I Act – reflections from 15 years of battling marine trash in Singapore” – link
  3. 23 Apr 2012 – “Earth Day celebrations – Sea Grass Angel Jocelyne Sze speaks at Queenstown Primary School!” – (this post)
  4. 28 Apr 2012 – Earth Day Coastal Cleanup @ Tanah Merah – a call to Organisations to hit the beach on Sat 28 Apr 2012 – link – update: report

Sivasothi on “I Think, I Care, I Act – reflections from 15 years of battling marine trash in Singapore”

At 2pm today, I will give a talk in in conjunction with the second Youth for Environment Day (YED) for MOE schools. The talk will be held at one of four key satellite schools, ACS (Independent). In attendance will be some 400 students from participating schools.

The actual date of YED is Earth Day which is on 22 April 2012.

This is one of four events which Raffles Museum Toddycats are marking Earth Day with. Maxine Mowe, recovered from her sore thoat to speak at her alma mater on Wednesday. Jocelyne Sze will speak at Queenstown Primary on Monday and next Saturday is the Earth Day Cleanup at Tanah Merah.

I’ll have to sort out a new narrative for this talk in the morning. More emphasis on action in our daily life, for example, as that will tie in neatly to their workshops happening after the talk. Ria Tan of WildSingapore pointed them my way after her Green Drinks talk.

“I Think, I Care, I Act – reflections from 15 years of battling marine trash in Singapore”

N. Sivasothi aka Otterman
International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Abstract – biologist N. Sivasothi aka Otterman fell in love with the shores of Singapore which are home to amazing creatures like horseshoe crabs, mudskippers, monitor lizards, crocodiles, otters, turtles and dolphins. The trash on the shore was shocking and concerned, he began coordinating the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore.

Over a decade later with a dedicated team and the efforts of some 4,000 volunteers from more than 60 organisations and schools, the source of the problem is now also fought in our homes – the biggest culprit is single use disposable plastic and a lack of awareness about the impact of our lifestyle on every corner of this precious earth. “

Originally posted at Otterman speaks….

Earth Day celebrations by ICCS begin with Maxine Mowe delivering our talk, “Life and Trash in the Sea”

Earth Day falls on 22nd April 2012. and ICCS Otters will mark the date with a few simple contributions. Two talks will be conducted before Earth Day, while a third talk as well as an Earth Day cleanup the week after.

For the first of three talks, I roped in Department of Biological Sciences graduate student Maxine Mowe. She is an effervescent sort and once I learnt she was alumni of Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ) Toa Payoh, , I was glad to have her go back instead. Despite a busy schedule, she agreed readily.

She had a great time, but she did have a bout of nervousness the night before!

Speaking for the planet

Maxine Mowe reflects:

“Going back to give a talk in the very school that I graduated from thirteen years ago was surreal and nerve-wrecking at the same time.

When Siva first asked me to give a talk about marine life in Singapore and the threat of marine trash, I was excited. For this is a topic close to my heart since I was eleven and here was an opportunity to share this message with IJ girls of that age. It was a simple one caring for the environment is important to protect what we have and maybe even regain what we have lost.


Facing a crowd of 1,000-plus little IJ girls in uniform, I couldn’t help but feel happy and excited! During the talk., they were so responsive that their yelling of answers and excited chatter had me wait on them a couple of times. All this reminded me what it was like to be their age again.

I engaged their attention by asking them questions and they thought about those, and got involved with responses. I was very impressed at the level of understanding and the compassion these little girls had for the environment, especially when I showed them pictures of how our trash is harming our marine life.

Maxine enthralls

IJ girls agog, listening to their super senior!

I bring my own bottle!

Maxine with her former teachers

The icing on the cake came later – I was told by one of the girl’s grandmothers (an ex-teacher of mine) that hr granddaughter, upon questioning, shared the take home message of proper trash disposal and telling others not to litter. I sure was glad the message got through!

Strolling in to this school to tell little girls to care for the environment may not be a big occasion to many people. I on the other hand, had come from this school and sat in these halls. The importance of the occasion was clear and even made me nervous the night before. It was indeed a momentus occasion to deliver this one talk about marine life.

It could shape their future thoughts and actions, and is huge for me to be able to do this., and I was happy to contribute to this effort for our planet!”

“Once an IJ girl, always an IJ girl!”

“Thanks for the opportunity Siva!”

Not at all, thank YOU Maxine and Happy Earth Day!

VJC IP students learn about local marine life, threats & how to make a difference!

Eighteen Victoria Junior College Integrated Programme (VJC IP) students who have chosen Marine Biology as their elective learnt about Singapore’s marine biodiversity, threats and how they can make a difference when I turned at the college to give a lecture.

I was raring to go to showcase our local marine biodiversity after tweaking slides from my first exciting ICCS talk experience in 2011 for the Singapore American School Middle School.

18 students & teacher (Eric Lim) listening to stories of marine biodiversity, threats & how every effort counts!

The small group this time afforded opportunities for interaction and queries – the students were intrigued by the identities of sea stars, sea urchins and fishes I displayed and constantly excited, were having quite a lot of conversations with their peers. More time was spent on every single animal or issue raised and I also inserted in two short video clips this time – the release of turtle hatchlings at East Coast Park in August 2005 and the TED talk given by Captain Charles Moore in 2009 about the threat of plastics in our oceans!

Who doesn't love the video of baby turtles returning to the ocean?

I was pleasantly surprised when 1.5 hours passed by so quickly. This talk certainly helped expose these young students to the great diversity of marine organisms we have in our own backyard, the threats faced by the marine environment and how each individual can change their own actions and use their own influence to spread awareness to their others.

Priceless expressions on students' faces during the talk

Thanks to VJC teachers, Eric Lim and June Tan for extending their invitation for us to come and share our knowledge to these small group of interested students. Special thanks goes to Benjamin Tan, our newly elected Tanah Merah Zone Captain who came by to give support and also took all the photos!

“Marine Life in Singapore and the Impact of Man” – Sat 27 Aug 2011: 9am-11am @ NUS LT25

The annual ICCS Briefing will feature the following talks:

“Marine life in Singapore” and “The impact of marine debris” by N. Sivasothi.

In addition the operations of the International Coastal Cleanup will be discussed and what the data collected tells us.

Saturday 27 Aug 2011: 9.00am – 11.00am
Lecture Theatre 25, Faculty of Science
(next to the Science Canteen)
National University of Singapore

All are welcome, even if you are not part of ICCS – we have plenty of space in the LT. Just register by going to:

What it takes to coordinate the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Coordinating some 75 organsations who bring more than 4,000 volunteers to the beaches and mangroves of Singapore for the International Coastal Cleanup does take some effort! It is carried out by the volunteer team of ICCS Otters who have been at this for anything from one to 15 years!

This is because coordination goes well beyond answering and sending emails.

We walk the ground to ensure coastal sites receive adequate attention, explore new areas previously neglected or newly opened, match suitable organisers to specific areas and prepare organisations for a safe, efficient, educational and green cleanup and place motivated Site Buddies amongst various groups. We are determined that people who hit the beach know what and why they are collecting data about trash on shores that day and want to something about it thereafter.

And, of course, ensure everything is well coordinated.

Here are most of the dates when we were busy, excluding training of new appointment holders, exploratory recces, meetings with new Organisers, helping to setup year-round cleanups here and overseas and enhancing special programmes.

By spacing out our calendar, we have manage to maintain our sanity somewhat – everyone has a day job which, typically in Singapore, often extends into the night – necessitating late night exchanges! The mix of veterans and newbies in the coordinating ICCS Otters team keeps the management of this 20-year programme on track.

In the midst of it all, this year, we conducted the IAVE Workshop for youth and the National Day Cleanup! In other years, we have setup cleanups in Bintan and Penang – and the latter is still ongoing!

What keeps us going beyond our personal motivation are the many people who chip in to help in small ways. The feedback from volunteers or Organisers. The feeling on a daily basis that we are chipping away at the ills of the environment.

Best of all, it’s meeting motivated Organisers who work hard at planning a meaningful event with follow up action. We do want them to have the support of like-minded people in their efforts to help protect the planet!

Meetings 2011

  1. Thu 17 Feb 2011 – N. Sivasothi review w/Lim Chen Kee & Andy Dinesh [Phase 0 – Design]
  2. Sat 19 Mar 2011 – 1st ICCS Otter meeting: Planning [Phase I – Plan]
  3. Sat 21 May 2011 – 2nd ICCS Otters meeting: Review site allocations [Phase II]
  4. Thu 02 Jun 2011 – N. Sivasothi meets with Zone Captains
  5. Fri 03 Jun 2011 – N. Sivasothi meets with Zone Captains
  6. Mon 04 Jul 2011 – 3rd ICCS Otters Meeting: Preparatory Discussion for Organisers Workshop [Phase III – Prep]
  7. Sat 20 Aug 2011 – 4th ICCS Otters Meeting: Review and confirm site allocations [Phase IV – Execute]
  8. Sat 17 Sep 2011 – International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (AM) / Data processing (PM)
  9. Fri 30 Sep 2011 – 5th ICCS Otters Meeting: Debrief (evening) [Phase V – Reflect]

Registrations, 2011

  • 21 Mar 2011 – Veteran Organisation registration open
  • 23 May 2011 – Registration for Organisers open
  • 23 May 2011 – Registration for Site Buddies open
  • 08 Aug 2011 – Registration for Independent Volunteers open

Talks/Workshops, 2011

  • Singapore American Middle School, 31 May 2011 – Xu Weiting & N. Sivasothi.
  • Talk to NVPC volunteers (NVPC), 01 Jul 2011
  • ICCS Workshop, 09 Jul 2011 – ICCS Otters
  • ICCS Workshop for OBS Instructors (PUlau Ubin), 16 Aug 2011 – N. Sivasothi
  • Raffles Girls School (RGS), 23 Aug 2011 – N. Sivasothi
  • ICCS Briefing, 27 Aug 2011 – ICCS Otters

Recce Trips, 2011


  • Kranji East mangrove, 12 Mar 2011 – N. Sivasothi, Lee Bee Yan, Andy Dinesh w/Organisers Steve Early and Martha Began. [link]
  • Kranji East mangrove and Sungei Buloh WR West mangrove, 08 Jun 2011 – N. Sivasothi, Kate Thome, Mendis Tan and Desmond Lee. [link]
  • Lim Chu Kang beach and mangrove and Lim Chu Kang East mangrove, 16 Jul 2011 – N. Sivasothi, Jessica Ker, Yang Yi Yong with Organisers Vionna Luah, He Miao & Derek Ang. [link]


  • Sembawang, Selimang, Sungei Seletar, Punggol, 03 Apr 2011 – Ng Kai Scene, Lim Chen Kee & Cheong Wei Siong. [link]
  • Pasir Ris, 09 Apr 2011 – Ng Kai Scene, Lim Chen Kee & Cheong Wei Siong. [link]
  • Sungei Seletar, 03 Jun 2011 – Lim Chen Kee w/Organiser, Pei Hwa Secondary
  • Sungei Tampines, 04 Jun 2011 – Ng Kai Scene and Andy Dinesh
  • Pulau Serangoon, 22 Jun 2011 – N. Sivasothi, Jessica Ker, Meryl Theng, Lee Bee Yan & Eileen Chia (NParks) [link]
  • Pasir Ris Site 6, 30 Jul 2011 – Ng Kai Scene w/Organiser, CHIJ Katong Convent
  • Sembawang Park, 14 Aug 2011 – Cheong Wei Siong w/Organiser, Standard Chartered Bank, MEWR,
  • Selimang Park, 14 Aug 2011 – Cheong Wei Siong w/Organiser, NVPC
  • Sungei Seletar, 20 Aug 2011 – Lim Chee Kee w/Organiser, LTA

Pulau Ubin

  • Pulau Ubin, 23 April 2011 – Teo Kah Ming, Kok Oi Yee and Ng Kai Scene
  • Chek Jawa, 8 May 2011 – Teo Kah Ming and Marcus Tay
  • Pulau Ubin western shores, 21 Jun 2011 – N. Sivasothi and Chua Li Shan. [link]
  • Chek Jawa, 25 June 2011 – Teo Kah Ming, Kok Oi Yee, Rachael Li w/Alan Tan (NParks)
  • Chek Jawa, 23 July 2011 – Teo Kah Ming, Andy Dinesh, w/Organiser from Blacks Rugby Football Club, NPCC HQ, Sukyo Mahikari Singapore, SAF Transport Hub East and Otis Elevator
  • Pulau Ubin, 24 July 2011 – Athena Han w/Organises from IBM PDL, Maris Stella High School (Primary) Green Ambasadors & ODEAC Club


  • Changi, 8th May 2011 – Jocelyne Sze, Marcus Tay & Teo Kah Ming

East Coast/ Tanah Merah

  • Tanah Merah, 17 May 2011 – Cai Hongxia, Xu Weiting, Lee Bee Yan & Andy Dinesh
  • East Coast, 26 May 2011 – Cai Hongxia & Xu Weiting
  • Tanah Merah Sites 8 & 9, 7 Aug 2011 – Andy Dinesh, Gail Stubber (ANZA), Tom Maertens (AECOM), Rowena Zhang & Flynn Tan (NVPC)
  • Tanah Merah Site 7, 14 Aug 2011 – Andy Dinesh, Cai Hongxia, Mary-Ann Khoo & Iqbal (NVPC), Kwek Chik Khoon (ITE College East) & AJ (SUVEC)


  • Pandan Mangrove, 13 May 2011 – Kelly Ong [link]
  • Pandan Mangrove, 24 Jul 2011 – Kelly Ong & Andy Dinesh.
  • Pandan Mangrove, 25 Jul 2011 – N. Sivasothi.