CHOKED

Goal 14 target: By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution.

– United Nations

We have journeyed to the deep oceans to appreciate the importance of sustainable fishing and then proceed to make our way back to Singapore shores. However, the journey has not exactly been smooth-sailing.

It is not uncommon to find plastic trash choking up our precious oceans. Worldwide, about 19 billion pounds of plastic waste gets washed up in the oceans every year due to the indiscriminate dumping and mismanagement of waste (Mosbergen, 2017). On a smaller scale, the plastic bag that you have just littered could have made its way into the drain and down the canal before eventually reaching the sea.

The impacts that plastic has on the oceans are disturbing. Bigger animals such as dolphins drown when they get entangled with plastic waste. Sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish food and end up dying (wildsingapore, 2009). Furthermore, being non-biodegradable, plastic remains in the oceans for a long time and over time break down into smaller pieces, which get ingested by smaller animals and goes up the food chain (wildsingapore, 2009). Besides worrying about the sustainability of the fish that ends up on your dinner plate, it may do you good to search for microplastic hidden in the fish’s guts. Which is near impossible.

We finally landed on a Chek Jawa coast off Singapore to continue our learning journey… only to be greeted with unsightly trash.

Marine litter also often gets washed up on shores, and Singapore unfortunately is not immune to this problem. Once an idyllic landscape, the shore is now dotted with trash washed up during high tide. On 9 September, I went to Chek Jawa for a coastal clean-up project together with my fellow course mates and students from Bedok South Secondary. Trash vary in all shapes and sizes, from the ubiquitous plastic straw to an enormous vehicle tyre. For the record, we picked up 438kg of waste, with plastic unsurprisingly forming the bulk of the waste. This experience just serves to highlight the importance of reducing our marine trash, and how we can all play our part in keeping our environment truly clean and green. As I have mentioned before, together as one, we can make a positive difference to our environment. Never assume that the lone individual is powerless in making a change.

Here are some photos taken during the coastal clean-up project. Enjoy, and till next time!

Jun Yu

References

Dominique Mosbergen (2017, May 12). The Oceans Are Drowning In Plastic, And No One’s Paying Attention. HuffPost. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/plastic-waste-oceans_us_58fed37be4b0c46f0781d426

Marine debris, Killer litter. (December 2009). Wildsingapore. Retrieved from http://www.wildsingapore.com/wildfacts/concepts/litter.htm

Credit of the photos taken goes to the NUS BES committee.

8 thoughts on “CHOKED

  1. Hello Jun Yu!

    I blogged about how detrimental microbeads are on marine life. It is true that we should start worrying about microplastics being in our fish sources as some of the excess refined used water from NEWater are released into the sea and the microplastics may travel towards Malaysia and Indonesia where we obtain our fishes.

    Cheers! (Coastal clean up was fun!!!)
    Amanda

  2. Hi Amanda! We should indeed be reducing plastic waste and ensure that the waste gets properly disposed of. The thought of having plastic in your body, however small the amount, is rather uncomfortable and disturbing!

  3. Hi Jun Yu,

    It is disturbing to see first-hand the amount of trash washed up on the shores of Chek Jawa. I can only imagine that of other shores to be far greater than our tiny island.
    Personally, I feel that such clean-up efforts are merely scraping the surface of indiscriminate disposal of trash into the ocean. It would be difficult to enforce laws and policies to curtail such acts from happening in my opinion. As such, do you agree that the issue of marine pollution will never be solved?

    Keith

    1. Hi Keith!

      As much as I hope to see the problem of indiscriminate trash disposal being tackled head-on, I will have to be pessimistic and agree that cleaning up all of the marine litter will be immensely difficult, if not nearly impossible. Take a look at this article, which highlights the sheer magnitude of the problem.

      http://www.straitstimes.com/world/united-states/38-million-bits-of-plastic-waste-found-on-remote-south-pacific-island

      There is no escaping plastic pollution. Even uninhabited remote islands are not spared. It will be challenging to gather many people to make a trip down to the island for a mass clean-up, and what good will that be, if more plastic continue to wash up every single day should humans continue to be selfish in polluting our oceans and islands. That is why I will have to agree with Bing Jun that we should address the pollution problem at its very source to prevent plastic from entering the oceans in the first place.

      But does that mean that we should give up in despair? Obviously not, otherwise planet Earth will be sick in perpetuity. The recent coastal clean-up may seem insignificant when you compare the amount of trash being washed up worldwide, but at least we make a huge difference to that one coast by keeping it as clean as possible. More importantly, such efforts also serve as an excellent hands-on activity to educate the younger generation about the importance of keeping the environment clean.

      Jun Yu

  4. Hello Jun Yi! While coastal cleanups are a noble gesture, I do feel they may be misguided. After all, most of the problems with marine litter come when the litter is actually in the marine environment, and the litter that is washed up on the shore is but a symptom of the actual problem. Would it not then be better to address the marine litter problem at its source, or possibly remove the litter when it is still in the sea?
    -BJ

  5. Hi Jun Yu! I agree with you that it is definitely impossible for individuals to make a difference in clearing the trash within the sea. While coastal cleanups are effective ways to get the public involved in cleaning trash and be aware of the problem of trash in the sea, there is still the vast majority of the population who are not part of the cleanup. Are there any other ways that we can involve more people?
    – Gabriel

    1. Hi Gabriel!

      Besides coastal cleanups, education is another great tool to inform people of the wider impacts of marine trash. Since some of the marine trash also come from land litter, we can also get residents to pick up trash within their neighbourhood, another hands-on activity. Some grassroots organisations have organised such clean-up events before, which should continue to be encouraged.

      Jun Yu

  6. Hi Junyu
    I totally agree with you that “impacts that plastic has on the oceans are disturbing”. There is a particular video on youtube that is extremely heart-wrenching to me in my opinion and it is about removing a plastic straw out of a turtle’s nostril!

    Here’s the link to the video: https://youtu.be/d2J2qdOrW44

    Say no to plastic waste!

    – WeiTiong

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