“No water, no life. No blue, no green.” —Sylvia Earle
Oceans are the origin of lives as well as the key to sustain them, yet the most polluted area is the very ocean. The immense amount of waste being discharged or dumped in the oceans everyday threaten marine ecosystems, and push these fragile ecosystems closer and closer to extinction. As of now, plastic pollution remain as one of the greatest threats to marine life – with over 250,000 tonnes of plastic already floating on the ocean surface, and being transported globally by circulating gyres (Eriksen et al., 2014). In Singapore, our disposal of more than 3 billion plastic bags a year (Reyes, 2013) contribute to such problems nearer to home.
Fortunately, awareness on marine pollution has increased over time, resulting in conservation efforts to recover and preserve marine ecosystems. One such effort is the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) that organizes frequent field trips to help keeping beaches of Singapore free from pollution. This year, the NUS Bachelor of Environmental Studies student committee collaborated with Bedok South Secondary South on a very special ICCS project at Chek Jawa Wetland, Pulau Ubin. A total of 39 BES students and 34 Bedok South Secondary School students participated in picking up marine litter along the protected area. Within an hour, more than 400 kg of marine litter – ranging from water drums to many, many, many plastic bags – were collected. It was both relieving yet heart- sinking for everyone to see a sheer amount of trash being collected. However, the silver lining was definitely the rare chance of being able to observe inter-tidal organisms in the protected area of Chek Jawa.
Here are what some of our participants had to say about the clean-up:
Jun Yu, Year 1:
“ ICCS is an interesting experience for me. Honestly, i just signed up for fun, and why not, since this is my first time participating in such an event. Marine litter is a widespread problem and this experience just serves to highlight how we can all play a part in reducing our marine trash and keep our environment clean. Incidentally, I have written a blog post about marine trash, do check it out for more information.
And if you ever got stuck in quicksand, trust Google and lie flat on your back, and tell me if it works.”
Chee Weng, Year 3:
“ I had an awesome time during the coastal cleanup. It was a great opportunity for me to mingle with the y1 juniors and to interact with the students from bds. I was very inspired by everyone’s hard work and enthusiasm despite having to wake up early in the morning. Kudos to everybody who participated in the cleanup! It was fun and enriching, and I can’t wait for the next one already!”
Alfie Tan Shi Ying, BDS student:
“The coastal clean-up trip to Chek Jawa has really been an eye-opening experience for the class. It made me realised how much we are destroying the precious Earth that we are living on. We were surprised to pick up numerous plastics existing in many forms, plastic bottles, styrofoam pieces, fishing nets that trap animals and many more on a coastal that hardly anyone could reach unless with the permission of NParks. To our amazement, we collected 50 bags full of rubbish within a short span of 1.5 hours in the morning. Through this clean-up experience, I learnt that all of us must do our part in making the Earth a better and cleaner place to live. We also felt accomplished to have been able to play a small role in restoring part of the environment as not many of us get to see the real truth of what happens to the litter we throw and this experience gave us an opportunity to realise the damage we have done to our environment. Hopefully, after this experience, more of us can continue to care for the environment.”
Marvyn Chiaching Cruz Tan, BDS student:
“Upon arrival at the coastal area at Chek Jawa, we were extremely astonished at the amount of rubbish we saw. There were lots of litter along the shore, under the trees and in the mud. We picked up rubbish such as toys, plastic bags, plastic bottles, take-away containers, glass wares, nets, styrofoams and even shoes. We even found big items like oil drums, wheel tyres and containers which could have came from the fishing or commercial boats that passed by the waters. Although we merely spent about 1.5 hour picking up rubbish along the shoreline, we managed to collect 50 bags of rubbish, even then there was still a lot of rubbish left unpicked. This VIA activity really gave many of us a whole new experience and it was a great eye-opener. Through the clean-up, we were able to display the school ICARE values that the school has placed great emphasis on. We learnt the importance of caring for the environment and the animals around us by not littering and picking up the rubbish we see. We also learnt to be accountable for the environment that we live in as every of our actions can have great impacts on the environment thereafter. At the same time, we learnt to respect the environment we live in. We enjoyed ourselves at the clean-up and it was a truly memorable experience.”
Last but not least, we would like to express our immense gratitude for those who were participating in ICCS. We hope to see you in future ICCS event!
Eriksen, M., Lebreton, L. C. M., Carson, H. S., Thiel, M., Moore, C. J., Borerro, J. C., Galgani, F., Ryan, P. G., & Reisser, J. (2014). Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea. PLOS ONE, 9(12). Retrieved from http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111913&type=printable
Reyes, E. (2013, October 2). Singapore Uses 3 Billion Plastic Bags A Year: Study. Eco- Business. Retrieved from http://www.eco-business.com/news/singapore-uses-3-billion-plastic-bags-year-study/
Tackling the plastic bottle crisis and our wider disregard for nature. (2017, June 30). The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/30/tackling-the-plastic-bottle-crisis-and-our-wider-disregard-for-nature