Around 8 million tonnes of plastic find their way into our oceans everyday. The precious marine ecosystems of our world are being driven to the brink of extinction due to human actions and threatens the quality of our water supplies. This pervasive problem isn’t far away from home. Singapore disposes almost 2,500 plastic bags every 3 seconds. 94% of plastic waste was not recycled last year, in 2017. Instead they are incinerated, or worse, end up in oceans. Scientists predict that if we don’t do anything about it, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.
You might feel overwhelmed by reading the above. But it’s exactly why ICC (International Coastal Cleanup) is so important. Last year during ICC, more than 800,000 people around the world kept 20 million pounds of trash (most of it plastic) out of the ocean. Singapore takes part in this annual event in its own ICCS, where coastal cleanups occur across the island. For this year’s ICCS, the BES Student Committee organised a coastal cleanup for its student body in Chek Jawa, one of the richest ecosystems in Singapore, home to 6 different types of habitats. Although having to wake up early in the morning was a part of the agenda, the 38 students who participated were nothing short of enthusiastic for the event.
Over the course of an hour, more than 400 kg of trash was collected — from plastic bottles, food wrappers, fishing nets and foam pieces. It was alarming to see so much trash in the fragile wetland ecosystem because of our careless actions of littering and improper waste disposal.
However, it was certainly eye-opening and a great learning experience for many. Here’s what some of the participants had to say:
Ernest Heng, Year 2:
This was my second time attending ICCS and my first as a participant having been the organiser for last year’s BES ICCS. The site allocated to us this year was full of trash and we toiled for hours, straining our backs to collect the trash and even with a combined manpower of 30 odds students, it still broke my heart to see all the trash left unpicked purely because there was just too much of it! This experience, as enriching as it was, has humbled me to rethink about my purpose of not only as a BES student but as a person which is to be a better steward of the environment and to continue caring about those around me…
Hoyan Lim, Year 1:
ICCS 2018 was my first ever coastal cleanup so I was honestly quite unprepared (For example, I wore brand new sneakers!!!). Despite that, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the whole thing. There’s something immensely satisfying about picking up litter and watching your surroundings de-clutter before your eyes. We managed to collect around 400kg of rubbish in total. I can’t wait to participate in more of such activities soon!
Jia Jie Ong, Year 1:
ICCS @ Chek Jawa was a pretty interesting experience for me – I was able to see first-hand the type of rubbish that accumulated on the shores of pulau ubin, as well as the sheer quantity of rubbish. As we worked to remove the rubbish, we can also see how it impacts the coastal life there like how it clings onto and ravages the mangrove trees there. It also showed me how it took significant physical labour to counteract the whimsical act of littering.
Jane Ang Qi Qing, Year 2:
This is my second run of ICCS, and despite that, it is always an eye-opening experience. The amount of trash that washes up on the coast is always astonishing and incredibly saddening. As I conversed with my friends and picked up more trash, the same few thoughts run through our heads: don’t use plastic straws, reduce your use of plastic packaging, and recycle your plastic bottles! Collecting man-made garbage is tiring, but the worst thought is that this debris harms innocent marine life. On a brighter note, ICCS was fun as there was a sense of camaraderie among us and there were loads of ‘interesting finds’. We found two urns (hopefully with nothing inside it), a headlight, half a bra and light.
Hopefully this event reminded you that we all can do our part to reduce marine trash, by ensuring we follow the 3 R’s and proper waste disposal methods. We would like to thank everyone who organised and participated in this ICCS event! We hope to see you in the next one!
Paulo, D. A. (2018, April 05). The monstrous scale of plastic bag wastage in Singapore. Retrieved from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/cnainsider/monstrous-scale-plastic-bag-wastage-singapore-charge-recycle-10100010
About Chek Jawa. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves/pulau-ubin-and-chek-jawa/what-to-see/about-chek-jawa
Suit Up: The Science Behind the International Coastal Cleanup – Ocean Conservancy. (2018, September 12). Retrieved from https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2018/09/12/suit-science-behind-international-coastal-cleanup/