Tanah Merah beach cleaning drive turns up 500kg of waste

Tanah Merah beach cleaning drive turns up 500kg of waste

The figure is "impressive", considering the most common items found in the garbage were light ones like plastic bottles, straws, cigarette lighters and styrofoam.

Coastal cleanup day

SINGAPORE: Volunteers collected a half a tonne of trash from a single 800-metre stretch of coastline in eastern Singapore on Saturday (Sep 17).

Around 200 of them, comprising members of the public, corporates and students from the National University of Singapore (NUS), had packed the beach at Tanah Merah early that morning to commemorate the 25th International Coastal Clean-up Singapore.

When they descended on the beach, the participants were greeted by a long line of washed up garbage comprising slippers, food packaging and fishing items, as well as a buoy and piece of luggage.

Coastal cleanup day (1)

Plastic bottles, food packaging and slippers were among the items that greeted the volunteers on Saturday morning. (Photo: Liyana Othman)

NUS undergraduate Giles Ee said he was shocked by the sight: "I wasn't expecting there to be so much. I thought it would be quite an easy job; I come here, just pick up small litter. But actually, there's a lot of rubbish. I feel shocked and ashamed that humans have caused this much damage to our natural environment."

School of the Arts student and first-time participant of the coastal clean-up also said the volume was not what she had expected: "You don't actually see a lot of trash lying around like that in Singapore, so to me, it's quite shocking. But it can be a learning experience as well."

Mr N Sivasothi, who oversees the clean-up efforts said that Singapore's recreational beaches are clean because they are well taken care of by authorities. However, the same cannot be said for non-recreational beaches like the one in Tanah Merah.

Coastal cleanup day (2)

A piece of luggage that was found washed up on the shore. (Photo: Liyana Othman)

"This is very interesting for participants because it's a non-recreational beach, so it's not cleaned as frequently, and we get to see what's actually present in the sea and being washed up on our shores," he said.

Mr Sivasothi said the most common type of marine trash collected during coastal clean-ups are single-use consumer items like plastic bottles, straws, cigarette lighters and styrofoam.

This is why 500kg of waste is an "impressive" sum - these are very light items.

Mr Sivasothi also said one way to cut down on marine pollution is simply, to cut down on generating waste. "We live as if there's no tomorrow, like we have unlimited space," he said.

Coastal cleanup day (3)

About 200 volunteers took part in the cleanup at Tanah Merah beach. (Photo: Liyana Othman)

Several participants have vowed to respond positively to the experience, including NUS undergraduate Kenneth Lee.

"I may return to the school community with an idea for a campaign, which can help reduce plastic products or recycle them so we find less of these on beaches," he said.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the island, around 60 volunteers got into kayaks and paddled from Sembawang beach and Seletar Island while picking up trash in the water. They hauled a total of 167kg of waste.

It is part of a first-of-its-kind initiative by the Marine Port Authority of Singapore that comes on top of its daily efforts to deploy garbage collection and flotsam retrieval craft to pick up trash from ships and along the waterways.

Coastal cleanup day (4)

Volunteers kayaking to pick up garbage floating in the ocean. (Photo: Liyana Othman)

Supported by the Singapore Waterways Watch Society, the kayaking expedition hopes to raise awareness of litter in coastal areas other than those on beaches.

A total of 3,500 volunteers took part in the island-wide cleanup efforts. The data on the types of trash, the amount, as well as where they were found, will be submitted to various agencies and non-governmental organisations like the Ocean Conservancy for analysis and research.

Source: CNA/hs