Tanah Merah beach cleaning drive turns up 500kg of waste

Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 18 Sep 16;

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.

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.

"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.

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.

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.

- CNA/hs

MPA Media Release
OPENING ADDRESS BY MR ANDREW TAN, CHIEF EXECUTIVE MARITIME AND PORT AUTHORITY OF SINGAPORE, AT THE CLEAN-UP ON KAYAK EVENT ON SATURDAY, 17 SEPTEMBER 2016

17 September 2016
OPENING ADDRESS BY MR ANDREW TAN, CHIEF EXECUTIVE MARITIME AND PORT AUTHORITY OF SINGAPORE, AT THE CLEAN-UP ON KAYAK EVENT ON SATURDAY, 17 SEPTEMBER 2016, 1.50PM, AT SEMBAWANG BEACH

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us at this water clean-up event held in conjunction with International Coastal Clean-up. I am delighted to see so many young volunteers joining us for a meaningful cause on a Saturday afternoon, thank you. I would also like to thank the Singapore Waterways Watch Society for supporting us not only in this event but also on our overall efforts to raise greater awareness on the importance of keeping our waters clean.

International Coastal Clean-up

2 International Coastal Clean-up is an annual event that is held in partnership with volunteer organisations and individuals around the globe. Every year, passionate environment lovers and supporters will come together on this day to remove litter from the world’s beaches and waterways. I was told we have about 3,500 other volunteers who are out at the various Singapore beaches today to pick-up litter. Data collected from the clean-up efforts will then be submitted for further analysis and research.

3 This is the first time that MPA is teaming up with ICC Singapore to raise awareness of litter in coastal areas besides litter on the beach. It is also important that we support the efforts of NParks and NEA to keep Singapore clean and green by including our coastal waters and islands particularly now that we have our own national marine park at St John’s and Sister’s Island marine park. .

Ill-effects of marine pollution

4 As we all know, marine pollution is a global concern. It not only harms the environment and marine life but also poses potential threats to navigational safety.

5 Marine debris comes in many forms. Plastic bags, glass, metal, Styrofoam and tyres are all examples of debris that often end up in our waterways. These debris can come from many sources. From land, rivers, aqua farms and even ships.

Protecting the environment is a shared responsibility

6 To keep our port waters clean, MPA deploys garbage collection and flotsam retrieval craft on a daily basis to collect garbage from ships anchored at the anchorages and to retrieve flotsam and debris along the common channels, fairways and anchorages. This is part of our efforts in protecting the sea environment as well as to ensure that all vessels will be able to navigate safely within the port. MPA also works with other government agencies such as NEA and NParks, and liaise with owners of waterfront properties to ensure that they also do their part to clear their own areas of flotsam and debris.

Conclusion

7 Keeping our waters clean is a shared responsibility. Together with MPA’s existing marine environmental protection and safety efforts, we hope this clean-up on kayak event can help young Singaporeans understand the importance of protecting Singapore’s port waters and marine environment.

8 Thank you again for spending your Saturday afternoon in this meaningful event. I wish you an enjoyable day ahead. Thank you.

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