4,000 take part in coastal cleanup

Volunteers from 70 organisations fan out across island to pick up rubbish such as plastic bags and food wrappers
Fiona Low Straits Times 18 Sep 11;

More than 4,000 volunteers hit beaches and mangrove areas across the country yesterday in the largest coastal cleanup drive to date.

Nearly 60 areas in Singapore and on offshore islands such as Pulau Ubin and St John's were targeted.

From about 7am, volunteers from 70 organisations including schools, tertiary institutions and corporations collected trash such as plastic bags and food wrappers from the various sites.

The programme, now in its 20th year here, is part of the International Coastal Cleanup movement.

Between 70 and 100 countries participate in the event annually in a bid to clear trash from the coastline and educate the public about marine debris issues.

Trash collected in each country is carefully documented based on a specific data card that charts categories such as plastic bottles, fishing lines and cigarette ends.

'Having an international standard for comparison makes the data meaningful and allows us to see how we measure up internationally,' said Mr N. Sivasothi, coordinator of International Coastal Cleanup Singapore.

Each year, most of the trash collected is plastics and consumer items.

'This points to a local problem. We hope the data helps people reflect on what they are consuming and throwing away and spurs people to take action to protect the environment,' said Mr Sivasothi, a lecturer in the Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore.

The data collected will also be presented to the National Environment Agency and National Parks Board.

Preparation for the project takes about seven months, as coordinators have to check out the sites to determine their suitability, identify the level of difficulty, and obtain approval for the cleanup.

The leaders of each volunteer organisation also have to attend workshops to understand issues such as marine life in Singapore and the impact of pollution, and learn how to organise the cleanup and document the data afterwards.

Volunteer Deanna Lye was part of the team that travelled to the Sungei Tampines area to do the cleanup. This is the first time the 18-year-old, who has just returned from her studies in Britain, has taken part in the event.

'I wanted to do something to help instead of just reading about the damage to the environment. It feels good to get my hands dirty and do something for the cause,' she said.

Last year's event saw around 3,500 volunteers collect almost 14,000kg of trash, most of which was due to recreational activity on the shoreline. Beverage bottles, food wrappers and straws featured heavily.

The amount of trash collected this year is being tabulated.

The collated data will be ready today, and the public can visit coastalcleanup.nus.edu.sg for details.