20,000kg of trash in one day of coast clean-up

David Ee Straits Times 28 Apr 13;

A record 20,000kg of trash was cleared off beaches and mangroves during an annual one-day clean-up by International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) last September.

This was double the amount collected in 2008, and more than triple that of a decade ago.

Not all the trash, however, is locally generated, ICCS lead coordinator N. Sivasothi told The Sunday Times.

Some is carried by sea currents from Malaysia and washes up on our shores, he added.

The National Environment Agency (NEA), which oversees the cleanliness of beaches in Singapore, confirmed last week that flotsam on coastlines here is brought in by wind and tides from the region, or passing vessels.

And as the ICCS' growing band of about 4,000 volunteers cleans up new sites - for example, previously uncleaned coastlines such as Lim Chu Kang East mangrove - more trash is discovered, some of which has lain there for years.

Even so, Singapore's littering problem is real, said Mr Sivasothi.

For instance, more than 34,000 items of trash were collected on a single day by the ICCS at East Coast Park last year, compared with 30,000 in 2010.

Most of these were cigarettes and styrofoam pieces such as food packets tossed by beach-goers, he said.

"You just have to go cycling there in the morning and you can see.

"Any place where there's high human use, there's a high amount of rubbish," said Mr Sivasothi, referring to litterbugs at recreational areas such as parks and beaches.

The NEA employs cleaners to keep our recreational beaches free of trash. It said that it also works with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore to clean up flotsam from our port waters.

Mr Sivasothi, however, said that more needs to be done by ordinary Singaporeans.

The ICCS has started preparing for this year's upcoming clean-up, including registering volunteers and identifying new sites to clean up.

But educating people about responsibility and the 3Rs - reduce, reuse, recycle - is key to tackling the problem, he said.

"I see the reactions of first-time volunteers (at ICCS) when they see the trash. They have no clue. They thought they grew up in a Singapore that's clean."

Said student Venus Tan, 18, who first joined the ICCS beach clean-up in 2009: "I was shocked at the amount of rubbish. When I would go to normal beaches, it wasn't like that".

About 63 per cent of the ICCS' coastal trash haul last year was disposables such as plastic and styrofoam, bags, bottles, containers and straws.

Keep Singapore Clean Movement head Liak Teng Lit stressed the need to reduce their supply.

For example, he said, businesses could follow furniture giant Ikea's lead, and stop providing plastic bags. Or the Government could incentivise them to.

This year's coastal clean-up takes place on Sept 21.

Mr Sivasothi also organises a separate clean-up on each National Day. "The patriotism I'd like to see is for people to clean up after themselves," he said.

Interested volunteers may sign up at coastalcleanup.nus.edu.sg

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