19 August 2009

Singapore and marine litter: Coastal Cleanup Sep 09

The amount of trash on Singapore's shores can be heart-breaking. Once a year, valiant volunteers mount a blitz on marine litter.
Is there any point to cleaning up the shores just once a year?

The effort is not just to gather trash, but data on the trash. The operation is done professionally. Months before the date, there are countless runs of briefings to explain (a) Singapore has marvellous marine life (b) WHY litter is bad for marine life and humans.

The data reveals clearly the sources of litter (us) and it doesn't take much to join the dots on what we can do as individuals.

After seeing the data, I personally never use a straw anymore. I say, a human above the age of 2 doesn't have to suck at drinks. And to use a plastic object for a few minutes and then throw it away is just wrong.

The lasting change hopefully takes place through the thousands of ordinary people that take part in the effort. A change in their attitudes, which they in turn can share with those around them.

Enough talk, it's Time for Action!

When and where?
Mangroves Cleanup: 12 Sep (Sat)
Beach Cleanup: 19 Sep (Sat)

Haven't signed up yet? You can sign up as an individual on this page.

How bad is the situation?
Here's the data for the effort in 2008 which involved 2,500 volunteers, covering 16km of coastline, collecting 9 tonnes of trash comprising 130,000 items. Data on the items are meticulously recorded.
Where does all the trash come from? The source of the trash is also recorded.

Data from 2008 reveals 50% of the trash is a result of "Shoreline and Recreational Activities", 6.5% from "Ocean/Waterway Activities", 15% from "Smoking-Related Activities" with 26.5% categorised as "Debris of Local Concern".
This is a typical scene on East Coast Park. This was taken at sunrise. Obviously, someone had breakfast and just walked away. There was a rubbish bin about 10 paces away.

Is it any wonder then that data for 2008 shows that for "Shoreline and Recreational Activities" the main types of debris were Plastic bags (18%), Food Wrappers/Containers (10%), Straws, Stirrers (7%), Plastic Beverage Bottles under 2 litres (4%), Cups, Plates, Forks, Knives, Spoons (2%), Caps, Lids (3%).

The Cleanup in Singapore is part of International Coastal Cleanup run by the Ocean Conservancy. It is the world’s largest volunteer event of its kind. Last year, nearly 400,000 volunteers collected more than 6.8 million pounds of trash in 104 countries and recorded every piece of trash collected.

Killer Litter! Discarded drift nets kill countless marine creatures constantly. Called ghost nets, these cause unnecessary painful deaths for our marine life.Brown egg crab (Atergatis floridus) trapped in a drift net
Plastic litter is particularly insidious as these last for a long time, choking and killing marine life that accidentally eat them. Plastic litter breakdown into smaller and smaller pieces and end up in the food chain and thus eventually, in humans.

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