Raffles Institution Year 2 Research Education Design for Change School Challenge 2011 Project MarineTeam Leader: Sean Lim (2P)Team Members: Eugene Lee (2C) Ian Liew (2C)Teacher-Mentor: Mrs Ramesh
AbstractIn accordance with the “Design for Change School Contest”, participants are required tothink of a problem and devise measures to resolve it.Our team identified a troubling problem to be resolved. The underlying problem was:“Excessive amount of marine litter on our beaches and in our waters”.We hypothesized that the people frequenting East Coast Beach would find that thewaters were too dirty for their liking. Through multiple surveys and personal experiences,our hypothesis was proven right. 62% of the respondents agreed that the beaches wereindeed too dirty.This report is written based on the results of an on-site and online survey, complimentedby additional on-site research of the before and after situation of the severity of marinelitter.
IntroductionMarine litter is human-created waste that has deliberately or accidentally become afloatin a lake, sea, ocean or waterway. Oceanic debris tends to accumulateon coastlines, frequently washing aground, when it is known as beach litter. Someseeming forms of marine litter are created by human activities as they have beendischarging their waste material into the oceans for thousands of years. Recentlyhowever, with the increasing use of plastic, human influence has become an issue asmany types of plastics do not biodegrade. Waterborne plastics and other types ofmarine litter pose a serious threat to fish, seabirds, marine reptiles, and marinemammals, as well as to boats and coastal habitations. Ocean dumping, accidentalcontainer spillages, litter washed into storm drains, and wind-blown landfill waste are allcontributing to this problem.Many people take our generally clean waters for granted. Now, our waters are dirtierthan before. Although this has not progressed to such an irreversible state, if nothing isdone, it would only be a matter of time before it becomes reality. The problem of MarineLitter is a common one. However, no measures have been taken to solve this problem.Thus, however common this project may seem, we persisted in deciding to take the firststep in reducing the problem of Marine Litter.By embarking on this project, we hope to educate the public on the negativeconsequences marine litter poses, and hopefully instill the idea that the cleanliness ofour waters depends to a large extent on ourselves as an individual. The reason wechose to educate the public instead of just simply cleaning up the beaches is becausewe believe that public awareness is the root of the problem. By instilling publicawareness amongst the community, people would naturally acquire the intuitive senseand desire to keep our waters clean.
Review of LiteratureOur literature review has shown us the consequences of Marine Litter that aroused due toMarine Litter. One of the articles that meant the most to us was an article by Kelly Wu titled:“Not Only Fish Swim In Our Oceans” This article shows us the significance of Marine Litter inour society currently. A survey at different locations along Ambon Bay, Eastern Indonesiareported main densities of debris up to 8.6 items per square meter. With such astonishingamounts of killer litter reported in our neighbouring country, its not surprising to think that asimilar amount of marine litter exists in our waters.Another article by Shobana Kesava titled “Singapore Coastline Getting Dirtier”, confirms thebelief that our beaches are getting dirtier. “Over 9,755kg of waste, from plastic bags torefrigerators, was fished off beaches and mangroves during a mammoth cleanup in September,almost 400kg more than in 2007.” Unlike the above-mentioned article, this article mentions thatto reduce Marine Litter, one has to change the mindset of the people in order to see results.Through careful observation, our group strongly believes so and our reasons are stated in theresults section.With both of the articles representing our collection of articles in saying that action needs to betaken to bring down Marine Litter, we can assume that this project has a prominent future if it issuccessful and well-documented.
MethodologyOur survey was initially 2 pages consisting of 8 multiple choice questions and 2 open-ended ones. However, after much consideration and consulting of our teacher mentor,we agreed that 10 questions were too long a survey for anyone to complete at thebeach. Compared to any other venue, a beach is a venue for recreation and relaxation.As such, people would not be interested in helping us with our surveys. After muchediting, our survey was reduced to a single page consisting of 5 multiple choicequestions, with each question bearing an indicative impact towards the scope of ourproject.We conducted an online and on-site survey, with the online one being conducted viaFacebook and the on-site one being conducted at East Coast Beach. Our participantswere based on the activities that they were engaging in, and also based slightly onconvenience. We avoided those who were engaging in physical activities, aconversation and any other activities of which our surveys would have interrupted.We had a relatively high response rate of approximately 70%. Some of the participantstook great effort in completing our surveys with well-thought answers. However, some ofthem were going through the motion as their answers were contradictory. Furthermore,there was a language barrier between some of the respondents who could notunderstand English and were unable to complete our surveys. Despite efforts totranslate the contents of the survey, our efforts were futile. Some respondents were alsovery inquisitive regarding our survey.Our survey questions were drafted based on the importance they had towards our datacollection about the people’s opinion of the beach. We drafted questions which itsanswers could only be obtained from the respondent’s point of view. We filtered out
informative questions from our initial survey as there were accurate and reliableanswers available to us online. We also added in new questions that were not in ourinitial survey, questions which we found useful in our investigation. We consulted ourteacher mentor twice before she approved the content of the survey and gave us thego-ahead. We found that surveys were the most effective way in soliciting personalopinions of the public as it collects various points of views from different people whichwould eventually result in more reliable data and results. Compared to online sources,books and materials, surveys are like primary sources which allow us to get into directcontact with people. To further elaborate, the results of surveys are ever-changing, withdifferent results obtainable at different time and locations. Also, since our targetaudience for this project is the visitors of East Coast Beach, the surveys are one of theonly ways for us to come into contact with our target audience and hence, it would allowus to gather very useful information, unique to surveys alone.As a team, we went down to East Coast Beach over the course of 4 days to give outsurveys and collect information regarding the current state of a particular section of thebeach. We brought a notebook along with us to record additional information which wasprovided by either survey respondents or self-realization. The observations were doneas a group with all of our visits to East Coast Beach done together. Over the course ofall our visits, we had general agreement amidst all the things that we were doing.
ResultsSurveysFrom this question and its given responses, we can tell that four fifths of ourrespondents frequent the beach once a month or more. From this, we can infer that oursupposed course of action will not only benefit the environment but also greatly benefitthe majority of the people who visit the beach.Besides this, they will tend to possess first-hand knowledge of the state of cleanliness ofthe beach. This fact will lead us to believe that majority of the respondents have highlyreliable opinions.
From this question, many of the respondents think that the beaches at East Coast Parkare not clean enough. We can infer that many of the respondents think that marine litteris a prevalent problem in our environment. With so many respondents giving negativeresponse towards the cleanliness of the beach, it proves our hypothesis correct thatpeople will not think that our beaches are clean enough.Also, their negative response ties in with their response in the fifth question whererespondents greatly support us in taking action to solve this problem. Based on thisquestion alone however, we can conclude that our project, if successful will bring aboutgreater satisfaction towards a majority of the beach-goers.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how clean do you think 25 the beaches are? (On-site poll) 20 15 % of 10 respondents 5 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10Based on our on-site and online survey, we can tell that the responses from both partiescoincide with each other. Majority of our responses fall within the range of 4 to 7,suggesting that the cleanliness of our beaches are either moderately clean orunsatisfactory in the eyes of the public. We drafted this question as we strongly feltthat cleanliness was greatly subjective, with disagreement towards the cleanlinesslevels amongst our team members. This probed us to set-up the question to gather theopinion of the public.
What type of rubbish do you think are most commonly seen in our beaches? 10% 6% 15% Styrofoam Objects 12% Plastic Bottles/Bags Can Drinks 30% 11% Disposable Cutlery 16% Leftover Food Overfilled Bins NewspapersFrom this question, plastic materials (inclusive of disposable cutlery) have proven to bethe most commonly seen rubbish at East Coast Beach. This is a worrying fact. Plasticsare not biodegradable and therefore they will continue to pose a threat to marine life aslong as they remain in our waters. Also, according to our research, turtles view plasticbags as jellyfish, a primary food source. This will cause them to be asphyxiated andeventually die of suffocation.Another worrying statistic of our pie chart is that Styrofoam, otherwise known asexpanded polystyrene, is the third most commonly seen rubbish at East Coast Beach,ranking in at 15%. Like plastics, the reason for our concern is that it is notbiodegradable.Through this question, we have obtained valuable yet worrying results. We can inferthat more than half (56%) of the rubbish observed at East Coast Beach is notbiodegradable.
According to this question, we can conclude that many people from the public are in fullsupport of our project as they want us to make a change for a cleaner environment fortheir enjoyment.As seen from the graph, there are very little respondents who think that no measuresshould be taken to solve this problem while there are more respondents who chose “10”which meant that they were fully supportive of us to take measures to solve this problem.To tie in with the second question on the respondent’s opinion on the cleanliness of thebeach, many of the respondents felt that the beaches were not clean enough andwanted to us to take action to solve this problem. With such results, we can thus believeyet again that our project if successful will greatly benefit the public.
Before and After situationBefore we implemented any changes to the situation of the beach, the beach was filledwith plastic bottles, bags and all sorts of litter that were prone to be marine litter. Wefocused on a specific location, namely, the stretch of beach along the jetty which wefound was the dirtiest part of East Coast Beach after surveying the area.Initially, the beach was strewn with all sorts of litter ranging from a headless Ultramantoy to a baby shoe. All these unique forms of litters were insignificant when we observedthe tremendous amounts of litter such as plastic, styrofoam, wrappers and many others.After even closer inspection, we suspect that the workers at the construction site havenot been exercising good environmental practices by littering their plastic bottles afterdrinking. The reason for our suspicion is not entirely baseless. We found that thesection of beach nearer to the construction site was significantly dirtier than the otherparts of the beach and that area was also abundant in plastic bottles and cups. We triedto think of other reasons for this other than the above mentioned one but to no avail. Weinitially thought of whether the public itself could be responsible. However, we thoughtthat if the public had been responsible, there should not be a difference in the amount ofmarine litter near and far from the construction site.Part of our project included the cleaning up and observation of results. Altogether, wefilled a total of 6 garbage bags with rubbish along the jetty area and it did not make asignificant difference at all.
We decided to do more for the project. A week later, we went down yet again to EastCoast Beach to further clean up the beach. To our “pleasant” surprise, the beach wassignificantly cleaner than before. The surprise however was short lived. While it mayseemed to have been much cleaner, there was an unfortunate reason behind it. Uponcloser inspection, we saw a clear water mark way above where all the rubbish had been.This meant that the tide rose and carried the rubbish into the sea, turning our worstfears into reality. Our inference was confirmed when we saw plastic bottles and bitsfloating in the sea. While we weren’t able to prevent this from happening, we decided todo what we can to further clean up any remaining rubbish on the shoreline and preventit from becoming a potential marine hazard.After cleaning up the beach for some time, we felt that the cleanliness was notimproving. This was due to a lack of resources needed to efficiently clean up. With onlytrash bags and using our bare hands, it soon became clear that this was not the solutionif we wanted to make a change. Hence, we paused and thought of ideas. After muchthought, we noticed a styrofoam cup amidst all the rubbish inside our huge trash bag.As such, we took it out, improvised a little and this what was thought to be an uselesspiece of styrofoam turned into the most valuable possession we had.Using some sharp twigs, we poked holes at the base of the cup. This enabled all thesand to be filtered out while leaving all the marine debris behind. That way, ourcollection of litter immediately speeded up. After two and a half hours of toiling underthe sun, there was a significant change as can be seen from the pictures.
ConclusionAfter 8 months of preliminary investigation and observation, our Research Educationproject has yielded conclusive results. Over the course of this project, we focusedmainly on a specific area at East Coast Beach, namely the area near the jetty. As thearea had high human traffic due to the presence of a construction site and a fishing area,we found it susceptible to marine pollution. Sure enough, as we went on to observe, wefound that that area was unusually dirty, dirtier than other crowded places such as thearea outside of McDonalds. After closer inspection, we found that the nearer we got tothe construction site, the dirtier the beach was. This led us to come up with a possibleexplanation for this trend. Our suspicion – the construction workers had a part to play inthe cleanliness of the beach as elaborated above.In conjunction with the Design for Change project, our solution was to clean up all of therubbish there so as to provide a more favourable environment for the people whofrequent the premise. Besides this main solution, we had decided on putting up postersaround the area, educating the public on the negative impact Marine Litter brings about.However, due to the many obstacles before us, we were thus unable to carry out thissolution. One example was time constraint.As the project was nearing an end, with fast approaching deadlines, we had to think of asolution that yielded immediate results. Putting up of posters would require a long timeto observe changes as our on-site survey had shown that people only visit East CoastPark an average of once a month. This meant that if we were to observe any change,we would have to put up the posters and come back a whole month later to observe andrecord changes. Till today, our group still strongly believes that putting up the posterswould bring about a bigger change. Putting up posters, as compared to cleaning up thebeaches, would tackle the root of the problem as the whole problem of Marine Pollutionlies within the mindset of the people. “Instead of fishing for someone, we should teachhim how to fish”. This analogy represents what we are trying to carry out. Teaching the
public to be environmentally-aware will garner longer term results as our actions ofcleaning up the beaches can easily be forgotten. However, one will not forget importantlife knowledge acquired.After the clean-up, the situation was better than before. However, only time will tell if thepublic would appreciate our efforts and stop their selfish actions. In addition, we foundalternative explanations to our findings, some of the rubbish at the jetty were washedback into the sea. This again proves our point that marine litter is just a vicious cycle.People litter, it gets washed into the sea, causes environmental disadvantages, getswashed back ashore, results in an unfavourable environment for us, and it just keepshappening over and over again. Well, how did we know that the rubbish were washedback into the sea? We noticed that in the evening, it was the high tide and the watercould actually reach some of the rubbish which were far inland, thus we came out with ahypothesis that some of the rubbish were washed back into the sea by the high tidecurrents. We were eventually right as we witnessed a plastic bottle which was far inlandbeing carried away by the current back into the sea when it was high tide.
Strength, Weaknesses and RecommendationsOur project had several strengths as well as weaknesses. For strengths, our projectwas greatly supported by the public as it can be seen from our surveys. 80% of ourrespondents want to see changes being implemented and they also want to have acleaner beach for everyone. With so many people behind our backs and supporting us,we found that this was certainly a strength that our project had.In addition, another strength of our project was its feasibility. Unlike other projects whichfocused on installing surveillance cameras opposite HDB blocks to curb the problem ofkiller litter, our project did not need us to spend a hefty sum of money or even go to theextent in asking the authorities for permission. Our solutions were very feasible andthere were very little obstacles blocking our way.The last strength that we had for this project was that it was a very meaningful one. Inthe process of solving the problem of marine litter, we are not only doing our people well,but also saving marine life. According to our research, millions of marine life includingsea birds, turtles, aquatic plants and many others die from immense littering from ashore and from boats. After reading so many articles about marine pollution, we thoughtthat why should these animals and plants suffer for our mistakes? Why do they have toshoulder the burden when we are the ones at fault?Finally, the very team that we formed had strengths as well. Being in the same co-curricular activity, our schedules were very flexible. As CCAs make up a bulk of ourschool commitments, being in the same CCAs was a huge advantage when it came tomeeting up for discussions. Quoting Ryunosuke Satoro “Individually, we are a drop.Together, we are an ocean.” Teamwork itself is an essential pillar to success and this issomething we feel that we possess as a group.
No team is ever perfect. With strengths, our group would undoubtedly have someweaknesses. At the start of the year, we faced some conflicting ideas when it came tothe preliminary drafting of the research topic. We had three main ideas; MakingHealthcare more affordable to Poor People, Effects of Gambling on Society andCombating Killer Litter.Making Healthcare more affordable to Poor People – This idea originally looked soundand feasible and at the same time could impact a big number of people. However, uponcloser analysis, we found that this research topic posed several problems especially atour level of research. Upon identifying solutions for this problem, we found that one ofthe few solutions would be to contact and discuss with the relevant authorities such asdoctors and the Ministry of Health. As such a solution was only possible at higher levelof research; we decided that it was not feasible.Effects on Gambling on Society - This idea if successful would generally help improveSingapore’s overall well-being of her citizens. Part of the research process was to giveout surveys to tie in gathered knowledge with the present day situation. From our topicsentence, it was obvious that our target audience for our survey would be gamblingaddicts. Through newspaper articles, we researched on loan shark cases as webelieved this was a factor in problem gambling. Our observation showed that manytargets of loan shark harassment were a result of the victim going to them for loans andunable to pay them back. The reason for their desperate loan was to fuel their gamblingaddiction. As this research topic was associated with such societies, we felt that in theworst-case scenario, our safety could be jeopardized.Combating Killer Litter in our Neighbourhood – In order to combat killer litter inneighbourhoods, we would need a hefty sum of money to install surveillance camerasacross HDB flats to catch anyone who threw litter from their flats. However, due to thelimitations of our financial capabilities unless we had some form of fund-raising whichwas time consuming. We could not possibly install one surveillance camera on eachHDB Flat. Also, privacy was an issue for the residents. Thus, we scraped the idea of
curbing the problem of killer litter in our neighbourhood. We replaced it in a form ofanother scope, marine litter which was also not too broad a topic. This topic retained theessence of solving a common problem but at the same time, eliminated the possibleproblems which could arise such as privacy and funding. Moreover, our ideas to solvingmarine litter are feasible, fulfilling all the aspects of a good project.Another weakness to our project was that owing to the tight deadlines that we had tomeet, we had certain time constraints when it came to conducting the seven day actionweek. To make matters worse, one of our teammates contracted conjunctivitis duringthe time where we planned to carry out our seven day action week. We lackedmanpower during a few of our visits to East Coast Beach, leading to overall inefficiency.With only 3 members in the group in total, only 2 of us went to East Coast Beach to startthe clean-up. Under the hot sun while picking up rubbish with only 2 people helping outwas certainly not ideal. We only managed to clear up a portion of the rubbish at the jettyand it was just inefficient, resulting in a wasted trip. Fortunately, our teammaterecovered fast and came to help us in the next few trips to East Coast Beach, with muchcohesion and team work, we managed to successfully clean up the jetty area which wasonce filled with rubbish.Finally, the last weakness that we had with our project was that some of our surveyresults might not be as reliable as the majority. We conducted an on-site survey at EastCoast Beach to help us with our project. However, not all of them were reliable as someof the survey respondents were not honest and thought that our surveys were just forfun. Some of their answers were contradictory and they even asked for more surveysfor them to do. We felt that because of these respondents, some of our results might notbe very reliable for research purposes. However, some respondents took our surveysvery seriously; they provided us with valuable answers and thought-provoking questionswhich were indeed very helpful to us. In addition, these valuable answers overwhelmedthe untruthful ones and in the end, our results were still very reliable and useful.
LimitationsOne of the limitations that we faced was the shortage of proper materials when weconducted our clean-up at East Coast Beach. At first, we faced the problem of lack oftime and we were slow due to the shortage of proper cleaning materials. However, weused our imagination and creativity and we came up with a prototype which helped us tocollect rubbish more efficiently and disposing them in trash bags. These prototypes aremainly plastic cups, styrofoam cups and styrofoam containers which could collect largeramounts of rubbish at one go rather than using our bare hands. Unfortuantely, the cupscollected more sand than rubbish, resulting in our thrash bags being heavy with sandand not rubbish. Thus, we poked a hole at the bottom of each cup and container,allowing the sand to flow out through the hole with only rubbish and lesser amounts ofsand collected. This one incident thought us to be resourceful when under difficultsituations. Instead of “fighting fire with fire”, we “fought rubbish with rubbish” and thisalso led us to strongly believe that when there is a will, there will be a way.Another limitation we encountered was the fact that there was not enough points of viewfrom our articles on marine litter that we collected as we were limited to choosing onlyarticles which were within 3 years of this year and they had to be local articles.According to surveys done, the more varieties of different points of views from differentexperts all over the world, the more reliable the results would be. This was definitely onelimitation that we faced.Future Suggestions for Research ProjectsWe would encourage better preparation of materials before doing any physical work incase obstacles would get in the way. Also, we advise time management and a planbefore any work or activities are done in order to have a more efficient procedure. Lastly,research projects in the future should have more samples of surveys to result in morereliable results.
AcknowledgementsAt the end of this project, we would like to thank our survey respondents for their honestand valuable answers that helped us in our research, we would also like to thank thebicycle rental shops at East Coast Beach for their bicycles which gave us overallefficiency and speed to get us to our location, the jetty which was very far away fromwhere we entered. Lastly, we would like to thank our RE teacher mentor, Mrs Rameshfor her invaluable guidance, support and teaching that has helped us throughout thiswhole Design For Change Project.
AppendixSurvey Sample On site -Survey questionsDear Sir/Madam, We are students from Raffles Institution and we are seeking your help in completing asurvey that will benefit our Design For Change project greatly.Kindly circle your answers.Thank you,Sean Lim, Ian Liew, Eugene Lee (RI Year 2) 1. On average, how often to you come to the beach? a) More than once a week b) Once a week c) Once a month d) Once a year e) Less than once a year 2. Do you think the beaches here are clean enough(clear waters, over-filled bins, rubbish on the beach etc.)? a) Yes b) No 3. On a scale of 1 to 10, how clean do you think the beaches are? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Dirtiest Cleanest State your reason for the above choice, _________________________________________________ 4. What type of rubbish do you think are most commonly seen in our beaches? a) Styrofoam objects b) Plastic bottles/bags c) Can drinks d) Disposable cutlery e) Leftover food f) Overfilled bins g) Newspapers h) Others, please specify: _____________
5. To what extent do you think that measures should be taken to solve this problem? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Strongly Strongly disagree agree
Review of Literature-Marine litter articlesSingapore coastline getting dirtierMore than 9,750kg of trash cleared during cleanup in SeptemberShobana Kesava, Straits Times 16 Dec 08;DESPITE public anti-littering campaigns and annual cleanups involving thousands ofpeople, Singapores coasts are dirtier than they were five years ago, according to newdata.Over 9,755kg of waste, from plastic bags to refrigerators, was fished off beaches andmangroves during a mammoth cleanup in September, almost 400kg more than in 2007.The cleanup was organised by International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) andwas part of a worldwide drive.Locally, over 2,500 people - from schoolchildren to business executives and civilservants - took part in the event, fanning out to coastal areas from Changi to Jurong.The results of the cleanup were recently computed by the entirely volunteer-run ICCS.Lead coordinator N. Sivasothi said he was not surprised by the volume of trashcollected.He described the cleanup as a stopgap measure, saying the only way to cut down onbeach-front trash is to encourage conservation.If we use less, that will mean fewer things we need to dispose of. Proper disposal isimportant so that trash doesnt end up in drains which wash into the sea, he said.This year, about 2,530 volunteers participated in the Sept 20 cleanup, down from 2,860last year. Organisers said the numbers were higher when volunteers who worked onother days of the year were included.The results of the cleanup show trash trends have varied little over the few years, saidMr Sivasothi.It would take an enormous shift in behaviour to change the kind of rubbish we find. Idbe surprised if there was a significant change, he said.Plastic bags, straws and styrofoam have been a constant on shorelines here andabroad for years. Larger items, such as refrigerators and tyres, have also been found,according to organisers.While the September cleanup shows littering habits remain a problem, volunteers are
undeterred.Kranji Mangrove volunteer Cheong Wei Siong, 20, said he has seen the shorelinebecome progressively cleaner over the years.I always feel good visiting the mangroves because they are much cleaner, and I playedan important role in it, he said.Mr Yasim Abidin, a volunteer who has cleaned the shores for 10 years, said he is notdiscouraged by the consistently high garbage load.Every year, the 29-year-old gets 80 children to pair up with Nanyang Polytechnicstudents to help clean the shoreline. Its our small contribution to Singapore andhopefully the children will take the message home and into their future, he said.http://sgblogs.com/entry/255972Not Only Fish Swim in Our OceansSeptember 17, 2009 by Kelly WuThe Problem of Coastal and Marine DebrisNot only fish swim in our oceans – an assortment of marine debris is surfing the wavestoo. Improperly disposed trash from the shore or from shipping vessels can get washedinto the waterways. They also accumulate along the coastline after being washed up bythe tides, on beaches, in inter-tidal lagoons and in mangroves. This litter if leftuncollected can lead to several undesirable effects to mankind, including thecontamination of beaches and harbors, damaging fishing vessels and affecting theaesthetics of the coastal environment. They also affect wildlife which may ingestinedible materials, get entangled in the trash or have their habitats altered by alienobjects.Marine debris is a big problem that does not respect sovereignty and country borders.Meaning where it ends up may not be anywhere near its source. Southeast Asia is alsonot spared from this problem. A survey at different locations along Ambon Bay, EasternIndonesia, in 1994/5 reported mean densities of debris up to 8.6 items per square meter(Uneputty & Evans, 1997). Singapore faces its share of marine debris too. In the 2008International Coastal Cleanup in Singapore, 9,754.9kg of trash was collected byvolunteers in a single event that lasts just one morning!What are the most common items in the marine debris? In 2008, the top three items oftrash found in the International Coastal Cleanup data collection effort after theworldwide tally are cigarette butts, plastic bags and food containers / wrappers. Lookingback for the source, it’s not hard to tell that these items would largely come from humanactivities on the shore. So don’t just blame the big ocean carriers for coastal pollution!
Shoreline activities of beachgoers or just about anyone can result in the debris problemif the trash is improperly disposed of and finds its way into the waterways.Personally, what I feel is the most problematic trash of them all? PLASTIC. And itdeserves to be written in capital letters and bold. In a recent expedition to the “GreatPacific Garbage Patch” (a gyre of marine litter in the central North Pacific Ocean),scientists brought back piles of plastic debris they pulled out. Indeed, plastic is apersistent and growing problem in the oceans that is worrying scientists. The plastic canbreak down in oceans and release contaminants (see article here). They can also beingested by unsuspecting marine creatures that can get killed as a result.Yet, all is not lost! Locally, the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore has continuedto be a good avenue over the years to raise awareness on the problem of marine litter.NGOs such as Waterways Watch Society in Singapore have also been active in gettingpeople involved in beach patrols, cleanup efforts etc. Internationally, it is probablyworthwhile to mention that the United Nations Environmental Programme actually hasan initiative to tackle the problem of marine litter under the Regional Seas CoordinatingOffice and the Global Programme of Action. And finally, what can you do as anindividual? Join a cleanup effort or at the very least, do not improperly dispose of yourtrash into rivers, seas and oceans, please!http://www.greenkampong.com/green_reporter/not-only-fish-swim-in-our-oceans/Thu 24 Jul 2008Horseshoe crabs rescued from a ghost net in Mandai mangroveHorseshoe crabs have been around for at least 445 million years, predating the dinosaurs andthey are facing their greatest challenges during theAnthropocene - habitat loss, pollution, over-fishing and ghost net entanglement. The latter arises when fishermen abandon or lose theirstrong mono-filament gill nets; these do not degrade but will instead repeatedly entangle allsorts of animals in mangroves, rocky shore, coral reefs, sea grass and sandy shores.This is happening in Singapore too. Like my fellow naturalists and field biologists, I have hadto rescue horseshoe crabs, forceps crabs, birds and even snakes over the past two decades.Habitatnews has highlighted just a couple of these rescues (e. g. Lazarus Island, 2004; Mandai,2005) and the Nature Society (Singapore) has a regular rescue team that works the Mandaimudflats. These days it seems almost every low tide trip to a mangrove reveals ghost nets - e.g.shooting for Once Upon a Tree 2, a shore visit suring the last Pedal Ubin and the recent LimChu Kangmangrove cleanup as well.Mandai mudflats and mangroves have such a high incidence of ghost nets that I pack a scissorsand factor in time for gill net removal each time before I set out - film shoot, education trip orwork trip. Unfortunately, today was no different - NUS biology honours student Theresa Su,Raffles Museum Toddycat Teo Kah Ming and myself carefully released about 20 mangrovehorseshoe crabs that were still living. Kah Ming had counted 87 carapaces entangled andadacent to the net so most had died some time ago.
We checked each individual to be sure and carefully removed the nylon filaments that hadweaved between and around their limbs. The chelicerates (horseshoe crabs are not crabs) werenot feisty but happily not too limp - so they were recent entanglements but probably not lastnights. Once freed, we left them clustered in various tide pools nearby with some hope that theywould survive. The net was cut into three lengths and carried out in a bag made from a large-mesh ghost net lying nearby.There are still nets out there, I know, and with research trips increasing, hopefully it will come toa time when my scissors can stay in the bag!http://habitatnews.nus.edu.sg//index.php?phrase=coastalcleanup&submit=Search+Habitatnews
Site map | NSS Home Page Official Magazine of the Nature Society (Singapore)Battling the Curse of Marine LitterInternational Coastal Cleanup SingaporeThe Curse of Marine Litter | Situation in Singapore mangroves | What the data tells us | Want to help?What the data begins to tell usAlong with the 77 participating countries, we submitted country reports to the OceanConservancy, USA, a marine conservation group. With international data setsstretching back 14 years, they are able to make representation to the United Nationsabout the global problem, and to push for laws and enforcement against dumpingtrash in the ocean. In Singapore, the mangrove clean-up is a much smaller operation(400 versus more than 1,000 on beaches). It reflects the safety limit imposed on thetougher terrain and also, it is an attempt to protect the forest from our impact - bettera gradual process to remove decades of litter, than a fast destructive approach. Evenso, in just 90 minutes, some three tonnes of debris were removed, of which over 90%was plastic and foam plastic. Quantity from Quantity from Item Total Mangrove Beaches Cigarette butts 15 8,903 8,918 Pieces (foam plastic) 1,958 6,602 8,560 Bags, food bags/wrappers 4,251 3,831 8,082 Straws 2,637 5,299 7,936 Pieces (plastic) 1,483 6,387 7,870 Bottles, beverages, soda 1,170 4,483 5,653Most numerous items collected during the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore 2001, by approximately 1200participants in an average of less than two hours
The beach cleanup exercise is an older programme andmany participating schools run their sites independently,submitting data to the coordinator at the end of theexercise. These shorelines are cleaned regularly, most ofthem daily.So the data from beaches provide an indication of howmuch litter might be generated daily. More than 54,000items of litter weighing more than 700kg were collectedfrom less than 25% of our shoreline in a single day in2001. Preliminary and conservative estimates pose aquestion: are almost eight million pieces of marine trashweighing more than 1,000 tonnes washing up on ourshores each year?!Figures like these would provide a better reflection of theproblem in our country. Thus locally, we are building thedata set up to better predict the estimated load inmangroves and provide reasonably accurate figures aboutannual recruitment on the seashores of Singapore. Besidesproviding data as feedback to government, the informationwill provide a resource to laymen, students andorganisations to stimulate efforts that will lead toindividual and societal change.Are we really the source of the problem?But isnt the problem coming from the sea? Interestingly,the combined data suggests that for Singapore, more than60% of this trash is coming from shoreline activities.Hence it will ultimately require the participation of theaverage Singaporean and begin with personal initiatives.But why personal practices? Well, take a look at the topsix items collected in 2001 - in less than two hours, mindyou.Topping the list again are cigarette butts, the top ranked item throughout the historyof cleanup. Cigarettes are the most littered item in America and the world accordingto CigaretteLitter.Org. Since cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate and notcotton, they can take decades to degrade. Their high numbers on beaches and lownumbers in mangroves point to shoreline activities as the source of these items.
As for hardy plastic straws, another regular feature in cleanup data, George Jacobs,one of our regulars, fails to understand why we still use straws to drink, after the ageof four.The data from bags and plastic pieces add to thecompelling argument offered by saturated land fillareas on mainland Singapore - the fact that the onlylandfill we have is at Pulau Semakau, one of oursouthern islands, designed to last until 2030. Issueslike reducing waste in packaging, or more simply,the use of plastic bags at supermarkets remainpertinent. Apparently, more than one millionplastic bags are handed out each day in Singapore. Yet supermarkets are reluctant toimpose a charge for plastic bags. Although these would save major supermarkets afew million dollars a year, the cost of irate customers is apparently not worth theeffort. Hence efforts by the Singapore Environment Council received lukewarmresponse earlier this year (Kaur, 2002).Perhaps, significant change will only be achieved when the situation becomes moreserious. Both Asian and Western countries are taking action. In Ireland you pay forplastic bags, and the UK is examining this approach. Bangladesh has bannedpolythene bags for jute, boosting their ailing jute mill industry (Chazan, 2002). InTaiwan, mainly government establishments are banned from offering free plasticbags and eating utensils, and a campaign is dissuading people from using plastic bagsand disposable plastic utensils (Chiu, 2002).Obviously, significant effort still needs to be invested in educating the public. It isnot a short haul job, as our own Ministry of the Environment can tell us. We mustcontinue in our efforts in various ways, and remain hopeful that one day, thecombined efforts of all, locally and internationally, will reduce the problem of trashto such an extent, that the International Coastal Cleanup effort becomes a vague butpleasant memory. http://habitatnews.nus.edu.sg/pub/naturewatch/text/a103c.htm
Marine debris: Killer litterupdated Dec 09Why is there so much litter on the shore? Where does all thislitter comes from? When we DONT throw litter into a proper bin, itfalls to the ground, goes into the drain, flushes into the canal, theninto the sea. Most of the litter on our shores comes from landbasedactivities in Singapore and not necessarily from ships or boats orother countries.Why is the litter arranged in a line on the shore? Litter thatfloats comes in with the tide and is deposited on the high watermark. There is usually so much litter in the water, especially nearshores frequented by people, that every tide brings in a new loadof trash. Heavier trash that does not float were probably dumpedon the shore or nearby.Killer Litter! Litter in the sea isnt just unsightly. Litter kills marinelife. Of all the litter in the ocean, plastic litter is the most lethal. And plastic makes up nearly 90% of marine litter. Small animals are smothered in plastic bags. Sea turtles often eat floating plastic bags, mistaking them for jellyfishes which are among their food. Sea birds and even whales die from eating plastic bags. Abandoned fishing nets kill by trapping animals. Marine animals that get entangled die a slow death. Air-breathing animals such as dugongs, dolphins and sea turtles drown if they are trapped in nets. Sea birds that fish in the ocean may also get entangled and die. Plastics dont biodegrade. But they do break up into smaller and smaller pieces. These tiny pieces are eventually eaten by small sea creatures and thus enter the food chain including our seafood.Plastic everywhere: Plastic floats. In the ocean currents, plastic Pasir Ris Park, Jan 10trash literally travels the world.Plastics forever: Plastic litter lasts, and lasts, and lasts..."So ubiquitous and inexpensive are plastics that we’ve become asingle-use, throwaway society. Synthetic plastics do notbiodegrade. At best, they break and break again into smaller andsmaller pieces. The fact remains that, save those incinerated,every single molecule of synthetic plastic ever created is still onthis planet and probably will be for centuries".from Breaking the cycle of plastics in the ocean by AndrewMyers Ocean Conservancy Magazine Autumn 2007How much plastic is in the ocean?"Findings by Dr Richard Thompson at the University of Plymouthestimate there are 300,000 items of plastic per sq km of sea Berlayar Creek next tosurface, and 100,000 per sq km of seabed. So plastic appears to Keppel Golf Club, Mar 09be everywhere in our seas."
from Plastics poisoning worlds seas By Maggie AyreProducer BBC 7 Dec 06Arent Singapores beaches clean?"On beaches across Singapore where the public has access, theNEA has about 40 cleaners removing rubbish before most beach-goers arrive. On the popular 11-km stretch of East Coast Park,about 15 of them sweep, pick up and toss out trash on any givenday, starting from 7am. The volunteers (from International CoastalCleanup Singapore) took over their job on Saturday and collected16,819 items weighing 2,600kg at East Coast Park alone - thehighest amount of trash collected on any beach open to thepublic." fromThe coast is not clear by Shobana Kesava StraitsTimes 20 Sep 07 Kusu Island, Jul 04You CAN make a difference Throw all your rubbish in a proper bin. Try to reduce the use of these things that you only use once or eventually throw away: plastics, styrofoam, plastic bags. Dont use balloons at parties, especially avoid helium balloons and release of such balloons, particularly near the shores. Clean up carefully when having an event near the shores. Join International Coastal Cleanup Singapore. Its NOT just about removing rubbish. It is about collecting data about marine debris. The data is compiled worldwide and used to raise awareness and encourage change in consumer habits and government policy. Changi, Oct 07 Our main beaches APPEAR clean only because of the armies of cleaners. A beach that is not regularly cleaned. Daily beach cleaning at East Coast Park, Apr 08 Tanah Merah, Oct 09http://www.wildsingapore.com/wildfacts/concepts/litter.htm
Singapore and marine litter: Coastal Cleanup Sep 09The amount of trash on Singapores shores can be heart-breaking. Once a year, valiant volunteersmount 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 marvellousmarine life (b) WHY litter is bad for marine life and humans.The data reveals clearly the sources of litter (us) and it doesnt take much to join the dots on what wecan do as individuals.After seeing the data, I personally never use a straw anymore. I say, a human above the age of 2doesnt have to suck at drinks. And to use a plastic object for a few minutes and then throw it away isjust wrong.The lasting change hopefully takes place through the thousands of ordinary people that take part inthe effort. A change in their attitudes, which they in turn can share with those around them.How bad is the situation?Heres 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.http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_Vxu_tx5NynY/Soptqaad0AI/AAAAAAAAaO4/dTJ7VhpgLRE/s1600-h/ICCS2008.GIFWhere 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 hadbreakfast 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" themain 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 Cleanuprun by the Ocean Conservancy. It isthe world’s largest volunteer event of its kind. Last year, nearly 400,000 volunteers collected morethan 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, thesecause unnecessary painful deaths for our marine life.Plastic litter is particularly insidious as these last for a long time, choking and killing marine life thataccidentally eat them. Plastic litter breakdown into smaller and smaller pieces and they end up in thefood chain and thus eventually, in humans.http://wildshores.blogspot.com/2009/08/singapore-and-marine-litter-coastal.html
This is a poster designed by students to show how marine litter is a rising problem inSingapore.http://www.flickr.com/photos/habitatnews/97923377/sizes/o/in/set-72057594063083810/ Sources and Effects of Marine PollutionType Primary Source/Cause Effect
Nutrients Runoff approximately 50% sewage, Feed algal blooms in coastal waters. 50% from forestry, farming, and Decomposing algae depletes water of other land use. Also airborne oxygen, killing other marine life. Can nitrogen oxides from power plants, spur algal blooms (red tides), releasing cars etc. toxins that can kill fish and poison people.Sediments Erosion from mining, forestry, Cloud water; impede photosynthesis farming, and other land-use; coastal below surface waters. Clog gills of dredging and mining fish. Smother and bury coastal ecosystems. Carry toxins and excess nutrients.Pathogens Sewage, livestock. Contaminate coastal swiming areas and seafood, spreading cholera, typhoid and other diseases.Alien Species Several thousand per day Outcompete native species and reduce transported in ballast water; also biological diversity. Introduce new spread through canals linking marine diceases. Associated with bodies of water and fishery increased incidence of red tides and enhancement projects. other algal blooms. Problem in major ports.Persistent Industrial discharge; wastewater poison or cause disease in coastalToxins (PCBs, discharge from cities; pesticides marine life, especially near majorHeavy metals, from farms, forests, home use etc.; cities or industry. Contaminate seepage from landfills. seafood. Fat-soluble toxins that bio-DDT etc.) accumulate in predators can cause disease and reproductive failure.Oil 46% from cars, heavy machinery, Low level contamination can kill industry, other land-based sources; larvae and cause disease in marine life. 32% from oil tanker operations and Oil slicks kill marine life, especially in other shipping; 13% from accidents coastal habitats. Tar balls from at sea; also offshore oil drilling and coagulated oil litter beaches and natural seepage. coastal habitat. Oil pollution is down 60% from 1981.Plastics Fishing nets; cargo and cruise ships; Discard fishing gear continues to catch beach litter; wastes from plastics fish. Other plastic debris entangles industry and landfills. marine life or is mistaken for food. Plastics litter beaches and coasts and may persist for 200 to 400 years.Radioactive Discarded nuclear submarine and Hot spots of radio activity. Can entersubstances military waste; atmospheric fallout; food chain and cause disease in marine also industrial wastes. life. Concentrate in top predators and
shellfish, which are eaten by people.Thermal Cooling water from power plants Kill off corals and other temperature and industrial sites sensitive sedentary species. Displace other marine life.Noise Supertankers, other large vessels Can be heard thousands of kilometers and machinery away under water. May stress and disrupt marine life.Source: Compiled by WorldWatch Institute.http://www.gdrc.org/oceans/marine-pollution.html