- Valerie Fang
Beach Cleanups in SG
Source: Surfrider Foundation
Two weeks ago, it was reported that Singapore would most likely be embarking on a deposit scheme for pre-packaged beverages in the near future, particularly for beverages in plastic bottles and metal cans. By kickstarting the scheme officially in 2024, Singapore will join around 40 other countries (eg Germany, Denmark and etc) in having a plastic bottle deposit system!
This implementation is crucial as an attempt to encourage plastic recycling in Singapore. If you are not certain about how well Singapore is doing in terms of waste management and recycling, the country was actually only able to recycle 6%(!) of plastic waste last year. To add on, this is actually an improvement from the year before (2020), which only saw 4% recycled.
It turns out that the percentage of plastics recycled actually increased, but the number could not catch up with the rise of plastic waste created this year. Whilst the website attributes this to the economy ‘picking up’, I would personally attribute this to Singaporeans forming the habit of ordering food deliveries after spending 1+ year in a pandemic…. Finding out about these facts took me by surprise (cognitive dissonance much?), because I could never imagine the recycled plastic percentage to be so low. Then again, if you add up the number of plastic containers and bags for takeaways (that are mostly not recyclable!), those would certainly have contributed to the numbers. Not to mention all the plastic packaging used for online purchases….But I digress.
If all that plastic isn’t recycled, where does it end up? Much of it ends up as marine litter, washing up on Singapore’s beaches. That’s why one great way to take ownership of our environment would be beach cleanups! I am sure most of us are aware of beach cleanups as a method for the public to help the environment. Just pick up trash and you could actually save a few birds’ and sea turtles’ lives! Having proper beach cleanup sessions regularly can help to clear the marine litter around Singapore, which often gets flushed onto the beaches. Beach cleanups also have super low barrier of entry to for one to start saving the environment; you don’t need any previous knowledge of the marine biodiversity or the beach landscape to help to improve the beach environment. If you happen to like outdoor activities, beach cleanups will be killing multiple birds one stone. (Not just two birds, but multiple…get it? 0-0)
Source: The Straits Times
Below would be some ways that I would suggest for beginning your journey with beach cleanups!
Organisations to look out for / Join
The Plastic Project
The Plastic Project is an initiative that aims to educate about everyday use plastics and how to be more mindful of our choices. The group primarily hosts plastic workshops, which teach people how to recycle plastic into nice coasters and keychains. However, they also host regular beach cleanups sessions for all individuals to join; you just have to contact them via their Telegram group to find out more details. Beyond that, they are also available to facilitate private and corporate groups who want to use beach cleanups as a bonding activity. The plastic collected from the cleanups would then be used for their recycling workshops.
Trash Hero SG
Trash Hero SG hosts monthly beach cleanups along various beaches in Singapore. Without any sign-ups nor costs required, you can simply show up single-handed to participate as they even provide cleaning materials! Furthermore, information can be easily attained through Facebook. Consisting of a community of facilitators, Trash Hero used to host weekly cleanup sessions, but the number of sessions seems to have been cut back by a lot in the past two years due to COVID gathering restrictions.
Green Nudge is also a social enterprise found in Singapore that seeks to create a stronger community for environmental sustainability. The group is more geared towards businesses as they offer a range of services, from facilitating beach cleanups to hosting trails and consultancy. Instead of joining them, Green Nudge offers packages which you could either 1) rent their equipment and DIY or 2) get a package that includes guidance from their team and accessibility to the less accessible coastal areas.
International Coastal Cleanup
Last but not least we have the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC). ICC is supposedly an annual event that is overseen by Ocean Conservancy, a US-based international NPO. However, the local coordinator here (who is an NUS prof btw! :D) is quite active in sharing about ongoing cleanup sessions and also sometimes hosts cleanups for students to join.
DIY! Start your own session!
Apart from joining an existing group for a beach cleanup, you can actually also start your own session! If you would like to organise your own cleanup sessions, here are some tips that one needs to be aware of.
Register for a formal session with the Public Hygiene Council. Their website provides more details about the locations available for cleanups and the requirements needed. This is meant for cases when your cleanup is going to be consisting of a large group. It is free to register!
Look out for low tide periods, because that’s when more waste from the ocean can be stranded on the beach and more waste could be picked up. You can check for tide timings on the NEA website.
Again, the public health council provides a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know in preparation of a cleanup :D and also regarding the aftermath! The point of cleanups is also to ensure the plastic wastes are disposed properly.
There are tons of ways that one can take action! For instance, a local social enterprise called Stridy has created an app for people to track the amount of trash they have cleaned on their own. When you don’t feel like doing cleanups in a large group, the app can connect you to the larger community.
We do need to keep in mind that beach cleaning wouldn’t fix the environment completely. This is because the planet’s biggest pollutants, the root cause, are ultimately not the individuals but big corporates and their unregulated carbon emissions.
With that said, ending on a positive note, the organisations and groups above are definitely just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Singaporeans’ efforts towards creating sustainability. There are definitely many other groups which are not mentioned. Not to mention the National Action Strategy on Marine Litter that has been launched this June by the Ministry of Sustainability and Environment (MSE)!
There is no better time to find out more about the locals’ collective fight against plastic waste and pollution :)