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N. Sivasothi,
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Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore. Since 1998 with origins from OneList.

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Fri 10 Feb 2006

Campaign to reduce wastage of plastic shopping bags

Category : coastalcleanup

International Coastal Cleanup Singapore coordinators Wei Song (Zone Captain), Airani (Data Manager), Chen Kee (Zone Captain) and Angeline (Dy Coordinator) responded to a last minute call to action just last Saturday and redesigned posters and recruited Toddycats for an event by NEA tomorrow.

Vilma D'Rozario of the Nature Society (Singapore) had asked for help to promote the issue of marine plastic litter and its impact on wildlife at the National Environment Agency's launch of "Why waste plastic bags, choose reusable bags" campaign at Parkway Parade Shopping Centre on Saturday, 11 Feb 2006.

The ICCS team will be sharing a booth with long time partners Nature Society (Singapore) and Raffles Girls Secondary School. With the help of a few more Toddycats who will be taking shifts at the booth, they will inform and educate the public about the problem with trash on our shores. Look out for updates on their blog.

Is there a problem?
Most people are not aware of the problem of coastal litter because highly frequented areas like East Coast Park and Sentosa are regularly cleaned up in the early morning by contract cleaners.

What the data tells us
The annual International Coastal Cleanup examines the kind of marine litter found, and from the data, the type and source of litter is determined locally, in the Asia Pacific and around the world. The data collected was based on the efforts of 2,000 volunteers on a single Saturday morning, amounting to some 7,000kg of trash collected island-wide along beaches and mangroves.

The three most frequent types of marine litter are styrofoam debris, cigarette butts and plastic items! Currently shoreline activities and washout from drainage systems play a large part in contributing to the waste buildup.

Consumers - both the problem and the solution
The public as consumers play a large role in regulating and managing the amount of trash ending up in our waterways, and the use of plastic bags is a significant issue.

The immediate factors that contribute to the consistent amounts of plastic bags found along our shores are:

  1. Improper disposal,
  2. Excessive use of plastics
  3. Insufficient recycling
  4. The non-biodegradable nature of plastics.

The mantra of reuse, reduce and recycle, and adopting alternatives have to be emphasized to curb the problem of marine litter. It is hoped that we can create awareness, inculcate a sense of social responsibility and influence consumer's choice in order to direct change.

Death by plastic
Not only is marine trash unsightly, it poses a real and continual threat to many marine animals. An autopsy of an adult albatross revealed various plastic items ingested and accumulated within the bird's digestive tract, probably leading to its ultimate demise by suffocation or starvation. Albatross chicks are also known to be fed with regurgitated plastic and die as a result.

"Marine trash, mainly plastic, is killing more than a million seabirds and 100,000 mammals and sea turtles each year." - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan

Sea turtles are also known to ingest plastic bags floating in the sea, mistaking them to be jellyfish, one of their main food sources, and dying as a result.

The strength of plastic materials also caused many marine animals to be trapped, entangled or strangled when caught in it, such as abandoned fishing nets, nylon strings, 6-pack drink holders.

The actions of humans have had a direct and negative impact on the natural environment for decades and this has been amplified by plastic.

Marine animals are unable to protest or sound out their plight to us and it is thus up to us to raise this issue and clean up the mess.

Posted at 3:44PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email | Raffles Museum news