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Mon 17 Sep 2007

News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore: New blog for ICCS

Category : coastalcleanup

Sat 15 Sep 2007 - News of the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore has been streaming in to a new blog at coastalcleanup.wordpress.com. Hop over for news, photo, data, educational material, etc.

News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Rains threatened the cleanups but many sites still managed to complete a full cleanup. Photos have been uploaded to Flickr as soon as they come in. These days with gmail and yousendit, seding s photos has become much easier!

Data was reported back by most groups immediately and preliminary results are already out for the mangroves with data from the beaches following soon. It seems that more than 2,500 took to the shores to remove more than 100,000 pices of marine debris weighing more than 8 tonnes of trash. The Sunday Times covered the cleanup story and Lianhe Zaobao too has a story out this morning.

Posted at 10:30AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Mon 10 Sep 2007

International Coastal Cleanup Singapore - NUS Volunteer Recruitment Drive

Category : coastalcleanup

Registration closed; thanks everyone!

16th International Coastal Cleanup, Singapore
Saturday, 15th September 2007
Recruitment Drive for NUS Participants

What's It About?

The International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) is an annual event coordinated by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, NUS and part of the international event coordinated by The Ocean Conservancy in Washington, USA.

This event, the world's largest one-day volunteer effort, involves some 400 000 people in 70-100 countries who gather to clean up trash at beaches, lakes, oceans and mangroves all over the world.

This cleanup is more than just collecting and removing trash!!

The trash collected is categorized and recorded, and the consolidated data is sent to the Ocean Conservancy under the United Nation to be analyzed. The results of the analysis become a powerful tool in finding the sources of marine debris, helping to identify solutions, and developing effective pollution control strategies to help prevent the problem.

So, don't hestitate, help protect our marine life.

Remember it's everybody's business! Be an ICCS-NUS volunteer.

Date: Saturday, 15th September 2007
Time: 9:15 am - 11:30 am
Venue: Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve

Chartered Bus Pickup Times and Venues:

  • 8.00 am @ Admin Block (near Central Library)
  • 8:00 am @ Prince George's Park Residence bus terminal (Next to KE VII)
  • 8:15 am @ Clementi Central (Outside McDonalds)
  • 8:45 am @Passenger service counter at Kranji MRT

This event is supported by the Campus Sustainability Committee, National University of Singapore. Free cotton t-shirt will be given to each participant. Transport to and fro will be provided at various venues. Please note that there will be no CCA points given for this community service.

To volunteer for the 16th ICCS, please click here.

Registration ends on Monday, 10th September 2007, please register quickly as we have only 120 places. We would appreciate it if you register only when you are serious about participating in this event so as not to deny others a place in this event.

For more details on the 2007 Coastal Cleanup, please see coastalcleanup.nus.edu.sg. For enquiries, please contact the volunteer organisers: Gui Deng: u0507638@nus.edu.sg or Wang Lei: u0507630@nus.edu.sg

See you there !

Warmest Regards
Wang Lei, Gui Deng
NUS Organisers
International Coastal Cleanup, Singapore 2007

Posted at 2:51AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Tue 21 Aug 2007

Wesley Wong's video, "International Coastal Cleanup Singapore"

Category : coastalcleanup

"International Coastal Cleanup Singapore," a video by Wesley J. H. Wong (2005). - Wesley Wong produced this video of the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore based on the cleanup at the Kranji-Buloh mangroves in September 2004. He is an overseas graduate in filmmaking and is now pursuing a career in video productions and "indie" projects. When he's not working on corporate and wedding videos, he works on short films for other directors. I called him just now and he's now working with VisualForge Films. He can be reached at wesleywongjh@gmail.com. If you like to see his wedding works, hop over to weddingclips.com.

Wesley approached us in 2004 to do his bit for the environemnt. He did this rather painlessly, inserting comments based on information from the ICCS webpage and the "Battling the Curse of Marine Litter" article. He produced the first cut in October and after comments from Angeline Tay and myself, he produced a second cut and then added music for a pleasant and informative piece. All this despite the fact all of us were pretty elusive after the cleanup as its crunch time in Oct-Nov, so he had enough tenacity to complete the job!

I think several of the coordinators and site captains who are still working on the site will enjoy reminiscing when they watch this.

Although this year's cleanup is all full up already for organisations, new comers are being scheduled for the 29th of September. But we need Site Buddies to help out - you would have to recce the site, learn about the cleanup and its background, marine life and impact of marine debris (morning of 8th September) and, of course, turn up bright and early on 15th of September this year at your designated site. If you are game to join an enthusiastic team, we'd love the help. Simply email:

Posted at 12:43AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Tue 14 Aug 2007

International Coastal Cleanup Singapore - shoreline is maxed out!

Category : envt

Every year, participants take to the shorelines of Singapore to collect, categorise and dispose of marine trash as part of an effort across many countries - the International Coastal Cleanup. In Singapore, registration began in June and most of the regulars were quick to register their intent. Some, like Raffles Girls Secondary and Singapore American School, have been participating since the inception of International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) 16 years ago!

With the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) gaining ground, many corporate groups are joining the effort and the ICCS coordinators andd Zone Captains have been meeting many new organisers for that special briefing afforded to first timers. These organisers have indicated their interest in a long term programme and their desire to communicate more than the expeience of a day on the beach through educational material, so that is good news.

Meanwhile, If you'd like to help out as a Site Buddy or in some oither way, do visit the ICCS webpage and email us at:

Posted at 5:12PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Thu 26 Jul 2007

Los Angeles Times received the Pulitzer Prize for "Altered Oceans"

Category : coastalcleanup

Los Angeles Times received the Pulitzer Prize for "Altered Oceans" whixh was highlighted here about a year ago. It is excellent work and full of resources, so drop by for a visit.

Congratulations to the team!

Posted at 9:02AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Wed 11 Jul 2007

Sasi Nayar receives the Tan Teck Guan Gold Medal

Category : news

09 Jul 2007 - Sasi Nayar receives the Nature Society (Singapore) Tan Teck Guan Gold Medal from John Tan, great-grandson of Tan Teck Guan, who was one of the sons of Tan Tock Seng. The Tan Teck Guan Medal was presented to Sasi Nayar for his 2003 doctoral thesis on "Nutrient and Biotic Fluxes in Relation to Dispersal of Pollutants in Ponggol River."

The Nature Society (Singapore) Tan Teck Guan Gold Medal was awarded to Sasi Nayar for the best Masters and Doctoral Thesis from National Tertiary Institutions of Singapore for the period 2003-2006 on a subject related to Nature Conservation or Environmental Protection/Improvement.

It was well deserved, and Sasi not only toiled relentlessly (1999-2003) over his project, but also found time to help out in the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore for several years, the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium I as a programme manager, organised the department Deepavali Tea and made his version of milo-dinosaur for many a stressed graduate student!

Steady-lah dude!

An audience of NSS members, students and members of the biodiversity community listened as Sasi then presented a seminar on more recent work of his in Australia, where as part of a large and hardworking team, they tackled the mystery of "What killed the seagrasses off the Adelaide coast in Southern Australia?" he spiced up that talk with sharks, an upcoming, seasickness-guaranteed cruise to study upwellings along the South Aistralia coast as well as the work that has taken him on this recent globe-trotting trip to India, Europe, US and Singapore - biodiesel from macroalgae.

Margie Hall, the Honorary Secretary of the Nature Society (Singapore), did the honours and presented Sasi with "Singapore Waters" and John Tan with "Trees Of Bukit Timah Campus: A Tribute To Old Friends."

After that a bunch of us old friends trooped to the prata shop down the road for dinner and arguments conversation :-) The latter might inspire more than a couple of blog posts in future!


Posted at 2:27AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Fri 25 May 2007

"Plastic bags needed, but reduce dependence"

Category : coastalcleanup

"Plastic bags needed, but reduce dependence." Letter by Liang Xinyi (Communications Executive, Singapore Environment Council). The Straits Times Forum, 25 May 2007.

"I REFER to the article, 'Plastic bags are not the enemy' (ST, May 12), and would like to address some of the issues brought up.

Plastic bags are needed in our daily lives for various uses (from lining refuse bins to containing wet produce), but excessive usage and wastage of plastic bags, especially empty ones, has many environmental repercussions.

Plastic bags are produced from petroleum, a non-renewable fossil fuel. When burnt, plastic bags emit carbon dioxide and poisonous gases. They take approximately 1,000 years and 450 years to break down on land and in water respectively.

It is thus necessary to reduce our dependence on plastic bags in order to conserve fossil fuel reserves for future generations, as well as to curb carbon dioxide emission to mitigate the climate change phenomenon.

While it is true that plastic bags generally do not constitute an eyesore on Singapore's streets, we should be reminded that this is often thanks to the efforts of an efficient squadron of sweepers and cleaners.

Local coastal clean-ups have revealed that plastic bags are one of the most common forms of coastal debris. Each year, millions of marine creatures and seabirds choke on plastic bags which are washed into or discarded in the waters.

Plastic bags are cheaply and readily available in Singapore, creating the impression that they are 'free'. However, if we include the environmental costs of plastic bags, pre- and post-production, the true costs reflect a staggering price to our environment.

Ultimately, the decision to use plastic, paper or re-usable bags still lies with the consumer.

Everyone should be well informed of the environmental issues surrounding plastic bag usage and aware of the alternatives available before arriving at a responsible decision."

Posted at 10:21AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Sun 22 Apr 2007

IKEA says NO! more free plastic bags

Category : envt

Ikea is saying NO to customers - isn't that suicide for a retailer?

Introducing a new culture

Ikea Singapore has taken a bold step - they are the first retailer in Singapore to stop issuing free plastic bags. From today, shopppers will have to pay the cost price of five cents for standard-size plastic bags and ten cents for the larger ones at both Ikea outlets in Alexandra Road and Tampines.

This is part of their global campaign against plastic bags which in Britain saw the 10-pence (29 cents) fee for plastic bags reduce usage by 95 per cent!

Lars Svensson, the Country Marketing Manager of IKEA Singapore (whom I first met in pirate garb at the Swedish ship Götheborg) the told me they even incorporated the word "NO" in their campaign t-shirts for the launch today because they look forward to explaining to customers the rationale, action and also the economics of the process. They are prepared for the long-term challenge of what essentially will be the education and lobbying of customers for their approval and support.

What's the alternative?

You can bring your own reusable bag as some were already doing that morning, or get one of the iconic, durable blue IKEA shopping bags at the store - the price has been more than halved from $2.90 to $1.20. And even better, it comes with a lifetime guaranty. Lars said, 'if your bag has a hole in five years time, come and get it replaced!'

Follow the money

Proceeds from the sale of the bags will be donated to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Singapore Conservation Fund to fund initiatives by the Indonesia government and non-government organisations to prevent and monitor illegal fires and forest-clearing and to promote sustainable forest management and protect.

Ikea Singapore and WWF signed that agreement this morning in the presence of well wishers that included local groups supporting the move such as ECO Singapore, Blue Water Volunteers, Nature Society (Singapore), Waterways Watch Society and the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore.

Why do this now?

We consume some 2.5 billion a year pastic bags a year, according to the National Environment Agency. That's some 11 plastic bags per person each week. Many harbour a stockpile at home due to generous cashiers and complacent shoppers. Loads of plastic bags get thrown out during spring cleaning and since its all free, there is no cost associated with this action.

Volunteer who hit the shores during the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore certainly agree that plastics bags are too freely available, and are not always properly disposed of, either. In just over an hour each September, some two thousand volunteers find an average of more then 11,000 discarded plastic bags - all of those were issued free of course and are thus regarded as valueless. [see data at webpage].

We certainly need a significant extra push before we'll reduce consumption. It's just the way it is.

Ikea's move is no surprise, having encouraged the use of reusable bags for many years. In 2005, they made the bold move (then) of commemorating Earth Day by not issuing plastic bags [See "IKEA will not distribute plastic bags on Earth Day weekend." Habitatnews, 11 Apr 2005.] The debate in the past half-decade has helped raised awareness of issue but its time for something more (see "Say no to plastic bags").

So Ikea Singapore has decided to lead the field once again and has taken a stand. Lars says, they hope to change consumer practice in Singapore with this initiative. And watching them closely are other retailers.

After the signing ceremony, the NGO representatives joined the media in observing the cashiers, leggy beauties and Beatty Secondary ECO-student volunteers greet the first customers of the day with that clear message on their t-shirts. They also distributed free resuable bags. Many of th customers were smiling but some did looking suspicious!

The discussion between the activists on the sidelines acknowledged the uphill battle that loomed ahead, expressed enthusiastic support for the IKEA programme and their convictions, and almost surprisingly, reflected an undaunted optimism that all this has and will make a difference!

Click for more photos

Posted at 6:46AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Wed 18 Apr 2007

"Say no to plastic bags"

Category : coastalcleanup

"Say no to plastic bags."
By Lee U-Wen. Today, 18 Apr 2007.

YOU may not realise it, but each day, nearly every one of us brings a pest into the home. They are small, mostly pink, blue or white in colour, adaptable to land and water, and have caused the deaths of countless animals and fish around the world.

This lethal monster is none other than the plastic bag, a flimsy everyday item that we simply cannot do without, yet has been the scourge of many cities, even countries, which have rallied to impose taxes or ban them altogether.

The global war against plastic bags - something that most people use for only a short while but takes hundreds of years to break down - is picking up steam, most notably in San Francisco, which last month became the first American city to ban non-biodegradable plastic bags. Shoppers there now must use paper bags when they buy groceries, or carry their own bags from home. The move came after weeks of intense lobbying from environmentalists.

San Francisco joins a select group that has taken a major step forward in saving the earth, including Rwanda, Bangladesh, South Africa, Mumbai and Bhutan which have already imposed their own ban. Paris will join the list at the end of this year, with the rest of France following suit by 2010.

Why, then, is Singapore, a much smaller city and one that has serious aspirations of making its mark as a champion of green technology, not following suit in a big way?

A National Environment Agency (NEA) study revealed that Singaporeans use about 2.5 billion plastic bags each year - the equivalent of 19 million kilogrammes of waste.

In Apr 2005, TODAY raised the plastic bag issue to national debate.

Ever since a heated debate on plastic bags was sparked off in this newspaper some two years ago, the awareness of the problem has gone up somewhat. A national campaign to encourage the use of reusable bags has taken off well with more than 100,000 such bags sold at many major supermarkets.

More significantly, today marks Singapore's first Bring Your Own Bag Day, where more than 200 supermarkets will encourage customers to use reusable bags. That it is not just a one-off campaign, but one that will take place every first Wednesday of the month, is also laudable.

But we can do better. We need to speed up the push to bring down the use of plastic bags here.

The Government certainly believes enough in Singaporeans' changing attitudes towards environment issues, seeing how it is investing millions of dollars to study clean energy and launching eco-friendly flats in Punggol.

But time and again, whenever the plastic bag problem surfaces, we get the same message from the lawmakers, that it prefers not to impose legislation, but rather work with voluntary schemes and allow consumers and the market to take the lead.

Encouragingly, the door to legislation is not fully closed, as NEA chief executive Lee Yuen Hee said last week that he had not ruled out making it a law if the plastic bag situation does not improve here.

Then the question is, when is that breaking point for such a move to happen? What would it take for lawmakers here to introduce a law in Parliament? I believe that if we continue to take the ground-up route, we can never expect any significant progress to be made in a country where people have grown up expecting plastic bags to be given to us free.

Realistically, banning plastic bags completely is not completely feasible, given our heavy dependence on them, be it at the wet market or to contain garbage at home.

A plastic tax is perhaps the best way to make consumers think twice about whether they really need that bag when they buy their pack of cigarettes, a newspaper or a loaf of bread. Such a tax is already taking off in many countries around the world. If you're out shopping in Taiwan or Ireland, be prepared to fork out anywhere from five to 20 cents for a plastic bag.

Last June, Ikea stores in the United Kingdom started charging its customers 10 pence (30 cents) per bag, a move which the furniture giant said could cut down plastic bag usage by a whopping 20 million by this year. Its two stores here recently became the first retail stores to start charging for plastic bags.

How Singapore can do one better is to promise that every single cent collected from its plastic bag tax goes towards green effort, be it for more recycling centres, running environmental programmes in schools, or to various non-profit groups such as the Environmental Challenge Organisation and the Singapore Environment Council.

You do the maths - a nominal tax of, say, five cents multiplied by 2.5 billion bags would add up to an astonishing $125 million to fund meaningful causes. But until then, let us try to cut down our usage in whatever small way we can.

With April 22 being Earth Day - a special day to celebrate the Earth and remind ourselves of its scarce resources - each of us can do our part by refusing that plastic bag when we go shopping, or even better, bring along a reusable bag.

That would be the best present you could ever give to Mother Nature. And it's much better than having to deal with yet another law breathing down our necks.


San Francisco, first US city to ban plastics bag distribution at large supermarkets.

  • "San Francisco to ban plastic grocery bags." Reuters (at CNN), 28 Mar 2007. San Francisco's Board of Supervisors voted ... to become the first U.S. city to ban plastic bags from large supermarkets to help promote recycling.

  • CNN video. "We can't sleepwalk into the future. The end of the era of cheap oil is here."

  • "San Francisco Nears Ban on Plastic Grocery Bags." By Richard Gonzales. NPR, 14 Apr 2007. Audio file and transcript.

  • "Paper or plastic? San Francisco decides." By John M. Glionna. L. A. Times, 28 Mar 2007.

  • "Plastic-bag ban full of holes." USA Today, 01 Apr 2007. The real culprit is the slob who litters or refuses to recycle either one — or communities that don't provide the means for him to do so. Our throwaway society is to blame as well. ... Each individual can do more to help the environment by reusing whatever bags groceries distribute or buying a canvas sack to carry goods.

  • Google News and Yahoo! News. For emerging reactions from other counties, states and countries.

  • Google News Archives

Some highlights from recent efforts in Singapore

  • WildSingapore: News about plastic consumption. Efforts to reduce use of plastic bags, issues, discussions.

  • "NEA launches campaign to encourage shoppers to use reusable bags." By Wong Mun Wai. Channel NewsAsia, 11 Apr 2007

  • "Ikea to start charging customers for plastic bags." By Tania Tan. The Straits Times, 11 Apr 2007. Retailer hopes to cut waste; from April 22, shoppers will pay up to 10 cents for them.

  • "Campaign to reduce wastage of plastic shopping bags." Habitatnews, 10 Feb 2006 - campaign and background to problem.

  • "Make the difference." Today, 28 Oct 2005. Every gesture contributes to improving our environment.

  • "Semakau landfill to last 15 more years as recycling reduces waste." Channel News Asia, 16 Jul 2005.

  • "Is S'pore a nation of plastic bag junkies?" Habitatnews, 26 Apr 2005 - Lee U-Wen's article title (25 Apr 2005) and Yvonne Lim's editorial, "Say no to plastic bags." (26 Apr 2005).

  • "IKEA will not distribute plastic bags on Earth Day weekend." Habitatnews, 11 Apr 2005 - about The Straits Times report, and comments based on data from ICCS 2004 and NEA Clean Card 2005.

Impact on Marine Life and Public Education

  • "Battling the Curse of Marine Litter" - article that explains the problems, special impact of plastic, volunteeer efforts on the international coastal cleanup especially mangroves and what the data tells us.

  • "Drowning in an ocean of plastic." Habitatnews, 07 Jun 2004 - highlights from article of that title in Wired News, 5th June 2004 by Stephen Leahy.

  • "More than 100 horsehoe crabs rescued from gill net at Mandai." Habitatnews, 13 Mar 2005.

  • "Lazarus Island rescue for crabs and coral." Habitatnews, 28 Jul 2004.

  • "Two dead turtles, guts choked with marine rubbish (Australia)." Habitatnews, 15 Jul 2006 - Univ. Queensland report.

  • "Reaching heartlanders on World Environment Day - EnviroFest 2006." Habitatnews, 23 Jun 2006 - One way that various groups promote nature/environment education in Singapore.

  • "What an Albatross ate." Habitatnews, 06 Mar 2004 - Link to a Shifting Baselines feature on plastics.

  • "L. A. Times "Altered Oceans" features the plague of plastics." Habitatnews, 05 Aug 2006 - excellent web resource!

International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

  • ICCS webpage - 2006 results.

  • "Battling the curse of marine litter - volunteers around the globe take to the shores." Habitatnews, 18 Sep 2006.

  • "Here's the dirt on S'pore's beaches." Habitatnews, 05 Dec 2005 - ST report by Radha Basu on the 2005 International Coastal Cleanup Singapore; 'Singapore has had an anti-littering campaign for more than three decades. Yet we seem to have a long way to go.'

  • "Worldwide Coastal Cleanup Bags 4,000 Tons of Debris." Habitatnews, 21 May 2005.

  • "World Oceans Day - ICC director speaks at the United Nations." Habitatnews, 09 Jun 2005.

  • "Coastal Cleanup data in FHM." Habitatnews, 22 Mar 2005.

  • "Reflections of Cedar Primary students." Habitatnews, 13 Oct 2005 - "The beach was very dirty. I think we P4s have done a good job in picking up the litter. But I wonder why there were so much litter. Does that mean we singaporeans don't care for our environment. In future, I wish I could see Singapore's beach clean." Hema Roshini 4-3.

  • Rubbish in Johor Straits - '15 tonnes collected daily'. Habitatnews, 23 Jul 2006 - NST article: "Tonnes of rubbish from polluted strait."

  • "Clean, Green S'pore? Not the beaches." By Radha Basu. The Straits Times, 22 Oct 2004.

International Coastal Cleanup Singapore Posters
Click for link to Flickr images with an option to download the original size for printing.

Posted at 7:28AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Mon 18 Sep 2006

Battling the curse of marine litter - volunteers around the globe take to the shores

Category : coastalcleanup

Sat 16 Sep 2006 - As the sun rose over the earth, thousands of volunteers in every continent woke up and headed out to clean up marine debris from local beaches, mangroves, coral reefs, lakes and rivers in the the largest one-day volunteer event on behalf of clean oceans and waterways -- the International Coastal Cleanup.

ICC is unique inhaving a data collection component. Volunteers record specific types of marine debris being found, allowing The Ocean Conservancy to compile, analyze and track this data year-by-year and make discoveries about the behaviors that cause the debris. The final information is used to educate the public, business, industry, and government officials about the problem. We believe understanding the problem is the key to finding long-lasting solutions.

This annual exercise and other year-round cleanups also help reduce the chance of animal entanglement by ghost nets and ingestion of plastics by marine animals.

Last year, nearly 450,000 volunteers picked up more than 3,700 tonnes of debris from almost 29,000 km of shoreline around the world. This brought the 20-year total to more than 45,000 tonnes of debris removed [see ICC Press Release].

The International Coastal Cleanup is 15 years old in Singapore (ICCS). Each year some 2,000 volunteers collect 90,000 -100,000 pieces of trash weighing between 7-10 tonnes from our beaches and mangroves [2005 report]. This year some 30 schools, organisations and an increasing number of government bodies and corporations have risen to the task.

The mangrove cleanups are conducted a week earlier or later to catch the low tide at Kranji, Loyang, Tampines, Lim Chu Kang and Chek Jawa mangroves [see results]. Tomorrow morning, the larger number of volunteers will collect and categorise trash on beaches at Changi, Pulau Ubin, Kallang Basin, Marina East, East Coast Parkway, Punggol, Sembawang and Pasir Ris.

Everyone is welcome to turn up at the beaches at 8.30am and join in the effort!

The International Coastal Cleanup Singapore webpage has more details.

Posted at 6:17AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email | Read more ...

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