Beach cleanup efforts boosted amid monsoon season

Volunteers picking up trash at East Coast Park last Friday. The National Environment Agency says there has been an almost 90 per cent increase in the amount of flotsam collected from East Coast Park beaches during the south-west monsoon season, compa
Volunteers picking up trash at East Coast Park on July 31, 2020.ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

The tides are bringing trash to Singapore's southern coastlines.

At East Coast Park, visitors may have noticed a hotchpotch of plastic items, such as cups and bottles, and styrofoam containers strewn on the beaches.

And those who think the trash situation looks worse than usual would not be wrong.

The cause? Not so much the beachgoers, but the way the winds blow during the south-west monsoon season, which Singapore is currently experiencing.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said there has been an almost 90 per cent increase in the amount of flotsam collected from the beaches at East Coast Park during this period, compared with other times of the year.

The National Parks Board (NParks) and NEA said that while there have been more visitors to the park in the second phase of Singapore's reopening, most visitors continue to practise good park etiquette, including throwing their litter into designated bins.

"The wind blows from the south or south-east between June and September, bringing an increased amount of flotsam from the immediate region, which accumulates on the shores of neighbouring countries and islands, including East Coast Park," said the agencies in a joint statement.

A Straits Times check at one of the beaches at the park last Friday showed debris bearing the names of Indonesian brands, such as Pop Mie instant noodles and Ale-Ale-brand drinks.

The NEA said it has increased the frequency of cleaning operations during this period, from four times a week to twice daily.

"Despite these intensified cleaning efforts, it is not possible to eliminate the presence of flotsam on our beaches altogether, as during each high tide, new waves of flotsam from the open sea will be washed onto our shores," said the statement.

The sight of the trash-strewn beaches during her jogs so irked local marine enthusiast Samantha Thian, 25, that she decided to take matters into her own hands.

 
 
 

Early last month, she started a movement calling for volunteers to help pick up trash on the beaches at East Coast Park.

The cleanup sessions are initiated by individuals over the "Best East Coast Clean-up Plan" group on messaging application Telegram. The group had more than 500 members as of last Saturday.

Ms Thian, founder of social enterprise Seastainable, which sells items such as metal straws and reusable cups to encourage people to use less disposables, said she hopes that the beach cleanup initiative will raise awareness about the harm of single-use items.

She added that while it may be the winds and currents that bring trash onto Singapore's shores, the amount of plastic debris that washes up highlights the broader problem of the world's reliance on these single-use items and the impact it could have on the oceans and marine life.

"The bodies of fish or mammals are unable to break down plastic, causing plastic to remain in their stomachs, which eventually causes them to starve," she said.

 

The NEA said it collected more than 1,000 tonnes of flotsam from the beaches at East Coast Park last year.

Ms Thian also pointed to signs of the coronavirus outbreak in the trash: Volunteers have found debris further inland near walking paths, including medical equipment such as surgical masks, gloves and even a box of syringes, she said.

NParks and NEA urged visitors to be considerate of others when enjoying the park's facilities.

"Our parks, gardens and nature areas are for all to enjoy. Keeping our parks clean is everyone's responsibility. Littering not only spoils the beauty of our parks, but may harm wildlife too," said the agencies.

LISTEN TO GREEN PULSE PODCAST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2020, with the headline 'Beach cleanup efforts boosted amid monsoon season'. Print Edition | Subscribe