Working to keep Singapore's beaches clean

Workers start by clearing the flotsam washed highest ashore before moving lower, stopping at the point where they meet the tide.
Workers start by clearing the flotsam washed highest ashore before moving lower, stopping at the point where they meet the tide.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - Dressed in neon shirts and vests, with bright yellow construction boots, Mr Wong Hua Sun and Mr Chan Chee Yan gather at East Coast Park at 6am, along with eight other men.

They are part of a team responsible for a stretch along East Coast Park, from Area G to Area H, which is about 1.6km.

Part of Ramky Cleantech Services, a company hired by the National Environment Agency to clean public parks, these men are a reason why the park remains litter-free.

The men start their day with area cleaning, tidying up the barbecue pits and the surrounding area.

At first light, usually around 7am, their team moves down to the beach to clean it.

They are led by their manager, Ms Jenny Khng, 57, who has worked at Ramky Cleantech for 12 years.

Along the beach, they find plastic bottles, styrofoam containers, pieces of wood washed ashore and sometimes dead animals.

This kicks off their nine-hour day.

What they find is generally not litter but flotsam - pieces of broken wood and rubbish, which form marine debris, that wash ashore from the open seas.

 
 
 

Said Ms Khng to The New Paper: "When I was younger, seaweed used to wash ashore. Now it is trash."

She added that the first two weeks of June usually see a lot of flotsam. A recent example was reported by The Straits Times when a 200m stretch of trash was seen on the beach at the end of May.

On days with a lot of flotsam, workers can collect up to 1,000kg in trash and debris.

The two men will work on the beach until noon before the next shift takes over. The second shift will clean until 7pm.

Mr Wong and Mr Chan will then spend the rest of the day cleaning the East Coast Park till 4pm.

With the constant ebb and flow of the tide, there is always a new layer of flotsam to clear.

The process of cleaning the beach begins by clearing the flotsam washed highest ashore. Then they steadily go lower, stopping at the point where they meet the tide.

They do not go into the water, because of risk of injury caused by the unstable ground.

The trash they collect is placed in jute bags, or for dead animals, plastic bags. They will be taken to either recycling or incineration plants.

Mr Chan, a 42-year-old Singapore permanent resident, who has been working at Ramky Cleantech for two years, told TNP that he does not find the job hard.

He added in Mandarin: "I'd be willing to do this job for as long as I have the energy to."