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'P' is for the world’s deadliest monster

A dead turtle lies next to a discarded plastic bottle
Plastic waste causes over a million animal deaths annually. PHOTO: ISTOCK

Learn the hard truth about plastic waste and how you can encourage kids to play a part in making a difference

Convenient to use, easy to dispose of, and widely available — but single-use plastic just isn’t fantastic in the long run.

In fact, plastic waste leads to the deaths of over a million animals each year.

According to a 2015 article in Science magazine, vol. 347, every year, an estimated eight million metric tonnes of plastic waste enter the world’s oceans.

That’s one garbage truck unloading plastic bottles, disposable cutlery, straws, discarded toys and more, into our waters every minute.

While the thought of swimming in a swirl of trash would be enough to keep one on high ground, marine creatures do not have the luxury of choice. The problem worsens when nature takes its toll on plastics.

Hit by the sun’s UV rays and tossed about by waves, plastic objects disintegrate into tiny pieces known as microplastics, which are then consumed not just by unsuspecting animals at sea, but even on land and in the air.

The Midway Project

In 2009, artist and writer Chris Jordan began documenting the plastic pollution tragedy on Midway Atoll, a cluster of remote islands in the North Pacific Ocean, 3,000km away from the nearest continent.  There, he and his team discovered thousands of dead baby albatrosses.

Identifying their cause of death was fairly easy – their bellies were filled with undigested colourful plastic scraps.

Accepting nature’s sombre loss was a different matter altogether.

On World Oceans Day 2018, Jordan’s film, Albatross, was screened at the United Nations. The message was clear: nature is paying a high price for mankind’s obsession with single-use plastics, all in the name of convenience.

Further towards the east and west of the Pacific Ocean is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that is growing in size and severity. The latest estimates from an ABC News report in March show that it is now three times the size of France, churning with 79,000 tonnes of discarded plastic.

Ocean clean-ups have started, aided by technology in a race against time, before more living creatures are affected by the escalating sea pollution.

Building a generation of eco-rangers

Public education is key to curb society’s appetite for single-use plastics.

Closer to home, more than 10 per cent of all plastic, paper and cardboard waste in Singapore are from disposables used for takeaways.

Getting that number down requires a change in attitudes and lifestyles. For a start, these simple actions can help:

  • Learn to BYO (Bring-Your-Own): Use reusable food containers and utensils for takeaways, and reusable bottles and cups instead of disposable ones.
  • Go straw-free: This year’s biggest environmental movement actually started with nine-year-old Milo Cress, who convinced a local restaurant to ask customers if they needed a straw to go with their drink, instead of serving it automatically.

To nurture a future generation of eco-rangers like Milo Cress — and in celebration of Children’s Day, Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) is offering kids free entry to Jurong Bird Park, River Safari and Singapore Zoo throughout October when accompanied by adults.

A young visitor goes through the "Fight the Deadliest Monster" trail
Visitors to Jurong Bird Park, River Safari and Singapore Zoo can learn about the impact of plastic pollution at the “Fight the Deadliest Monster” trail. PHOTO: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Visitors can follow the self-guided “Fight the Deadliest Monster Trail”, which encourages everyone to join in the fight against the “deadliest monster”—plastic waste—and its perilous impact on wildlife. Eco-rangers who complete the trail will be rewarded with a delightful “Little Otter, Litter Trouble” book.

Daily animal presentations will be held at all three parks. “Go Green for Wildlife” ambassadors Ippy the Macaw, Luke the Pelican, and Philipp and Pedro the Sea Lions will demonstrate how to combat the “deadliest monster” with sustainable practices. 

Pedro the Sea Lion does a “show-and-tell” with reusable plastic bottles.

While October is traditionally a month where kids are busy cramming for their exams, taking time out to participate in a fun, relaxing outdoor classroom can only be time well-spent. After all, a sustainable future depends on what we do, and what we teach our kids today.

Free park entry for kids this month

From Oct 1 to 31, kids get to enter Jurong Bird Park, River Safari and Singapore Zoo for free*. Learn how to be an eco-ranger and fight the “deadliest monster” together. Visit www.deadliestmonster.sg.

*Applicable to local residents only. Free admission for one child (aged three to 12 years old) with each full paying adult admission. Terms and conditions apply.