Have you ever taken been to one of our many beautiful beaches here in Singapore and looked around at the beach and just seen heaps of trash and rubbish just lying around on the sand or even seen civilians cleaning up the litter?
To be honest, I have not until recently during the lockdown period.
If you were to take a closer look at our beaches you would actually find that the reason behind its usual pristine states is due to the hard work of the beach cleaners who work tirelessly to maintain its cleanliness from early in the morning.
Cleaning a beach is no easy task. The cleaners have to spend hours, bend over. Picking up individual pieces of litter that are thrown or washed up to the shore by hand. Not to mention the fact that our most popular beach, East Coast Park itself is 15km long. This is in addition to any other duties they might have to attend to.
So, why even bring up cleaning up the beach if there already are cleaners? Won’t they just do the job for us?
This year, why not make it a resolution to conduct beach clean up with your loved ones? It is important for us to finally realise the root problem that is causing marine litter and take steps to help the issue!
Where Does This Trash Come From?
Well, from personal experience, most of the trash such as plastic containers and Styrofoam are not from local sources. They are usually carried to our shores by the tide.
This problem becomes worse especially around the first half of the year, where monsoon winds blow trash onto the shores. This problem was only made worse this year due to Covid-19 restrictions.
However, not all the trash comes from across the sea. Litter like glass bottles, cigarette buds, and even fishing gear is left behind by beach-goers who are lazy to dispose of their waste properly in the waste bins.
Why Is Trash A Problem?
Trash on the beach is often washed back into the oceans when the tide rises back up. One of the main concerns with trash in the oceans is due to the harm that is caused to the marine life.
Larger pieces of trash ranging from things like cigarette buds, bottles, strings and straws may be eaten by marine creatures. Drink holders, wraps, and other long pieces of trash might also trap the animals.
Small particles of plastic called microplastics, which are formed when large plastics are broken down, can also poison marine life. Microplastics can also cause harm to human beings as well when the contaminated fishes or even water is consumed.
Small and sharp pieces of wood, glass, plastic could be dangerous to people who are walking along the beach as well.
Having dirty beaches can may also be an unpleasant experience for visitors to the beach. After all, with Singapore priding itself as being a “Garden City”, having piles of trash covering our beautiful sandy shores would be contradictory.
What You Can Do To Help
Besides the cleaners that are already in place at the beaches, recently over the circuit breaker periods there have been volunteer efforts initiated by people who love our beaches.
Groups like the East Coast Beach Plan and the Green Nudge have organised volunteer-led efforts. They gather people to come down to more dirty areas of the beach that are dirtier to pick up litter there.
Starting Your Own Clean Up
If you want to initiate your own clean-up, it is really simple to get started.
What you need to bring:
- Trash bags
- Covered Shoes
Next, head down to your nearest beach to start the clean up! Be sure to check the tide tables to see when the tide is the lowest to be able to find the most trash washed up on shore. Also, remember to follow safe-distancing rules and register with NEA here before you do so.
The Beach Cleaning Experience
From my own experiences volunteering, the process of picking up litter is often times a very tedious and tiring one. Having to wake up early when the tide it at its lowest, trudge around on the sandy shores picking up all sorts of weird trash for an hour or so is not easy.
There have even been people who I have met on the beach who would come up to me and tell me that what I am doing is a waste of time.
However, I personally feel that this is a meaningful cause. It shows that there are people who still care about the environment and who are willing to at least try and take some of that responsibility into their own hands.
Other Ways To Help
Besides helping to clean up litter from the beach, there are other ways to indirectly help reduce marine trash too.
One of the easiest would be to reduce the usage of single-use plastics. A lot of the trash found on the beach comes in the form of plastic wrappings, bottles, and containers. Thus, helping to reduce the number of plastics or disposing of them properly should the need really arise would help to keep them out of our oceans!
Read more: The Art of Reusing Containers
Another way to help would be to properly dispose of and recycle your trash when at the beach. Ensure that they are properly thrown away to prevent them from being blown away into the ocean.
Lastly, you can also help by reminding your friends and family members to do the same when at the beach, or anywhere else too. Getting every last person to help protect our oceans is important. Even if it might seem trivial to keep pestering them to not litter or use eco-friendly products, you never know much your actions might impact someone.
Despite what some people may think, having clean beaches are not solely the responsibility of our cleaners. There is a lot that we as people living in Singapore can do to help protect our beaches, oceans, and marine life that live within it. Be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem today. Do your own part to keep our beaches clean!