Sailors from Changi Sailling Club took part in a beach and water way clean up over National Day this year. The idea was to raise awareness about the ever growing problem in our seas of plastic pollution
The club has started to ban the use of plastic by not giving out plastic bags anymore, and discouraging the use of straws. Even by doing something as small as preventing one person from using a straw or plastic bag, it does mean that one less piece of plastic is used. But is this really enough to raise awareness about the plastic we consume every day?
Most people are not very aware of the harm plastics do to the environment. Sure, they have seen pictures of plastic pollution in other countries, but to them, it does not matter. Why? Because they can’t see it. Rubbish gets swept into the seas. People that leave their rubbish on beaches get their trash swept away by the waves. Even innocent mistakes happen in which a sudden gust of wind can sweep a plastic cup off a beachside cafe (or boat!) and drop it into the sea. These bits of rubbish, plastic especially, damage wildlife and coastal ecosystems. Animals mistake the plastic for food, they get caught in it and strangle themselves. And that’s just the plastic that we can see. There are micro plastics in the sea too that come from broken down pieces of plastic, the beads in facial and body scrubs, and cosmetic products.
So we thought that it would be good for the club and its members to raise awareness about the harm of these plastic products by arranging a beach cleanup. We did two beach cleanups. One at Pulau Ketam, a small island to the southeast of Pulau Ubin, and one on the beach in front of Changi Sailing Club.
Pulau Ketam is an uninhabited island. No one lives on it. It’s just full of mangroves and wildlife. At least, that’s what it’s supposed to be like. Instead, what we found was straight out of a horror story. Literally. Plastic bottles everywhere. Deodorant, shampoo bottles. Cigarette lighters, shoes, styrofoam, fishing line, even a helmet.
We did an audit of the rubbish we got from the Ketam. It was about 25 kilograms. Thanks to Notus, SDF, Southern Light and Emanuel 2 for joining the overnight camp and morning clean-up. In particularly thanks to the NTU team from Notus who collected the lions share of the garbage from Ketam. (A further 25 kilograms were collected from the waterway clean up and the Changi beach clean up by other boats and other members ). That’s 160 plastic bottles, 34 bottle caps, 5 hangers, 8 pieces of cutlery, 6 cigarette lighters, 10 flip flops, 6 glass bottles, 24 straws, 8 cans, 4 spray bottles and 2 lightbulbs. All in half an hour’s work.
The top brands we counted were Ice Mountain, 100 Plus, Dixy, Coca Cola, Dasani and Sprite. 46 bottles had no visible brand. But they mostly seemed to be mineral water bottles.
Sadly after the Ketam clean up the island still didn’t look any different, such is the scale of the problem.
What can we as sailors do to help the environment? Here are a few ideas
- Take a piece of plastic garbage back every time you visit a beach or go out to sea. (If 1,000 sailors do this every weekend that’s 1,000 fewer pieces of rubbish on our shores).
- Refuse mineral water. Fill up your own water bottles from the taps at the end of the pier.
- Insist on ‘no straw’ when you order a drink for yourself and others
- Bring your own plastic bag when shopping
- Don’t do takeaway drinks or food unless you bring your own containers
- Suggest to big drinks companies that they spend their Research & Development money on finding bio-degrable alternatives to plastic rather than new tastes or brands of their beverages
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