On 10 Aug 2019, in the middle of the National Day long weekend, 15 Zenners headed to the bay between Lazarus and St John’s Islands, with the aim of cleaning up the seabed. From previous trips, we knew that the area was littered with trash.
At the site, we split into teams. Armed with gloves and mesh nets, we started the operation. The land team scoured the rubbish-laden beaches. The sea team further split into 4 smaller groups, each with a buoy, line and lanyards in case trash found at depth and line dives were needed, and spread out within the bay. It turned out that most of the trash was located between 2-5m depth. Dive after dive, we picked up as much trash as we could.
An hour later, we regrouped to process the rubbish according to Project Aware’s Dive Against Debris recording protocol. For every dive clean up done around the world, trash is sorted and recorded, with the hope that the information will be used to inform local policy change.
Here is the breakdown of what we found in a ~5x15m area of the sea floor:
27 food wrappers
18 food containers
7 beverage bottles
2 pvc pipes
2 fishing lines
1 mesh bag
1 mask (the full face kind)
1 glass bottle
1 aluminium can
3 food tins
1 metal lid
6 fishing sinkers/lures/hooks
1 rubber fragment
2 wood fragments
11 cloth bags
1 electronic device (a drone!)
1 SUP/canoe paddle
In total, in just one hour, we removed 22kg of rubbish from the beach, and 24.5kg of rubbish from underwater. It was great to see everyone doing their best to pick up all they could find, but incredibly sad to see the immense amount of rubbish that was there in the first place.
There are two parts to this (simplified) problem: Excessive packaging and improper disposal. Almost everything we buy comes packaged in single use plastic, because it is convenient for producer and consumer. Although the rubbish disposal system in Singapore is quite good, many areas in other countries are lacking, and so rubbish gets dumped either straight into the ocean, or somewhere on land where it gets washed into the sea (from the writing on the packaging we found, most of the items seem to be from Indonesia).
If we want to see our oceans clean again, we all have to do something about it. Here are some suggestions:
- Reduce your use of plastic. Bring your own bags when you shop, refuse plastic bags, avoid single use plastics, and shop at zero waste stores (there are a few in Singapore now). When you go on holiday in other countries, be aware of your use of plastic and try to reduce it because they may not have a proper disposal system. This is not just in developing countries, in many developed countries rubbish is dumped in a landfill, where it could get blown away (not to mention leach toxins as it breaks down). There may be times when you can’t avoid it, or simply forget to bring your own bag, but we can only do our best. If everyone cuts down on what they can, it will make a difference.
- If you see trash, pick it up! Even if you are not at an organised clean up, removing litter when you see it and disposing of it properly will prevent it from ending up in the ocean, and possibly in some poor sea creature’s stomach.
On our part, we will organise regular clean ups in different locations. Stay tuned for the next one!