It all began 26 years ago, with former SAS middle school teacher Kate Thome. A small group of students, a local mangrove, and thousands of kilograms of waste that had accumulated over the years.
Today, continued by high school teacher Steve Early, the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) has grown into a long-standing tradition for SAVE (Students Against Violation of the Environment).
On September 9, 2017, more than 60 SAS students, faculty, parents, as well as NUS volunteer group Little Green Men, came together for the annual cleanup. They spent the morning at Lim Chu Kang mangroves, splitting up into groups of three or four to efficiently navigate the dense mangrove roots and log and pick up trash as a team.
They then brought the trash up to the entrance of the mangroves where it was weighed, and eventually brought up to the bus area for collection. It was a tiring and mud-splattered morning, and most people were covered from head to toe in mangrove soil by the time they finished. In total, the morning yielded a total of 360 kilograms of bagged waste, as well as a five-feet-wide 100-kilogram truck tire that took eight students to move.
But the contributions to environmental welfare didn’t end with the simple removal of trash from the mangroves. Students participating in ICCS not only get a chance to join one of SAS’s oldest extracurricular activities but also participate in a global effort where numerous groups go out to collect and log the different types of trash they find in their local areas.
Back at SAS, the data was compiled and sent to the Ocean Conservancy, where it is collated with worldwide concurrent coastal cleanup efforts for environmental analysis. Compared to other years, the 360-kilogram yield is surprisingly low, but most of that can be attributed to earlier mangrove cleanups that took place on National Day, a month prior to the ICCS.
If 360 kilograms of trash collected after a mere month, you can imagine how polluted the mangroves would be if trash had piled up over the course of a year. Because the National Day cleanup happened one month prior to the ICCS, this year's cleanup offers more time-specific insight as to what articles of trash are polluting our seas.
Even beyond looking at the amount generated over specific time periods, the data provides valuable insights into changing consumption habits. Throughout the years, SAS has accumulated its own unique sets of data specific to the Lim Chu Kang mangrove region.
SAS’s data show a decline in plastic beverage bags common to hawker centers—suggesting, perhaps, more people are putting those in the trash instead of littering.
Participating in the ICCS is not only an integral part of SAVE club’s identity but SAS’s too. From trend to tradition, this annual coastal cleanup that began long before most of today’s student leaders were born is sure to continue and demonstrate SAS students’ commitment to giving back to our environment.
26 years later, we have a much larger group, the same mangrove, and trash levels that have steadily decreased over the years—a testament to decades of efforts.
Photos by Tanvi Dutta Gupta
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