The Bottled-Up Truth: Why We Can and Need to Do Better than a Straw Ban

Earth Observatory Blog

The Bottled-Up Truth: Why We Can and Need to Do Better than a Straw Ban

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Let’s face it – the use of plastics has been our way of life. How many of us (at least those in our twenties) can recall going to the wet market with our parents when we were young without using a single plastic bag? Probably none. That’s the way we were brought up.

But just because something has become habitual and is a social norm does not mean that it is right, or that it has to stay that way.

The effects of plastic pollution today are not unfamiliar to most. We see news of marine animals ingesting or being trapped in plastic debris, all over social and mainstream media. We know of studies that have found that microplastics are making their way into our food chain[1][2].

But exactly how much of this can we attribute to our daily lives? It is not common that we see marine animals or an ocean of trash in our city-state. So it is easy to see why many Singaporeans are apathetic towards the issue of unsustainable plastic use. After all, plastic pollution in our world’s oceans is a collective action problem. Solving it requires the collective effort of everyone, and we are but a small nation.

Click on the image to enlarge (Source: Antoinette Jade/Earth Observatory of Singapore)

“Singapore is so small, use or don’t use also no difference one lah.” – a common response of a typical Singaporean when someone tries to dissuade the use of single-use plastics.

But the fact remains that it does matter – whether we realise it or not. There is life in our oceans and shores worth protecting. In this regard, we were lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to explore parts of Singapore that remain untouched by urban development.

Our internship with Celebrating Singapore Shores landed us the chance to visit Singapore’s intertidal reef flats on many occasions, which we otherwise would not have the chance to visit. Who would have thought that we have stingrays, sharks, dolphins and sea turtles right at our shores!

Sadly, our waters are not devoid of trash. We often hear of beach clean-ups, and the very fact that we need people to clean up our beaches suggests that our shores are not as clean as we assume them to be. In 2017, 20 divers from Our Singapore Reefs collected over 72 kilograms (kg) of debris in just 45 minutes[3].

More importantly, though, we ought to worry about our unsustainable use of plastics. According to the National Environmental Agency, Singapore generated nearly 800 thousand tonnes of plastic waste in 2017 alone[4]  – that’s equivalent to nearly 20 plastic bottles being disposed per person per day.

At our current rate of consumption, Semakau landfill is projected to be filled within the next 17 years [5]. What are we going to do then? Expand our landfill further? How long more can we keep doing that? How much more space do we have to do so?

For these reasons, we were motivated to develop this short film to bring attention to the great diversity of marine life that exists in our waters and shores. More importantly, however, we wanted to shed some light on the issues that surround our addiction to plastics.

After all, this tiny island is our home. Who else is going to be responsible for it but us?

From left: Lisa Lim, Fang Yi Tan, and Jia Min Lee (Source: Antoinette Jade/Earth Observatory of Singapore)

References: 

[1] M.Boerger, C., L.Lattin, G., L.Moore, S., & J.Moore, C. (2010). Plastic ingestion by planktivorous fishes in the North Pacific Central Gyre Author links open overlay panel. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 60(12), 2275-2278.
[2] Seltenrich, N. (2015). New Link in the Food Chain? Marine Plastic Pollution and Seafood Safety. Environmental Health Perspectives.
[3] Diving Belle. (2017, June 9). Our Singapore Reefs Marine Cleanup and Coral Rescue. Retrieved from divingbelle.sg: http://www.divingbelle.sg/?p=193
[4] National Environmental Agency. (2018, September 26). Waste Management. Retrieved from www.nea.gov.sg: https://www.nea.gov.sg/our-services/waste-management/waste-statistics-an...
[5] Resources, M. o. (2018). Managing our waste: landfill. Retrieved from www.mewr.gov.sg: https://www.mewr.gov.sg/topic/landfill

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