5 things i wish someone told me about beach clean-up sessions in Singapore.

To usher in Earth Day, futr singapore took part in an office-wide beach clean-up session. But little did I know that while the team rid the shores of rubbish, I’d also uncover some dirty little… thoughts of wisdom in the process.


While a beach clean-up may seem like an awesome activity to do with friends, family, colleagues or even on your own, lemme just say it’s not all fun and games.

Though definitely enjoyable and meaningful, it made this chronic overthinker think a little harder about life, the environment and beach clean-up sessions in general.

so here’s what went down.

In the lead up to Earth Day, some of my colleagues wanted to spend our usual Friday get together sessions doing something a little out of the ordinary.

With the recent COVID-19 measures liberating us from fixed group sizes and masks (while outdoors), an office-wide beach clean-up session was organised!

Joining forces with the creative peeps at Strada Visual Lab, video gurus at The Imagine Co., along with our friends at AutoApp and Ignition Labs, we took East Coast Park by storm!

Having never done a beach clean-up before (officially, anyway), I was super excited (as you can probably tell from the number of exclamation marks I’ve been using)!

After all, I’d already seen countless posts on social media of my friends renting equipment and waking up super early to pick litter off our fair shores.

all set and ready to clean!

But still, there were some things I wish I had known before I embarked on my first beach clean-up sesh.

For instance…

1. trash isn’t always where you’d think it to be.

No, this isn’t dating advice.

I mean it quite literally, though I suppose it varies according to when and what time you decide to go. Having not gone to East Coast Park for a good few years, I was expecting to see a scene such as this:

minus islands in the distance.

Instead, I was greeted by this:

complete with cute lil’ one.

Huh, I thought, squinting as I took in the gorgeous beach around me.

“I don’t remember the waters being this blue,” Sam, our Lifestyle editor, remarked. “Yeah… feels a little like you’re at some resort beach overseas,” I reply.

True enough, when we eventually did split up to comb different areas of the park, we found that those who picked up the most trash were the ones who ventured to the areas closer to the carparks. Though we’re not completely sure why, one of our colleagues did suggest that the bins at the carpark were more sparsely placed, and suggested perhaps that drivers toss away their litter haphazardly before zooming off in their cars.

Conversely, having decided to comb the shoreline, I spent most of my time contemplating life between cigarette butts, with hardly any sign of other types of trash.

It was a little weird, especially when you read articles like this.

Still, it could simply be a case of the tide not having rolled in too much rubbish just yet, or even just super efficiency on the part of our cleaners.

2. you can DIY your own beach clean-up session.

If you’re organising a beach clean-up session for a large group, it makes sense to get equipment from companies that provide it. For us, we opted to rent some from the good folks at Green Nudge at a cost. The given set included tongs, garbage bags with guni sacks, and rubber gloves which were more than enough for everyone.

you’re never too young to start caring a little more!

Plus, they even had some kid-sized equipment for the little ones in our midst!

But as we later learned, a beach clean-up can be easily done DIY. All you need is the right equipment, a beach, and you’re good to go!

For more details though, be sure to visit out guide here.

3. you aren’t the only one with the bright idea.

Shortly after our beach clean-up session, I noticed several groups of students getting ready to scour the beach for more trash.

So while it did warm the cockles of my heart (hi Jamus!), it also made me wonder if beach clean-up sessions were one of the more popular or publicised volunteer environmental activities in Singapore. It also did trigger the thought that perhaps there were other important causes that weren’t talked about as much as the need to keep our shores clean.

So while a beach clean-up may be the first thing that comes to mind when someone asks for suggestions to volunteering activities, I’d encourage you to dig a little deeper (pun fully intended).

After all, there are also other environmental volunteering opportunities elsewhere that could really do with an extra hand or two.

For instance, you could reach out to organisations like:

Trash Hero Singapore

Nature Society Singapore

Jane Goodall Institute

Waterways Watch Society

Foodbank Singapore

…and more, of course!

Now before you come at me with your reusable pitchforks, hear me out ah.

I’m not saying beach clean-ups are bad.

In fact, they are extremely important. I’m just saying that there’s never any harm reaching out to other organisations that may also be in need of assistance and manpower.

4. you may get angsty.

Okay everyone, I’m sure we all have our breaking points.

For some, it’s that breakup that happened over text. For others, it’s that one colleague who is always ‘sick’ during the busiest of workdays, passive-aggressive emails, or maybe even… slow walkers. *shudders*

For me, it was a cotton bud, that reminded me of this poignant photo:

image credits: Justin Hofman, National Geographic

Or perhaps it was picking up cigarette butt no. 31, fuelled also by the lack of caffeine and sleep.

Either way, I wished someone told me that this meaningful activity would get on my nerves. Because at the end of the day, let’s face it: you’re picking up someone else’s trash.

Surely, there would be no need for beach clean-ups in the first place if people were more responsible. After all, how difficult is it really to hold on to your rubbish until you find a nearby bin?

And if you happen to be one of those who smoked a ciggy butt I picked, you may be thinking, “but… it’s too troublesome to keep walking to the bin after each cigarette I smoke!”

Okaaay, then quit la. Or if you don’t want to, buy this. Easy.

Also, real talk right now. Who comes to the beach, admires a gorgeous sunset, and then decides to clean their ears with a cotton bud?

So yes, be prepared for a little angst and frustration. *breathes*

5. you’ll be amazed at all the weird stuff you’ll find.

We had a little contest to see who could pick up the most interesting item during our clean up session. From toy cars, an almost-full bottle of soda, to even someone’s house keys… we weren’t left disappointed.

Curious to know where some of them might have come from, I decided to do a wee bit of research to figure out our primary sources of marine trash.

most of our marine trash comes from:

  • Littering by beachgoers involved in activities such as cycling, jogging, swimming, relaxing, fishing, partying, barbecuing, or staying at chalets
  • Waste blown away from premises at the beach or due to improper disposal by the premise, including chalets, bicycle shops, cafes and restaurants, food centres, and convenience stores
  • Illegal discharge of waste from ships
  • Waste floating in from neighbouring countries
  • Illegal disposal of waste into the sea from fish farms
  • Illegal dumping of waste into the sea by companies
  • Litter in the canals and drains leading to the sea

So if you’ve ever fantasized about finding a message in a bottle, you just might! Although it’s probably more likely you’ll find a stray Indomie packet from our neighbours in the distance instead.

Regardless of whatever you decide to do to ‘invest in our planet‘ this Earth Day, we’re sure it’ll be awesome, as long as you’re passionate about it. Don’t just keep the fun to yourself tho, why not let us know what you’ve been up to here?

Happy Earth Day, earthlings!


Planning to do a beach clean-up? Start here. Or browse these articles for inspiration!

brintha loganathan

Apart from being futr Singapore's editor, Brin also churns out copy for Strada Visual Lab. Hobbies include mothering, "reality TV" and good beer. Mmm.

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