Guardians of the S.E.A.A. cleared 102kg of trash from Sungei Tampines at first Mangrove Cleanup

Our first Mangrove Cleanup at Sungei Tampines saw 20 participants picking up 102kg of trash in slightly over an hour. While the area covered wasn’t expansive – just about the size of a basketball court – the density of trash was appalling, which made the cleanup no less exhausting than a beach cleanup.

And data on the trash collected reflected the severity of the pollution problem in this mangrove swamp. Here are the top 5 types of trash collected:

1. Plastic straws – 1,969 pieces
2. Food wrappers – 473 pieces
3. Plastic pieces – 381 pieces
4. Other plastic/foam packaging – 169 pieces
5. Plastic bottle caps – 152 pieces

Ian Chai from our Conservation Team took part in the cleanup and shares his experience.


We often hear about plastic pollution in our marine habitats or have seen online images or posts about them. But people don’t often actively seek out such polluted areas to clean them up as they tend to be secluded and inaccessible, causing the trash to pile up.

Mangrove swamps are one of these ‘out of sight, out of mind’ locations. This is one reason why Guardians of the S.E.A.A. decided to hold a cleanup at Sungei Tampines, and I was part of the crew that day.

A short briefing on the Dos and Don’ts before heading off.
My colleague Nivedha also shared with everyone some of the animals commonly found in local waters.
Into the mangrove swamp we go!
The damp, slippery track and uneven terrain seemed to hint at the challenges ahead.

The amount of trash we saw was way above my expectation. They ranged from really small plastic pieces to large plastic pails and styrofoam boards.
You could tell that the trash had been accumulating there for quite some time. Plastic pieces and straws, amongst many other items, were partially buried in the mud. So much so that we had to forcefully pull some of them out of the ground.

This boy picked up hundreds of plastic straws.
This was just the tip of the iceberg. The total number of straws we collected was really much more than I had expected.
This spunky young man picked up two heavy bundles of thick, grimy ropes.
That’s me jotting down the number and types of items picked up. All data collected will be sent to International Coastal Cleanup.

I think the most interesting part of this cleanup was to see for myself what were the most commonly found trash items in that mangrove swamp.
One team even picked up a broken toilet seat!
Weighing all that trash.
Time to call it a day. Everyone wanted to continue and pick up every piece of trash they saw. Unfortunately, that was impossible due to the time constraints.

With 102kg less trash, the difference was night and day.

Mission accomplished!

Overall, it was a very impactful experience for me. I feel it will be equally impactful for anyone who was there picking up the trash with his own hands.

This experience has definitely strengthened my belief in conservation, and how small efforts or changes in one’s lifestyle can help our ocean and environment.

“What difference will one straw make?” said 7 billion people.

I saw this quote online and felt that it really drives home the point about conservation. If everyone just puts in a little effort to help the ocean, together we will make a huge difference.

Guardians of the S.E.A.A. holds beach cleanups, reef cleanups and other conservation related activities all year round. If you too believe in doing your part for our environment, do join us as a member and be the first to know about these upcoming events. More details here

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