Author Archives: otterman

Sun 24 Jun 2018: Pedal Ubin 2018 @ Pesta Ubin – explore Pulau Ubin and “The Ubin Way” with NUS Toddycats

Pedal Ubin returns for for Pesta Ubin 2018!

Pedal Ubin is a programme by NUS Toddycats dating back to 1999 and is pleased to be a participating member of Pesta Ubin, which is organised by the Friends of Ubin Network (FUN).

Join us for a ride around Pulau Ubin to explore the Island’s landmarks and scenery with NUS Toddycats volunteer guides from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, NUS. The ride is free of charge but you must read the details on the registration page and register on the Eventbrite page at http://tinyurl.com/toddycats-pedalubin2018.

We will cycle past old plantations, kampongs, forest, quarries and mangroves, stopping for a coconut or two, whilst listening to guides share stories of Ubin’s wildlife, heritage and ongoing conservation efforts. In keeping with the Ubin Way, at some point, we will sit down and get to know each other!

You must be able to ride a bike and be at least 10 years old in order to keep up with the pace. Even if it is a slow ride, there are slopes and dirt trails to enjoy.

Participants must arrange to rent their own bicycles (and you are encouraged to rent a helmet too) on Pulau Ubin or bring their own bicycles from the mainland.

More important details on the registration page.

Pedal Ubin 2017
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“Plastics: Enough trash talk” – the urgent need for collective action on plastic use in Singapore

An Earth Day 2018 message from 10 NGOs and interest groups, first published as an op-ed in The Straits Times, 18 Apr 2018.

It’s time to end the talk on plastics as trash. It can be a valuable resource for a small country like Singapore. But this is possible only if governments and businesses approach plastics the right way, and when individuals can look beyond waste disposal and realise the real impact of our plastic problem.


A supermarket plastic bag serves its real purpose for 30 minutes, the duration of a journey in Singapore. In a drink, a straw is utilised for just 5 minutes. The use of a plastic stirrer is even more short-lived: all of 10 seconds.

These items have fleeting lifespans, but they outlive us by a long shot – 400 years, to be exact.

Left in our environment, plastics affect ocean health and biodiversity, including corals, seabirds and endangered species. The problem does not simply end there.

Before they even enter our homes, plastics already contribute to climate change. Globally, the manufacturing of plastics consumes the same amount of fossil fuel as the entire aviation industry1.

We are living plastic in every way: eating2, drinking3 and even breathing4 it. Around the world, microplastics have been found in the guts of one out of four fish2, in tap water samples of 14 countries2 and even in air pollution.

Convenience numbs common sense

Little is being done to address this. There was a huge public outcry when the four largest supermarkets in Singapore floated the idea of a plastic bag charge. Recently, the government announced a decision against a plastic bag ban5, highlighting incineration as a solution.

In this all-or-nothing debate that focuses solely on plastic bags, we are missing the point: that we continue to have a major problem with plastic use.

Meanwhile, Singapore generated over 800 million kg of plastic waste last year, only 6% of which was recycled6.

The rest of the world is far ahead in taking action on plastic waste.

More than 40 countries have plastic bag bans or taxes in place, including China, Rwanda and Italy7. Just across the Causeway, Johor is set to ban plastic bags plastics and polystyrene by this year8. Last year, 39 governments announced new commitments to reduce the amount of plastic going into the sea9.

By not taking action to reduce plastic’s widespread use, we are perpetuating this global problem. It is high time for a mindset overhaul on plastic in Singapore.

Use less and “useless” plastic

Rather than an all-or-nothing approach, the key lies in understanding what we should use less of, and what we can and should eliminate.

There are “useless” or unnecessary plastics – those that provide a few extra minutes of convenience but are disposed after use. Most plastic straws, lids, cups and stirrers fall in this category. Refusing these useless plastics is an easy step to cutting down on plastic use.

There are plastics that are useful that we can still reduce. A case in point: plastic bags. Singapore’s current usage of plastic bags borders on the excessive. A person in Singapore is estimated to use about 13 plastic bags a day, much more than any household would need for trash disposal.

Alternatives in the form of reusables are widely available in the market today. A recent study by the National Environment Agency has found that a reusable bag replaces the use of 125 single-use plastic bags in a year10.

A plastic bag charge can be an effective way to reduce plastic use. Consumption of single-use plastic bags fell by 95 per cent when Ireland introduced a levy in 200211.

In Singapore, lifestyle store chain Miniso witnessed a 75% drop in plastic bag take-up rate after it implemented a $0.10 plastic bag charge in April 201712.

Not all plastics are trash

Even as individuals focus on using less plastic, a wider systemic change is needed to make plastics more useful. Globally, 95% of plastics worth up to US$120 billion are discarded after the first use13. Effective recycling ensures that we do not lose economic value from this useful material.

Plastic packaging cannot be eliminated, but it needs to be recovered.

In Singapore, packaging makes up a third of domestic waste. But not enough is being done to hold businesses accountable for the plastics they introduce into the market. In countries such as Japan, for instance, there are laws in place to ensure that businesses do their part to recycle14.

Separating plastic waste at the point of disposal also enhances recycling. Currently, Singapore does not require plastics to be segregated from other types of waste. This model undermines recycling efforts and instead incentivises incineration, including that of plastics.

Singapore has made a name for ourselves globally in recovering value from precious resources. We do this for paper and even the water we drink. Why aren’t we treating plastics the same way? An expensive, highly pollutive method like incineration should only be the last solution when all other options are unavailable.

Stop trash talking, start fixing

We have limited time to turn things around. With the looming global plastics crisis, business-as-usual cannot apply.

Businesses need to be held accountable for used plastic, however useful its purpose. This includes being responsible for the entire life cycle of plastics, from packaging to recovery after use.

On a national level, the channels and infrastructure need to be in place to effectively enable recycling by businesses and individuals. Incentives encourage manufacturers to take more responsibility, while disincentives like a plastic tax help spur much needed behaviour change.

To expedite the move towards a more sustainable future, individuals should also play their part by using less plastic, and supporting business and government measures that help address this issue.

We need to stop pushing the responsibility between individuals, businesses and government.

Everyone needs to step up and take action for a problem we will share with the next 16 generations.
— end —

About – Ahead of Earth Day on 22 April, ten NGOs and interest groups have co-signed this opinion piece, representing their shared view about the urgent need for collective action on plastic use in Singapore. They are:

  1. ASEAN CSR Network is a regional business organisation promoting responsible business practices.
  2. Ocean Recovery Alliance is a non-profit organisation working on solutions and collaborations to improve ocean health.
  3. Gone Adventurin’ is a business consultancy focused on driving circular economy in Asia.
  4. International Coastal Cleanup Singapore coordinates and organises marine trash clean-ups on beaches and mangroves.
  5. Plastic Disclosure Project works to reduce the environmental impact of plastics in products and packaging.
  6. Plastic-Lite Singapore is a volunteer community raising awareness about the over-use of disposable plastics.
  7. NUS Toddycats! is a volunteer group with the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.
  8. Tingkat Heroes is an initiative working with communities, schools and businesses to go disposables-free.
  9. Team Small Change is a community that champions small individual changes for large environmental impact.
  10. WWF-Singapore is a global conservation organisation protecting the natural environment and resources.

Literature Cited

  1. Neufeld, L., Stassen, F., Sheppard, R., & Gilman, T., 2016. The new plastics economy: rethinking the future of plastics. In World Economic Forum. [link]
  2. Kosuth, Mary, Sherri A. Mason, and Elizabeth V. Wattenberg., 2018. “Anthropogenic contamination of tap water, beer, and sea salt.” PloS One, 13.4: e0194970. [link]
  3. Mason, S. A., Welch, V., Neratko, 2018. Synthetic polymer in contamination in bottled water. State University of New York at Fredonia, Department of Geology & Environmental Sciences, 17pp.[link].
  4. Gasperi, J., Wright, S. L., Dris, R., Collard, F., Mandin, C., Guerrouache, M., … & Tassin, B., 2018. Microplastics in air: Are we breathing it in? Current Opinion in Environmental Science & Health, 1: 1-5. [link]
  5. “Parliament: No plan to impose plastic bag levy, other types of disposable bags not much greener: Amy Khor,” by Samantha Boh & Audrey Tan. The Straits Times, 6 March 2018. [link].
  6. National Environment Agency, 2018. Waste Statistics and Overall Recycling [in Singapore], 2017. [link].
  7. “Kenya imposes world’s toughest law against plastic bags,” by Katharine Houreld & John Ndiso. Reuters, 28 August 2017 [link].
  8. “No more plastic bags in Johor supermarkets,” by anonymous. The Star, 14 Jun 2017 [link].
  9. “Nearly 200 nations promise to stop ocean plastic waste,” by Reuters Staff. Reuters, 07 Dec 2017 [link].
  10. National Environment Agency, 2018. Factsheet on findings from life-cycle assessment study on carrier bags and food packaging. 12pp. [link].
  11. Convery, F., McDonnell, S., Ferreira, S., 2007. The most popular tax in Europe? Lessons from the Irish plastic bags levy. Environmental and Resource Economics, , 38:1–11. [link]
  12. “Less demand when customers have to pay for plastic bags,” by Samantha Boh. The Straits Times, 24 Sep 2017. [link]
  13. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with the support of the World Economic Forum, 2017. The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics & Catalysing action. (Combined from the two reports, “The New Plastics Economy – Rethinking the Future of Plastics (2016)” and “The New Plastics Economy – Catalysing Action (2017).
  14. “Japan’s holistic approach to recycling,” by Leon Kaye. The Guardian, 17 Jan 2012 [link].

Fri 27 Apr 2018: 7.00pm, Lepak SG presents a panel on “Treasures of our shores”

Lepak in SG presents their April Workshop, “Treasures of our shores”.

Treasures of our Shores

“Treasures of our shores” @ Singapore Sustainable Academy, City Square Mall
Friday 27 April 2018: 7.00pm – 9.00pm

Register to attend here.

What treasures lie within our shores? Join us for a night of insight as we hold a panel discussion with experts on how our shores benefit us!

We’ve invited speakers of diverse backgrounds to show us as many sides of our shores as possible, bringing them together with the theme of Treasures Of Our Shores. Our esteemed panelists are:

  • Mr Azri Alwi: As an artist, Mr Alwi uncovers the intrinsic value of our shores. He will bringing us on a journey to discover the inner beauty of the ocean, and the inspiration they may bring to our lives.
  • Ms Liow Shen Yan: Everyone loves food! Especially seafood – Ms Liow from the Marine Stewardship Council will explain how seafood can be sustainable so we can make the choice to be responsible consumers.
  • Dr Serena Teo: a marine biologist, Dr Teo will discuss the World Harbours Project to explain how our shores are special, being a major port and harbour, and the unique challenges we face.
  • Mr Sivasothi: Fondly known as Otterman, Mr Sivasothi will share secrets of our local mangroves and shores, and the roles they play on a local and international stage.

Celebrate Earth Day in Singapore by battling marine trash @ Lim Chu Kang East (Sun 22 Apr 2018: 7.30am – 12.00pm)

It’s Earth Day on Sunday 22nd April 2018, with a focus on the battle against plastic pollution.

Join the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore volunteers on a mangrove cleanup on Sunday, 22 April 2018: 7.30am to 12.00pm at Lim Chu Kang East [see site details here].

There is transport from Kranji MRT. For registration and details, please see the Eventbrite registration page. Please register by Thu 19 Apr 2018.

IMPORTANT: please read the advise to participants and safety guidelines here: http://coastalcleanup.nus.edu.sg/participants/

Join us for an exhilarating experience – plant a tree (or three) at Chestnut Nature Park, Sat 19 May 2018

The Friends of Chestnut Nature Park (FoC) are happy to invite you to wield a changkul and plant trees at Chestnut Nature Park!

Chestnut Nature Park is a green buffer to our precious green lung and biodiversity core, the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. With active contribution by members of the wider community, Friends of Chestnut Nature Park hopes that Chestnut Nature Park will fulfil its potential both as nature reserve buffer and a vibrant and sustainable recreational space enjoyed by mountain bikers, hikers, heritage and nature lovers alike.

Besides, who doesn’t love to plant trees! The forest at Chestnut Nature Park is recovering from a history of use and this can take centuries. We hope to offer a boost to restoration and thanks to NParks, we have this wonderful opportunity to enhance the habitat!

We are happy to invite you to join us on this wonderful privilege!

Anyone can join us including members of the public, just sign up at Eventbrite.

FoC-Chien_Siva

Festival of Biodiversity 2018 in June – call for volunteers! (You can still signup!)

Come join the NUS Toddycats at the Festival of Biodiversity 2018! This annual event aims to create awareness and promote efforts in conserving and enhancing our local biodiversity. Check out various recounts of past years’ Festival of Biodiversity events by Toddycats and Friends!

This year, the Toddycats FOB committee will be planning even more activities in the lead up to FOB2018 which will be held on 2-3 June 2018. Please sign up with this link: https://tinyurl.com/toddycats-fob2018 as a volunteer guide with us!

We have prepared enrichment field trips and workshops leading up to the big event day, and even post-FOB events too! Join us to re-create the wonderful atmosphere we achieved last year!

Cheers,
Theresa & Weiting
NUS Toddycats FOB Organising Committee 2018

Ridge Walk – five Friday evening briskwalks along the Southern Ridges (Jan – May 2018)

Join us on our briskwalk? Please register your participation at the Eventbrite webpage, thanks!

In 2008, a 9-km series of trails, bridges and walkways were unveiled, which reconnected the Southern Ridges which had been carved through by several roads (see map). An almost continuous traffic-free walk from NUS to HarbourFront became possible which takes two hours at a brisk pace.

This is an excellent way to get in some exercise at the end of a tough week, amidst a unique landscape and greenery. Get to know various points along the Southern Ridges and plan future visits. But we are hard pressed to find the time, aren’t we?

To get you going, NUS Toddycats are leading a series of brisk walks for NUS staff, students and friends from YIH Plaza through to HarbourFront MRT on the following dates:

  1. Fri 26 Jan 2018
  2. Fri 23 Feb 2018
  3. Fri 23 Mar 2018
  4. Fri 27 Apr 2018
  5. Fri 25 May 2018

Please register your participation at the Eventbrite webpage – pick your date and register for that individually.

You may leave the group at any time. Some of the typical stop points along the way include:

  • 2.0km, 22 mins – Science Park 1 (Kent Ridge MRT Station)/li>
  • 4.0km, 51 mins – Reflections at Bukit Chandu (near Pasir Panjang MRT Station)
  • 5.3km, 1h 12mins – Hort Park (near Labrador Park MRT Station)
  • 6.2km, 1h 22mins – Henderson Waves (near Telok Blangah) – Bus Stop no. 14051 & 14059
  • 8.8km, 2h 5mins – HarbourFront (near MRT Station)

Your guides frm NUS Toddycats will be Kenneth Pinto, Xu Weiting, Airani S & N. Sivasothi.

If there is threat of heavy rain, strong winds prior to a storm or haze, we will inform you early or if unable, at YIH Plaza itself.

Click to view the larger map
Southern Ridges Walk