I’m floating in a small patch of ocean between Malaysia and Singapore, and all is quiet except for the sound of water lapping against the side of the boat. Uncle Heng’s long (offshore fish farm) lies a distance away from me, backlit by the early morning sunlight. When I look down, however, a less beautiful sight greets me: fragments of styrofoam, bottle caps, and bits of plastic packaging float in clusters, bobbing here and there with the waves.
This comes as no surprise. I’ve grown up seeing rubbish on the shores of Pasir Ris, the beachfront neighborhood I’ve lived in my whole life. Plastic has always been here and it has always been a problem.
Globally, it has been found that about 8 million tonnes of plastic waste flow into the oceans every year, making up about 60-95 per cent of water pollutants.
Plastic pollution is the most widespread problem affecting the marine environment today, as many marine animals die from ingesting or getting entangled in plastic debris. It also threatens food safety, human health, and coastal tourism, and contributes greatly to climate change.
PLASTIC TO FUEL
I’ve experienced the devastating impacts of ocean pollution first-hand after one fateful dragon boat race in the Philippines in 2015. While paddling in the idyllic waters surrounding Boracay’s pristine white beaches, it was impossible to tell it was polluted with untreated wastewater from the sewage pipes of hotels and restaurants.
This triggered an intense autoimmune response in my body, which left me severely sick after the trip. My hair and skin turned white, and I had problems speaking and walking. I was shocked.
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