Beach goers are often seen strolling lazily along the East Coast Beach while embracing the sea breeze that comes gushing on their faces…...
However, on 30th June 2019, a group of youths were seen bending their backs as they busily went around the East Coast Beach, as if they were engaged in a treasure hunt. They were Tzu Chings, volunteers from the Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association, who were carrying out an activity called "Not Your Typical Beach Cleanup Gathering”.
The 27 Tzu Chings were divided into four groups to clean up different designated areas of the beach. Each group was given gloves, long tongs, a used rice sack to hold the recyclables, and a number of trash bags made of newspapers to hold non-recyclable trash.
Plastic bags, cigarette butts and Styrofoam packaging materials were strewn all over the beach. Under the scorching sun, the Tzu Chings attentively picked up the rubbish on the sand. Their environmental efforts attracted attention from a number of beach goers. One of the beach goers even helped to collect some rubbish floating in the sea and handed it over to a Tzu Ching.
Tzu Ching senior Liew Mei Huei said, “Actually, I didn't want to participate in this event at first. But a fellow Tzu Ching earnestly invited me to join, so I came here. I’m impressed to discover that there are so many young people who are willing to come together to clean up the beach despite the hot weather.”
She further said, "While cleaning up the beach, I found many pieces of Styrofoam along the beach that had been smashed into pieces by the waves. This shows that there is still much room for improvement in the social and environmental conscience of people."
The key to environmental protection lies at the “source”
After the trash picking activity came to an end, each group of Tzu Chings returned to their gathering point with the trash they had collected to sort and wash the recyclables. This made the youths realise that not all discarded materials are trash as some can be recycled. At the same time, it showed them the importance of “purity at the source”. For example, if consumers avoid using disposable items, they will be able to reduce the amount of trash produced and help protect the environment more effectively.
Tzu Ching Poh Wei Wen said, "This beach cleanup event is very different from the previous one. We are able to make use of the knowledge we learned at a Tzu Chi recycling point to identify which recyclables can be washed and recycled."
Poh thought that this event could draw the public’s attention and help to awaken the social and environmental conscience of people. She noticed that Styrofoam packaging materials made up the bulk of the trash they picked up, and hoped that people would use reusable utensils when they came to the beach so that everyone could play a part in protecting the environment
The youths also took part in an interesting game where they were divided into two groups. Members in each group had to work together to fill up a bucket with sand by using small spoons to scoop the sand. It was truly not an easy feat, but everyone managed to fill up the buckets eventually through united efforts. (They learned about the power of teamwork from the game.)
"This is really different from the beach cleaning activities that I had participated in the past. Besides picking up trash, I’ve also learned that there is a lot of trash that can be recycled,” shared Tzu Ching Khong Chung Teck, who was participating in a Tzu Ching beach cleanup activity for the first time.
“We should think carefully before buying something—Is it necessary to buy it or are we just making an impulse purchase?” added Kong.
He also spoke of the 6Rs of environmental sustainability, which he had learned during the event. Besides the 3Rs (“Reduce”, “Reuse” and “Recycle”), which he had heard of in the past, he learned another 3Rs, i.e. “Rethink”, “Refuse” and “Repair” on this day. The underlying concept of these 3Rs is: environmental protection needs to start from the source—people need to think whether there is really a necessity to buy something before they make the purchase.
The beach cleanup event came to a fruitful end, with the enthusiastic participation of the youths. Although everyone felt physically tired, they had come to realise that every individual can contribute to the environment and Earth by implementing eco practices in daily life.