How clean is the Teluk Dalam beach at Pulau Perhentian Besar?

In June 2012, the Malaysian Nature Society Selangor Branch, Alu Alu Divers and Bayu Dive Lodge logged rubbish collected in random sections of Teluk Dalam, Pulau Perhentian Besar. With the data, researcher Mahmudah Ahmad Luthfi from the Maritime Institute of Malaysia (MIMA) was able to find out just how clean or dirty the beach was in relation to other Malaysian beaches studied in 2011. This is her report – “Beach cleanliness: enhancing awareness of litter management”. 

DAVID Suzuki from the Suzuki Foundation said, “Our choices at all levels — individual, community, corporate and government — affect nature. And they affect us.” On those same grounds, when we choose to litter our pristine beaches, it affects not only the local community, but the ecology as a whole.

Acknowledging the need to raise awareness on the importance of litter management, the MNS Marine Group (Selangor Branch) conducted a Beach and Dive Site Clean-up in cooperation with Alu Alu Divers, as well as staff and guests of the Bayu Dive Lodge at Teluk Dalam beach on the island of Perhentian Besar (Figure 1 and Figure 2) from June 2-5, 2012. This activity was held in conjunction with World Oceans Day.

The volunteers used MIMA’s sampling methodology – Clean Coast Index for Cleanliness Assessment of Coastal Areas in Malaysia which was first applied in 2011, and which revealed the less-than-desirable state of the cleanliness of Malaysian beaches.

This article highlights the findings of the Teluk Dalam survey.

Table 1 summarises different litter types found at the sampling sites. Cigarette stubs were the main item collected (15.21%), followed by plastic pieces and cutlery (10.70%). Employing the CCI methodology of assessing beach cleanliness, which uses plastic litter as an indicator, the survey recorded a CCI index value of 3.17 placing the beach in the ‘clean’ category. This index generally indicates that the higher the recorded CCI value, the worse off the area would be in terms of litter accumulation.

Table 1. Litter types collected at the sampling site

No Type of Litter %
1 Polystyrene 6.52
2 Bottle caps 6.84
3 Sweet wrappers 6.17
4 Cigarette butts 15.21
5 Plastics bags 9.05
6 Plastics pieces/cutlery 10.70
7 Straws 5.40
8 Balloon 1.65
9 Drink cans 3.08
10 Plastics bottles 7.39
11 Glass bottles 1.10
12 Aluminium caps 0.55
13 Aluminium tins 1.21
14 Newspaper 0.00
15 Paper particles 2.87
16 Fishing lines 0.11
17 Rubber pieces 1.87
18 Textile 0.55
19 Bulky waste 0.44
20 Shoes 0.44
21 Rope 8.05
22 Wood 0.22
23 Glass 0.33
24 Metal 0.77
25 Tarballs 0.00
26 Others 9.48

To illustrate the state of litter on the Teluk Dalam beach this finding is compared with the 2011 study by MIMA. Surveys were carried at eight major recreational beaches around Malaysia i.e., Pantai Morib (Selangor), Pantai Desaru (Johor), Pantai Cenang (Langkawi), Pantai Balok (Pantai Pahang), Pantai Puteri (Melaka), Tanjung Tuan (Port Dickson), Pantai Puteri (Sarawak) and Tanjung Aru (Sabah).

The CCI of 7.11 recorded at Pantai Desaru indicated that the beach was dirty with quite a significant amount of plastic materials collected during the survey. Meanwhile, Pantai Cenang had the lowest CCI value at 1.08. Pantai Cenang was therefore considered clean during the sampling period.

Overall, Teluk Dalam beach on the island of Perhentian Besar is considered to be much cleaner than Pantai Desaru, but dirtier than the Pantai Cenang beach based on the amount of plastic recovered from the area. A total of 71% of the litter found at Teluk Dalam was plastic-based.

The term ‘plastic’ includes any artificial waste made, or partly made, of plastic, including nylon fishing lines, styrofoam remains, plastic bags of all sizes, polyurethane sheets, bottles and bottle caps, cigarette boxes and outer covers. Only plastic particles exceeding 2 cm in size are included in the index numerator.

Plastic (Figure 4) is used as an indicator mainly due to its long life span and potential harmful effects on the ecology and community e.g., marine lives face repercussions as there have been records of deaths from entanglement or ingestion of such debris.

However, most packaging and products in the waste stream are made of small groups of commodity plastics including polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene and polyamide (Kershaw et al., 2010). The lifespan of plastics at sea is not accurately known, but it is estimated to be in the range of years to decades, depending on the physical and chemical properties of the polymer (Ng, K.L. et at., 2006).

Routine clean-up activity on the Teluk Dalam beach is largely done on an ad-hoc basis by the resort operators in the area usually twice in a season (between March and October). The outcome of this clean-up survey however indicates that there is a need for regular clean-ups. Considering the results obtained, it is also essential that efforts are taken to reduce plastic usage in the country through awareness campaigns or ultimately through the introduction of levies and charges.

An excerpt of this article was first published in the marine-focus issue of the Malaysian Naturalist September 2012 Volume 66-1. This complete article is published with the permission of MIMA.