Malaysia has a long coastline and is well known for its beautiful beaches which play different roles, depending on the characteristics and location. With increasing population and rapid development, the beaches are experiencing threats from pollution. One of the most visible threats is due to solid waste disposal. A scientific quantitative dataset of marine debris in Malaysia is, however, very rare. Therefore, a study on marine debris was conducted on two beaches in Port Dickson, Malaysia, from January to March 2010. The objective of the study was to compare the density of waste on two selected beaches with different economic activities.

Teluk Kemang and Pasir Panjang are recreational and fishing beaches, respectively. Pasir Panjang received at least 2 units of debris for every 2 m2 (0.495 ± 0.108 items m−2), weighing 46.079 ± 12.507 g m−2. Debris found in Teluk Kemang was lower than that of Pasir Panjang with 1 unit of waste for every 2 m2 (0.262 ± 0.045 items m−2), weighing 2.067 ± 1.238 g m−2. Based on the number of items, plastics were the most abundant type of debris at 64% in Teluk Kemang and 46% in Pasir Panjang. In terms of weight, paper was higher (48%) than plastic (43%) in Teluk Kemang, while the highest percentage of debris found on Pasir Panjang beach was bulky waste (54%). The number of items and weight of debris were higher in Pasir Panjang due to the abundance of huge and heavy abandoned nets from fishing activities left on the beach. Daily clean-ups of Teluk Kemang, a popular recreational beach, contributed to significantly lower amounts of debris found there. On the whole, types of waste found on both beaches were similar. However, the percentage and amount of each waste's type varied between the two beaches. The results indicated that the density of waste is highly dependable on the economic activities of the relevant beaches.

Introduction

Solid waste management is one of the most discussed environment related issues in Malaysia. Malaysia is continuing the effort to improve the solid waste management by introducing ‘The Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management (SWPCM) Act 2007’ into the system (Ministry of Housing and Local Government, 2010). Current practice will experience changes including the transfer of responsibility from local authorities to the federal government (Agamuthu et al., 2009). All types of waste sources are included in the new act including commercial centers, public sites, construction sites, households, industrial zones, institutions and others (Latifah et al., 2009).

As a small country, Malaysia is surrounded by a long coastline exceeding 9323 km (including East Malaysia) with 98% of its population living within 100 km from the shoreline (The Encyclopedia of Earth, 2010). Therefore, waste management within the country is expected to influence the coast ecosystem. However, solid waste in Malaysia is currently disposed of through landfill, while ocean disposal is not a common practice, although it is not prohibited. Nevertheless, beaches also generate a considerable amount of waste from activities conducted on the area and urban runoff. Rapid development in industries and the increasing population do not improve the situation.

Solid waste found in the marine ecosystem may have a different impact compared to that found on land. Commonly known as marine debris, it may cause a loss in biodiversity, loss of ecosystem function, loss of revenue, loss of livelihood and an increase in the cost of maintenance and clean-up (UNEP, 2005).

Among other impacts, entanglement in, and ingestion of, marine debris by wildlife are among the most discussed issues. Entanglement threatens all types of wildlife, especially mammals such as pinnipeds (Hanni and Pyle, 2000), sea lions (Page et al., 2004; Raum-Suryan et al, 2009) and seals (Arnould and Croxall, 1995; Boren et al., 2006). Other wildlife affected are birds (Moore et al., 2009) and fish (Sazima et al., 2002). In the mean time, some animals experienced other effects from marine debris, through the ingestion of smaller debris, especially plastics (Tomás et al., 2002; Tourinho et al., 2009). This has been the cause of death for all Green Turtles found dead and for 40% of seabirds in the Southern Brazil coast (Tourinho et al., 2009), as well as the cause of the nutrition dilution problem for 79.6% of captured turtles in the Spanish Mediterranean (Tomás et al., 2002). In fact, two Sperm Whales were found dead with ruptured stomachs and gastric impactions from ingestion of 134 different types of net (Jacobsen et al., 2010). Besides the direct impact to wildlife, the presence of marine debris in the beach ecosystem may also alter the ecosystem itself. A study reported that the abundance of meiofauna, macrofauna and diatoms change as the litters present (Uneputty and Evans, 1997). Some marine debris may also be used by certain encrusted and attached species as a transport medium, where they compete with native species in the new area (UNEP, 2005).

Public have less concern over indirect impacts of marine debris, such as changes in ecosystems, though the impact of marine debris to fisheries and recreational activities is more alarming. Fisheries were found to be the major contributors of marine debris (Hess et al., 1999; Jones, 1995), while also being the most affected sector (Shahidul Islam and Tanaka, 2004). It was recorded that debris from fisheries activities had caused failure to boat engines (Cho, 2009), while fishermen also had to bear costs to free nets from debris and disentangle fouled propellers, which caused livelihood losses due to time spent away from fishing and avoidance by the fish of these particular areas (Hall, 2002). For recreational beaches, cleanliness has significant value in the beach selection for holidays (Philips and House, 2009; Yaw Jr., 2005). A reduction in the number of visitors will inflict a financial loss including tourism revenues for surrounding communities, as well as the loss in land values in waterfront real estate (Ofiara and Seneca, 2006). The cost for maintenance and clean-ups will also increase in order to restore contaminated beaches. Overall, the presence of debris on beaches will affect the ecosystem biologically, socially and economically.

Marine debris may consist of any solid waste, whether anthropogenic or natural. Among all, plastic is the most concerning type of debris found on beaches. Because of the durability and non biodegradable characteristics, plastics remain the most prevalent type of debris found worldwide (Bravo et al., 2009; Claereboudt, 2004; Derraik, 2002 and Madzena and Lasiak, 1997). Derraik (2002) had listed in at least 33 out of 37 studies a plastic percentage of more than 50%. One study even recorded a significant amount of up to 99% abundance (Moore et al., 2001). Plastic items found include: plastic bags, drinking bottles, and household items. Plastic bags are a common consumer packaging material in Malaysia and their high usage amounting to more than 8 million contributes to the problem which includes Malaysian beaches (Hari Tanpa Plastik Bag, 2010).

Studies on marine debris in Malaysia are scarce, but this does not reflect the cleanliness of the beaches. Only recently has the presence of marine debris has been highlighted. Perhaps the most comprehensive data ever recorded on the subject matter in Malaysia is from The International Coastal Cleanup event in Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan. Port Dickson is the most visited beach in Malaysia. With its strategic location and offer of activities, it attracts both local and foreign tourists. High use of the beach, however, contributes to its litter problem. The local authority (Majlis Perbandaran Port Dickson), had taken steps to mitigate the problem with ‘Adopt a beach’ program and daily clean-up activities; however, marine debris still persists and necessary action should be taken to reduce impacts to the marine ecosystem.

The objective of this study was to compare the density of waste on two selected beaches in Port Dickson with different economic activities, namely recreational and fishing. The study will also look at composition of debris generated at the beaches. Therefore, this study can be used as a baseline for future reference for a more complete data set.

Methodology

Sampling was done on two beaches in Port Dickson with different economic activities. These two beaches were chosen among nine others in Port Dickson because of the high intensity of these activities: Teluk Kemang and Pasir Panjang were chosen as the recreational and fishing beaches, respectively. Comparisons were made based on the composition, possible sources and distribution of marine debris resulting from the two distinct activities. Teluk Kemang receives about 20,000 to 30,000 visitors every week, while Pasir Panjang is one of the popular fishing spots in Negeri Sembilan which landed about 610 tonnes of fish in 2009 (Department of Fisheries, 2011).

Sampling was done on three separate occasions from January to March 2010. Temporal factor was neglected in this study, although amount of debris in January was expected to be higher (accumulated over unspecified period). Every sampling event was done during low tide to sample the widest area possible. The samplings were also conducted during neap tide to prevent bias data. Data collected was only on solid waste found on beaches, excluding waste collected in the provided bins. This was to quantify the amount of debris that could possibly wash to the sea or impact the ecosystem.

Sampling area for each beach corresponded to the actual width and length of the beach. The area sampled was 10% of the actual length which was determined using data provided by the Port Dickson municipality (Teluk Kemang = 1.8 km and Pasir Panjang = 1.0 km). Width of the beach was determined using measuring tape, from the low tide lines until the first vegetation or concrete on the beach. It was assumed that debris was randomly disposed along the beach and all visible anthropogenic debris within the area was collected. Natural debris, such as dead leaves, decayed seaweed and natural driftwood were excluded. This anthropogenic debris was then sorted and categorized into 12 predetermined type of debris (Food waste, paper, plastics, polystyrene, textile, rubber, wood, glass, metal, aluminum, bulky waste, others). Bulky waste may represent items made of the same material as other groups, such as plastic or paper. However, it was classified as a different category because of the obvious presence of frequent types of debris mentioned in marine debris study (e.g. abandoned nets). Number of items and fresh weight of each debris type were recorded. Amount of debris was then divided over sampled area and density of each debris type per square meter was determined. Possible sources of each item were also investigated.

Results and Discussion

Quantitative data in this study was presented in two different units: namely, number of item per area (items m−2) and weight per area (g m−2).

Debris composition

Most common type of waste recorded on Teluk Kemang beach in terms of number was plastic (64%), followed by 18% paper, 16% polystyrene and 2% others (Figure 1). Similar composition with slight difference was recorded in terms of weight where paper constituted 48% of total weight, followed by 43% plastic, 6% polystyrene and 3% others (Figure 2).

On the other hand, Pasir Panjang beach recorded more diverse types of waste. Comparing the number, the most common type of debris found on Pasir Panjang beach was plastic at 46%, followed by 15% polystyrene, 10% bulky waste, 6% of paper and the balance of 23% to many other types of debris (Figure 3). However, the debris composition changed when considering weight unit. Bulky waste constituted the highest portion of the debris composition with 54%, followed by 37% rubber, 5% plastic, 2% glass and 2% others (Figure 4).

In comparison, plastic was the most abundant type of debris found on both beaches in terms of number (items m−2). Plastic items found included plastic bags, bottles, and household items. This was comparable to studies in other regions where plastic was the most common type of debris found (Derraik, 2002, Moore et al., 2001). In contrast, paper found on Teluk Kemang beach (48%) and bulky waste from Pasir Panjang beach (54%) were recorded as the most abundant types of waste in terms of weight. The significant amount of paper from Teluk Kemang was represented by many wet newspapers on the beach as people used newspaper as an alternative to mats while picnicking on the beach. Bulky waste in Pasir Panjang beach consisted of more than 10 abandoned nets. Based on visual observation, the entangled nets were full of mosses and barnacles indicating that these had been discarded years before. The bulky waste remained in the area and was not removed throughout the three months study as large machineries are needed to remove those nets. Therefore the result is predictable, as fishing debris usually represented a large portion of debris in terms of weight (Claereboudt, 2004).

Other types of debris found on Teluk Kemang were food waste, wood, aluminium and others. Similar types of waste were found in Pasir Panjang with the addition of rubber, textile and glass. In total, debris in Pasir Panjang was more diverse with 11 different types of debris compared to Teluk Kemang with 8 types.

Debris abundance

In total, amount of debris found on Teluk Kemang was 0.262 ± 0.045 items m−2 weighing 2.067 ± 1.238g m−2. Debris found on Pasir Panjang beach was relatively higher with 0.495 ± 0.108 items m−2 weighing 46.079 ± 12.507 g m−2. Table 1 showed the amount of waste found on both beaches during three months of sampling.

Plastics had the highest number of items recorded in the three consecutive months on both beaches. The composition differed when comparing in terms of weight. Paper was found to be abundant in Teluk Kemang in February (2.450 g m−2) which contributed to a higher mean when compared to plastic. In the case of Pasir Panjang beach, bulky waste (mean: 25.00 g m−2) was the most abundant type of debris recorded with similar amounts of rubber during February and March sampling (25.00 g m−2, mean: 16.917 g m−2). Overall, debris abundance on Teluk Kemang beach was lower than that of Pasir Panjang beach especially in terms of weight.

The lower amount of waste on Teluk Kemang beach was attributed to a few factors. Clean-up activity took place regularly; local authority collected litter twice daily and the availability of bins on the beach also helped the user to be more responsible for the litter they generated. This was consistent to a study in Australia, where the greatest number of debris was not always found on a beach with the highest number of users, due to the extensive system of litter bins present (Frost and Cullen, 1997). Regular clean-up and sufficient facilities are common on many public recreational beaches throughout Malaysia. However, this was not the case on the fishing beach of Pasir Panjang. Situated in a rural area, fishermen and villagers around the area are the only interested parties. The removal of solid waste in this type of beach always depends on locals’ initiatives. Other possible factors that contribute to the lower amount of debris on Teluk Kemang beach was the time of study which was done from January until March, which is not within the school holidays period. The number of people is not at maximum, reducing the occurrence of beach littering. However, for Pasir Panjang beach fishing activities happen regularly throughout the year as with other beaches in the west coast of Malaysia.

Global comparison

Total amount of debris found on Teluk Kemang and Pasir Panjang was relatively lower when compared to beaches in other countries. Plastic was among the most abundant type of debris found in Teluk Kemang and Pasir Panjang, comparable to other beaches throughout the globe (Table 2). However, the amount of debris in Pasir Panjang was relatively higher in terms of weight. This was contributed to by abandoned nets, as a study suggested that huge fishing-related debris tends to dominate the waste composition even from the presence of one particular item (Claereboudt, 2004).

Conclusions

Recreational and fishing beaches of Port Dickson recorded a similar type of debris in terms of number which was dominated by plastic, paper and polystyrene. However, when comparing weight, paper and bulky waste were more abundant in Teluk Kemang and Pasir Panjang beach, respectively. The amount of waste in Teluk Kemang was lower compared to Pasir Panjang with a huge difference in terms of total weight.

In conclusion, different functions of beaches affect the composition and abundance of marine debris differently. Therefore, the data obtained can be used as baseline for future reference, particularly in improving waste management on beaches in Malaysia.

Acknowledgements

We wish to thank University Malaya for the Postgraduate Research Fund (PPP) (P0099-2009C) and Majlis Perbandaran Port Dickson for their valuable info.

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