For ExxonMobil employee Peh Thiam Chen, making a positive difference for the environment, starts in his own backyard.

Self-professed sustainability champion Peh, who works as a chemical supply chain advisor in Singapore, puts the power of change in his own hands as he regularly goes out on his kayak with others to pick up litter from Singapore’s waterways.

Peh began cleaning Singapore’s waterways nearly 10 years ago.

While Singapore has some of the strictest anti-littering laws in the world, this hasn’t entirely stopped people from littering. 18,000 tickets were handed out in 2020 for littering offences.

For Peh, a keen interest in marine life prompted him to learn more about how waste can affect marine biodiversity. He wanted to do something for the environment, so began to take part in organised clean-up efforts nearly a decade ago.

“I got a shock when I took part in my first kayaking clean-up at one of Singapore’s reservoirs on World Ocean Day, some years back. I can still remember collecting a big bag of trash through this clean-up,” Peh recounted.

“It got me thinking … if I don’t take care of my home and the environment, who will?”

Today, Peh continues his efforts as part of ExxonMobil’s support for an initiative spearheaded by the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (Alliance), a global non-profit organisation that aims to drive collective action to tackle plastic waste and support a more sustainable future.

The ongoing Clean4Change campaign is a global movement driven by the Alliance, with support from member companies such as ExxonMobil. It seeks to end plastic waste in the environment using the power of connected communities.2

The movement supports people to organise and conduct clean-ups, which is one way to allow individuals to be more aware of consumption behaviors and waste disposal habits. It is also gamifying the experience, with mobile app – Litterati – so people can track the pieces of litter picked, and view the collective efforts of a community.

For Peh, litter picking has also turned into a father-son bonding experience.

Peh is not only bonding with this son but also instilling values that help build a cleaner Singapore.

“It started one evening as we walked back home from childcare, and I had brought metal tongs and a recyclable trash bag. It helps that my son is naturally inquisitive and also enjoys using the tong to pick up litter,” he said.

“I incorporated some fun by asking him to guess what litter he is likely to find next, and even shared some possible consequences of disposing of things like sweet wrappers, cigarette butts, metal cans or even plastic containers in the environment. In Singapore, there is an added risk of dengue transmission brought about by stagnant water in such containers.”

“The best part for me was when my son asked to go litter-picking together again. As a parent, it reminded me that we can nurture positive habits and create a new generation of environmentally-conscious individuals.”

Peh’s efforts have inspired other ExxonMobil employees, who are now litter-picking with their own families.

He added: “While it may take a collective effort to see a material change, it doesn’t hurt for us all to get started.”

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