This Singaporean social enterprise uses novel technology to rid our seas of plastic
After an accident in a polluted stretch of water left her severely ill, Mathilda D’silva became determined to do her part to clean up the oceans — starting with the waters surrounding her home in Singapore. To this end, she formed the Ocean Purpose Project. The group uses cutting-edge technology to recycle plastic in Singapore’s waters. We chat with the team behind this home-grown conservation group and learn more about their founder and how they’re cleaning up our seas.
What’s the aim of the Ocean Purpose Project?
Ocean Purpose Project (OPP) is a social enterprise that drives ocean conservation and plastic pollution prevention through disruptive and creative projects with a large impact. We use innovative technology that’s new to Singapore to convert plastic to fuel and create bioplastics. We also hold frequent events to educate Singaporeans on our sustainability efforts.
How does OPP plan on achieving these goals?
OPP’s work is based on three key pillars: plastic to fuel, bioplastics and changing behaviours. By recycling plastic to fuel using pyrolysis machines, ocean waste is transformed into low-sulphur fuel, hydrogen and carbon nanotubes. The bioplastics pillar involves planting seaweed and mussel lines on kelongs that we use to create bioplastics — a single-use plastic alternative. Additionally, the seaweed and mussels act as biofilters to improve the water quality of our coasts that are prone to algal blooms. We’re also working with MDIS to turn them into bio-leather.
To change behaviours, we mobilise corporate organisations and communities through beach clean-ups in Pasir Ris and with online programs like OPPortunity Webinar and social media campaigns.
How did the organisation get started?
Mathilda took part in a dragonboat race in Boracay in 2015. Paddling in the water surrounding the island’s pristine white beaches, it was impossible to tell that it was polluted with untreated sewage from hotels and restaurants. This triggered an intense autoimmune response in her body, which left her severely sick.
This incident spurred Mathilda to improve oceans around the world. She’s a naturally headstrong person so this, combined with a need to understand what caused her to fall ill, led her to take up the mantle of improving the health of coastlines around the world — starting with her own backyard in Pasir Ris. She started the Ocean Purpose Project to do just that.
Can you tell us more about OPP’s founder?
Mathilda is known for her appearance in Singapore Idol and as a TV producer and radio presenter with Mediacorp. Today, Mathilda is the Founder and CEO of the Ocean Purpose Project. She applies her talents in the fields of sustainability and social media strategy, plastic pyrolysis (recycling plastic into fuel) advocacy and community management coaching.
Mathilda is also an avid paddling enthusiast who dragonboated competitively for seven years until her incident in 2015. She lives by the beach and still loves the ocean, trying to save it through her organisation.
Where does OPP receive funding from?
We are currently self-funded from our corporate clients. We also apply for a variety of grants given out by the Singapore government as well as international institutions and organisations that do work related to ocean conservation and plastic pollution. Our funds are channeled towards our three main projects: recycling plastic into fuel, bioplastics and behaviour change programmes.
Are volunteers needed?
We often call for volunteers to join us in our monthly community beach clean-ups. We’re making plans to resume these clean-ups while adhering to stringent COVID-19 safety measures.
Want to keep things clean and green? Here’s where you can recycle in Singapore.