Non-recyclable waste in recycling bins

What rubbish
A Straits Times check of 80 recycling bins finds non-recyclable waste in all of them
Yeo Sam Jo, Straits Times 15 Jun 09;

FROM Orchard Road to HDB estates, recycling bins seem to be everywhere, underlining the country's push for a greener city. But what some people throw into them is a different matter.

The Straits Times peeked into 80 recycling bins in public areas and found that all of them contained some rubbish that could not be recycled.

The 'foreign items' included decomposed chicken briyani, soggy tissue paper, prawn shells and chicken bones.

There was even a used condom in a bin in Jalan Teck Whye.

Many bins were also used as ashtrays, while others were foul-smelling and attracted pests like fruit flies and ants.

While the average amount of recyclables collected from each bin in HDB estates has gone up - from 65kg per month in 2007 to 103kg per month last year - the National Environment Agency (NEA) said that about one-fifth of all waste deposited in recycling bins could not be recycled.

The Straits Times found the same problem when it followed two workers from public waste collector Colex Holdings on one of their rounds.

Mr A. Palaniamah, 53, and Mr Jimmol Buntol, 35, start at 7am every day, driving around Jurong emptying the contents of recycling bins into their truck.

Their job would be easier if they did not have to pick out and discard unwanted items such as smelly food scraps from the lot.

They are resigned to the chore.

'It can get quite smelly and unpleasant, but it is something we must still do,' said Mr Palaniamah. 'Anyway we are used to it.'

Another thing they have to do is sort through the contents and group them correctly. Plastic cups, for example, often find their way into the bins for metal cans.

The recyclables have to be sorted and put into the right compartments in the truck.

The duo empty about 35 sets of bins each day before delivering the contents to a recycling plant in Geylang.

That many people treat recycling bins as ordinary rubbish bins puts a dent in NEA's recycling target. It hopes to achieve a 70 per cent overall recycling rate by 2030. Last year, 56 per cent of Singapore's household and industrial waste was recycled, up from 40 per cent in 2000.

An NEA spokesman explained that throwing waste such as leftover food and drinks into the bins contaminates the recyclable materials and renders them non-recyclable.

It also increases the cost of maintaining the bins, which have to be washed more often when they get dirty.

There are approximately 3,800 recycling bins across the island. Those in HDB blocks are provided and managed by four public waste collectors.

Colex Holdings, for example, manages the bins in Jurong, Bukit Batok and Boon Lay. The other three collectors are Veolia Environmental Services, 800 Super Waste Management and SembWaste.

The NEA provides the rest of the public area bins, such as those outside MRT stations, at the airport and along Orchard Road. Private buildings such as condominiums and shopping malls manage their own recycling bins.

To prevent them from overflowing and attracting pests, the bins are cleared weekly. Some heavily used ones, such as those along Orchard Road or near MRT stations, are cleared twice a week.

In contrast to ignorant or inconsiderate users, there are those who conscientiously recycle their waste.

Customer service manager Goy Hsu Mae and her husband started recycling two years ago.

'We try to recycle everything we use,' said Ms Goy, 32. 'From jam jars to Yakult bottles, we just try not to waste them.'

The couple bag their household garbage according to material - plastic, metal and glass. Every month, they deposit the bags in the recycling bins at nearby Holland Village.

'Sometimes we see stuff like dirty tissue and leftover food in the bins,' said Ms Goy. 'Why can't these people be more considerate?'

But she is not giving up on the habit.

'It's a matter of being conscious of the waste we are creating,' she said. 'If we can reduce our own waste and turn it into something useful, why not?'

Cans and cannots of recycling

# Paper: Newspapers, envelopes, magazines, books, brochures, pamphlets, carpark coupons, carton boxes, cereal boxes

# Metal: Cans or containers made of metal such as soft drink cans, beer cans, milk powder tins, food cans

# Plastic: Bottles or containers made of plastic such as detergent containers, milk containers, soft drink bottles, plastic bags

# Glass: Jars and drink bottles

# Others: Clean clothing


# Paper: Cardboard or paper contaminated by food waste (for example, pizza boxes), used tissue paper, sweet wrappers

# Plastic: Styrofoam, disposable plastic cups and containers, biscuit box liners

# Glass: Light bulbs and window glass

# Others: Ceramic mugs

More information can be viewed at

Recycling fine but keep those litter bins
Straits Times Forum 16 Jun 09;

I REFER to yesterday's report, 'What rubbish', which highlighted the problem of unrecyclable rubbish being thrown into recycling bins in public areas.

Encouraging Singaporeans to recycle is the right direction to go. However, the recycling exercise need not be conducted at the expense of keeping Singapore clean.

Nowadays, town councils place recycling bins at various strategic locations in HDB estates. But many do so by removing several litter bins surrounding the area.

An example is Zone 4 of Toa Payoh Central, where a recycling bin is expected to 'cover' the vicinity of two children's playgrounds, a badminton court, a basketball court and a multi-purpose hall. Someone with litter to dispose of may have to walk 75m to the nearest recycling bin. Gone are the days of convenience when a litter bin was available every 15m.

Each morning, before the town council cleaners arrive, public areas are strewn with tonnes of rubbish thrown away the previous night. This is done not only by 'diehards', but also by those who simply cannot find a litter bin.

In time to come, public areas with a lack of rubbish disposal facilities will be a training ground for the next generation of litterbugs.

On an optimistic note, when we find chicken briyani, soggy tissues and prawn shells in recycling bins, we should perhaps see it as a good practice that some individuals at least bother to walk all the way to a bin to dispose of these items, given the circumstances.

Ho Kwok Hoong