Not sure about recycling? Look to bins for info

NUS group will help put up details on recyclables to reduce contamination
Grace Chua Straits Times 28 Jan 11;

A PLASTIC drink bottle, a styrofoam food carton and an old pair of shoes: One of these is recyclable, another is reusable, while one does not fall into either category. Which is which?

Most people cannot tell the difference - and a student group from the National University of Singapore (NUS) would like to help.

Students Against Violation of the Earth (Save) are putting detailed illustrations and information on some recycling bins in Yew Tee, with the help of the NUS Office of Environmental Sustainability and two residents' committees (RC) from the Choa Chu Kang neighbourhood.

NUS sustainability executive Marcus Tay, 29, explained that even though posters, leaflets and the Internet do inform people which materials can be recycled, such information is not available when most-needed - when people are about to tip bags full of recyclables into bins.

Up to a fifth of all the waste collected from recycling bins does not belong there, the National Environment Agency has said in previous reports.

The students plan to put recycling information on the bins, and eventually provide waste bins next to recycling bins, so people can throw away non-recyclable items such as styrofoam food boxes.

That is because some people just need to get rid of the trash in their hand - whether it can be recycled or not - Mr Tay said. If there is no waste bin in sight, they will pop it into the nearest recycling bin.

NUS will be putting the information on bins in Yew Tee Zone 8 - around Choa Chu Kang Streets 53 and 54 - but not on those in Zone 4, at Choa Chu Kang Street 51, to compare the two zones to measure effectiveness.

In both zones, the students are weighing recycling bins and checking how contaminated the contents are. They are also conducting door-to-door surveys of some of the zones' 2,800 households, to find out their attitudes towards recycling.

By April, they will find out how successful the scheme has been.

A similar project at NUS from October 2008 to March 2009 succeeded in cutting recycling-bin contamination almost completely.

At the project's launch last weekend, Yew Tee Zone 8 RC chairman Eric Lim said: 'I don't think people understand what recycling is, so I hope this exercise is successful.'

Several letters to The Straits Times Forum page this month reflected a need for more guidance.

'It is not surprising that the rubbish chute is seen as the answer to getting rid of unwanted items,' wrote reader Roy Koo, who added that many Singaporeans do want to recycle but, lacking enough information, opt to throw things away instead.

By the way, the plastic drink bottle can be recycled into new plastic items after it is cleaned, the styrofoam carton cannot be recycled, and the shoes can be donated to charity and reused if they are in good condition.

Can these items be recycled?
A guide to some of the items that can and cannot be put into your neighbourhood recycling bin
Straits Times 28 Jan 11;


# Paper: Cardboard tubes for paper towels, cleaned and flattened cereal and drink boxes, envelopes, red packets, brochures, books, magazines, newspapers, telephone books
# Plastic: Rinsed plastic cups and bottles, clean bread wrappers and bread packet tags, clean plastic bags, plastic packaging from magazines, video and audio cassettes with the tape ribbon removed
# Metal: Clean metal food tins, beverage powder tins, biscuit tins, empty drink cans, clean aluminium foil and trays
# Glass: Empty, rinsed drink bottles (like wine or beer bottles), jam jars, food containers and glass cups


# Paper: Used tissue paper
# Plastic: Styrofoam cups and packaging
# Metal: dirty metal tins, cans and trays
# Glass: Window glass, fluorescent light bulbs, mirrors
# Others: Batteries

Electronics can be recycled through manufacturers' schemes, or those that still work can be donated to charities. Stuffed toys, shoes and eyeglasses can also be donated.

SOURCE: and the National Environment Agency