Don't be afraid to tell litter bugs off, says Public Hygiene Council

Wayne Chan Channel News Asia 29 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE: Establishing a new social norm where people are not afraid to tell litter bugs off. That is what the Public Hygiene Council hopes to do in its upcoming outreach efforts to inculcate good hygiene practices.

According to a recent survey on littering, about six in 10 respondents say they "never litter".

But 36.2 per cent will do so if they don't get caught, and about one per cent say they litter "most of the time".

Liak Teng Lit, Chairman of the Public Hygiene Council, said: "I call these three groups of people the good, the bad and the ugly. The 60 over per cent of people who are good, great. We hope they continue to do so, and they probably will.

"But I think the good need to do a bit more. They need to advocate for it. In other words, when they see somebody litter, or when somebody make a mess in a public toilet, they should show their displeasure and sometimes perhaps, stick their neck out.

"Take a small risk, give a deep frown and say maybe that's not the right thing to do and put some pressure on the other two groups not to do it."

What saddens Mr Liak most is when people use planters to dispose of their litter, even when a bin is just within reach. He said more enforcement is needed in such places, but people's mindset about who is responsible for cleanliness also needs to change.

He said: "They are blaming the town council, they are blaming NParks (National Parks Board), not the people who litter, which I find rather amusing. Because at the end of the day, it's not about the cleaner. It is about who litters to begin with. So I think that social norm needs to change."

Mr Liak hopes to recruit the help of those who feel strongly about public hygiene.

The council has even contacted those who write regularly to forum pages to tap on their ideas. It also wants to identify more role models who can share their success story with others on how to keep their premises clean and litter-free.

Mr Liak said: "The idea is to increase the number of places that is of first-world standard. So that we can slowly get more and more of them and then eventually, we join them all up and then you will begin to see a much better place for all of us."

To do that, the council plans to organise a series of public forums to showcase these role models in the first quarter of this year. It also plans to work with schools and organisations to spread the message of good public hygiene to the community.