No Cleaner Day: Constituencies make a clean sweep to tackle litter

Olivia Siong, Channel NewsAsia Channel NewsAsia 13 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE: Some Members of Parliament (MPs) who have started cleanliness initiatives in their constituencies said they have seen results. The initiatives include giving cleaners days off and monthly litter-picking sessions.

The MPs also hope to ride on their town council's plans to have residents clean their own neighbourhood once a year - as part of an anti-littering drive.

The amount of trash in Singapore is mounting and so is its littering problem. Some have said this could ironically be due to a more efficient cleaning service.

Mr Liak Teng Lit, chairman of the Public Hygiene Council, elaborated: "In most housing estates, for example, the town council cleans the place two, three times a day. The more efficiently you clean the place, the more people do not feel the impact of the litter bugs.

“I think many people begin to take it for granted that ‘I can do what I like and somehow, somebody will pick up after me’. Besides littering, it is a wider issue of societal values; it is this lack of consideration for one another, ‘I only think of myself, me, what is convenient for me. I do not care about my impact on other people’."

In recent years, some constituencies have initiated their own activities to tackle the problem. In Nee Soon South, litter picking is a monthly affair and one day a year is set aside as "No Cleaner Day".

Ms Lee Bee Wah, MP for Nee Soon GRC, said: "There is awareness among residents. I am heartened to see that there are residents who organise family litter picking once a month, I see joggers pick up litter as they jog, and I also see residents wanting to catch those litter bugs who leave their litter at the lift lobby or just along the corridor."

A survey by the Environment and Water Resources Ministry has shown that the amount of litter observed or collected has almost doubled from 2006 to 2010, with the cleaning bill for public spaces at a projected S$120 million per year.

So the Government has announced that town councils will set aside one day each year for residents to clean their own neighbourhoods, to tackle this problem.

Last year, Tampines GRC also piloted having no cleaners once a month, for six months, and now plans to make it a permanent affair. It notes that the town council's new initiative could send a strong message.

Said Mr Baey Yam Keng, MP for Tampines GRC: "It takes time because it is a mindset, it is about habits and awareness. So we are continuing our efforts on this so that residents will be reminded that it is everybody's responsibility to keep the estate clean. And if you can do it for one day, you can do it every day.

“Hopefully with it done at a large scale and at a national level, it will send a strong signal and many people will be more aware and put it upon themselves and families to play a part for the community."

Some Singaporeans have welcomed the initiative.

Mr Vasanthan Kanagasundaram said: "Because they are cleaning up the place, they would actually be mindful not to litter in future. If they litter, they would have to clean it up themselves. I think it works better than the corrective work order."

Mr Sebastian Xu commented: "It is like a common activity for everybody to be doing it together. So it is more like a bonding, rather than an anti-littering activity.”

Others questioned if the habits would stick.