Vicious circle of littering

January 05, 2015

AS A co-founder of the Keep Singapore Clean Movement, I am appalled that this year’s countdown party generated more rubbish than those in the preceding three years, according to a cleaner (“After the party… comes the cleanup”; yesterday).

Hundreds of cleaners picked up “empty potato chip bags, discarded drink cans and plastic bags”, even when more than 400 rubbish bins were available. And worse, people drank and vomited.

I cannot help but ask if we would vomit in our dining room or living room as we party? If we do not do it at home, why would we do it in a public place we celebrate as our “Home”?

I do not understand why we cannot hold on to our rubbish and dispose of it in the containers provided. I have seen rubbish such as styrofoam cups, drink bottles, cigarette packs and butts barely a metre from empty bins.

Perhaps we have too many cleaners who will clean up after us, and we know it.

Our population numbers a little more than five million, but we have 70,000 cleaners. In contrast, Taipei has three million residents but only 5,000 cleaners.

A delegation from the Keep Singapore Clean Movement was there two weeks ago and can testify that the city is much cleaner than ours, even though there are very few rubbish bins in public places.

We asked our hosts how this was possible, and their answer was as straightforward as it was simple – “We clean up after ourselves.”

As long as we have cleaners to do the job for us, we feel that we need not clean up. As long as we do not clean up, we will need more cleaners – and the vicious circle goes on.

Keeping our city clean requires every single one of us to take ownership of our nation as our home and start keeping it clean. It means that we do not litter, and proactively discourage others from littering. It means making it a habit to recycle, reuse and refuse what is not necessary, including plastic bags, thus reducing the quantity of rubbish we produce.

It is also necessary to reduce the number of cleaners, dignify their vocation by paying and training them well, and empower them to fine litterbugs.

Dr William Wan
General Secretary
Singapore Kindness Movement

First published in The Straits Times – January 3, 2015

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