Find out causes of littering, then get tough

Find out causes of littering, then get tough
File photo of a janitor cleaning up litter after a New Year countdown party at *Scape on 1 January 2011.

SINGAPOREANS seem to have to bear sole responsibility for our littering woes ("Counting on S'poreans to keep environment clean" by the Public Hygiene Council; July 16, 2014, "PM reacts to meadow of trash that music fans left behind" and "Singapore becoming a 'garbage city', says ESM Goh Chok Tong"; ST Online, both published last Thursday, and "Time to grow up, clean up after ourselves" by Miss Tan Lin Neo; yesterday).

Singapore was once touted as a clean city, following decades of the Keep Singapore Clean movement and our anti-littering laws.

So what went wrong?

It cannot be the result of the "maid mentality", as foreign domestic workers are not a new phenomenon in Singapore.

Have people's mentality and attitude towards cleanliness and hygiene changed? Have people become more self-centred and anti-social? Are the anti-littering laws and clean movement losing their effectiveness? How about the impact of the influx of foreign workers over the years?

In my letter last year ("No need to dangle carrot in anti-littering drive"; Forum Online, July 24, 2014), I highlighted the case of a mountain of trash left behind when a large group of foreign workers ended its Sunday outing at the grounds of St Andrew's Cathedral.

The situation is no different at beaches, parks and open spaces.

In order to nip the littering problem in the bud, we need to target both Singaporeans and foreigners so that we do not miss the forest for the trees.

The National Environment Agency should embark on a thorough study to identify the sources of littering. This should be followed by a public education campaign, coupled with heavy penalties to be imposed on offenders.

Words, advice and pleas will not be effective. Only drastic measures can ensure a behaviour and attitude change.

This article was first published on Feb 4, 2015.
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