More than 10,000 volunteers spread out across Singapore yesterday with one mission: to pick up every piece of litter in sight and clean up the country.
Armed with gloves, trash bags and tongs, they got rid of eyesores like cigarette butts, plastic bags, tissue paper and even cardboard packaging from the ground, grass verges and roadside bushes.
Schools and companies led clean-up efforts by students, staff and family members at public spaces such as parks and beaches to support the islandwide housekeeping.
The volunteers - who also included non-government groups, town councils and government agencies - were part of Operation We Clean Up!, a one-day event organised by the Public Hygiene Council, Keep Singapore Beautiful Movement and Singapore Kindness Movement.
The day-long clean-up was the first of its kind and spanned 133 locations. More than 7,000kg of rubbish was collected.
Among the people who braved light rain in Bukit Panjang yesterday morning were father-and- daughter team Kevin and Kezel Ong.
Kezel, seven, had been dismayed by the cigarette butts and other rubbish in the estate, and was singled out by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday for speaking up about the issue at a residents' committee meeting she attended with her father last year.
"Our playground and void deck can get quite dirty, and it makes our neighbourhood ugly," she told The Straits Times.
The country's cleanliness has been on the decline despite an army of more than 52,000 cleaners.
Earlier this year, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong wrote that Singapore would likely become a "garbage city" were it not for its cleaners, after pictures surfaced online of the mess left behind by people who went to a concert at Gardens by the Bay.
Last year, the National Environment Agency issued about 19,000 tickets for littering, almost double the number in 2013.
To show people how much litter can be generated in a single day, general area cleaning was stopped in nearly 70 precincts last Saturday and the cleaners given a rest day.
Before the start of the clean-up session in Bukit Panjang yesterday, Dr Balakrishnan said: "By keeping our neighbourhoods clean, we are sending a signal to everyone that we are proud of our home."
Meanwhile, more than 4,000 cleaners across the 15 People's Action Party town councils were treated to an appreciation lunch yesterday and given a $20 NTUC FairPrice voucher each.
Mr Tan Hock Chye, 54, one of the cleaners, said he appreciated the acknowledgement of their work.
He said: "It's good for encouragement and morale, but it would be even better if more people would learn not to litter everywhere and throw their rubbish away properly."
This article was first published on May 4, 2015.
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