30 cleaners work overnight to clear up Laneway trash

The thumping electronic beats of Australian music producer Flume closed the 12-hour Laneway Festival on Saturday at one of its main stages at The Meadow at Gardens By The Bay.

The upbeat music was soon replaced by the sharp crunch of plastic cups and beer cans being crushed underfoot and the crackle of plastic and mats being kicked as its 13,000 festival-goers made for the exit at the end of the night.

When the crowd thinned, what was left was a litter-filled venue, a sight similar to last year's edition of the event.

This, despite four designated garbage bin points with large banners that read "Bin There, Dump That".

That same reminder had flashed on the screens after every set.

Some 30 cleaners from event cleaning company Qool Enviro, working a nine-hour shift, got to work immediately.

The company's assistant sales manager Gerald Yang said the crew finished work at 9am yesterday.

The cleaners would go back over the next few days to make sure it is litter-free.

The first of the three shifts started at 9am on Saturday and they cleaned up after festival-goers throughout the day.

Working equally hard during the festival, which had 27 local and international acts, were the couple behind the Traceless movement on Facebook.

The movement aims to encourage fellow festival-goers to take responsibility for their own litter.

Laneway fans Timothy Chua, 25, and his girlfriend Sumita Thiagarajan, 21, started it about two weeks ago, in response to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong's Facebook remarks following the mess left behind at the previous Laneway Festival.

Mr Lee wrote: "It takes continuous effort to keep Singapore clean. We need to progress from being a cleaned city to a truly clean city."

Mr Chua and Miss Sumita literally took matters into their own hands by picking up as much rubbish as they could in between sets and discarding it into dustbins.

Disheartened that festival-goers failed to clean up their act this year, despite politicians' call to action and the media attention, they were nonetheless encouraged to see others pitching in to help.


Miss Sumita, a National University of Singapore (NUS) undergraduate, told The New Paper: "When they saw us picking up litter, some people helped. That was nice to see.

"Others were interested to find out more about the Traceless movement.

"A girl called out to her friends to help, but her friends refused. But she still tried to pick up as much trash as she could before she left."

Mr Chua, who recently graduated from NUS, said that more women than men readily offered their assistance.

Both locals and foreigners helped, but the offenders far outnumbered them.

Miss Sumita said: "I saw people piling their trash on their mats and I thought they would bin the mess. But at the end of the night, they shook off their mats and walked away so that all the rubbish stayed behind.

"Some people even denied the trash belonged to them when it was right there at their feet."

A 21-year-old cleaner at Laneway, who declined to be named, said that the aftermath did not differ greatly from that of past gigs like Dutch DJ Hardwell's show at the same venue last year.

He added that the cleaning up is tiring and that cleaning "a small part of the field" - the size of two basketball courts - takes about two hours.

"People just want to party and when they are having fun, they forget. At the end, they just want to go home," he said.

One of the festival-goers who helped Mr Chua and Miss Sumita was Kuala Lumpur-based American student Maya Nazareth, 18.

She said: "I always pick up my own trash. Everyone is trying to enjoy the festival and good music, but you can't do that if you're always stepping on the trash on the ground. It's gross."

Mr Chua and Miss Sumita hope they can work with Laneway organisers next year to come up with a better approach to keep litter at bay.

"I hope we can help ease the burden of the organisers, but we need a lot of support," said Mr Chua.

This year's highlights


Festival-goers had plenty of options should they need a break from the music.

They could pose for selfies atop British lifestyle brand Jack Wills' pink-and-blue Land Rover or at US home rental company Airbnb's House of Smiles.

Creative festival-goers tried their hand at designing shoes or bags at the Onitsuka Tiger pop-up.

Those who were hungry had an array of food to choose from.

There was sushi, kebabs, churros and popsicles.

The best part? Some vendors even dished out free food and drinks towards the end of the night.


In previous years, the likes of US singer St. Vincent or Kiwi singer Kimbra set themselves apart from other Laneway Festival performers with their whimsicality and off-kilter charm.

This year, Canadian synth-pop artist Grimes scored top points.

From her dressing - a giant red head bow, matching neon yellow arm bands and mismatched socks - to her unique singing style and dance moves, fans celebrated her eccentricities that were a breath of fresh air.


With the buttons of his white shirt undone, showing off a tattoo in the centre of his chest, The 1975's singer Matt Healy showed his bad-boy side during the British alt-rock band's set.

Not only did he light up on stage and steal a few puffs, he also spurned the bottled water and sipped from a wine glass instead.


Festival-goers had to choose between Canadian futuristic-pop duo Purity Ring at the Cloud Stage and Australian music producer Flume at the bigger Bay Stage to cap off their night.

Both made their audience feel they had made the right decision by serving hard-hitting beats to close Laneway on a high.

Flume also threw in his remix of Kiwi pop singer Lorde's Tennis Court, which had the pumped-up crowd singing along.


This year's edition boasted seven home-grown acts, the most in the festival line-up to date.

Bands such as Cashew Chemists and Riot !n Magenta as well as electronic acts Intriguant and Kiat (featuring Kane) proved that they were as much crowd-pullers as their international counterparts.

The crowd showed its support by singing along to Cashew Chemists' hits like First Kiss and Feel Amazing.


This article was first published on February 1, 2016.
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