Anti-litter blitz at 30 hot spots

SINGAPORE - An anti-littering blitz yesterday nabbed 21 people in four areas across Woodlands and Yishun alone, with the National Environment Agency (NEA) saying that it will continue to conduct such exercises at 92 hot spots across the island.

This was the first large-scale operation - 30 hot spots were targeted - since the agency doubled penalties for littering on April 1.

Recalcitrant litterbugs now face a maximum fine of $2,000, $4,000, and $10,000 respectively for the first, second as well as the third and subsequent court convictions under the Environmental Public Health Act.

During yesterday's exercise, The Sunday Times tailed six plainclothes NEA officers doing their rounds at the area next to Woodlands MRT station between 4pm and 5pm.

At least five offenders were caught for littering and smoking in prohibited areas there during the hour.

Some were seen pleading with NEA officers and trying to give excuses for their actions. One man caught smoking claimed that he was only puffing under a covered walkway "for a short while".

A fresh ITE graduate, who was caught dumping a cigarette butt on the floor, was stoic even when he was issued a summons.

Said the 19-year-old, who declined to be named: "There weren't any dustbins with ashtrays nearby - if they don't want people to litter, they should have more bins."

When someone is caught throwing rubbish, officers approach the litterbug, identify themselves, and explain the offence before issuing a ticket. They also ask to check the offender's identity card.

The NEA has identified 92 littering hot spots across the island, mostly in busy areas such as MRT stations, where it conducts regular enforcement blitzes.

Those caught littering for the first time face a $300 composition fine but will not be charged in court. However, those caught littering for the second time are slapped with a heftier fine and will be charged in court.

Since May last year, hours spent enforcing anti-littering and smoking laws have gone up by about 50 per cent. The number of tickets issued to litterbugs has also risen.

In 2012, the NEA issued 8,195 tickets. This went up to 9,346 last year. For the first three months of this year, 4,255 tickets have already been issued.

This article was published on April 13 in The Straits Times.Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.