Bigger push to get S'poreans to recycle

The National Environment Agency (NEA) is stepping up its efforts to encourage more households here to recycle with a new recycling starter kit.

In a tender document, the agency said the kit will comprise educational materials, such as information on the different types of waste, a guide on how to set up a recycling system and stickers that act as recycling reminders.

"The educational materials at home serve as a quick guide to help households understand more about recycling in their community, start recycling at home, and guide their family members to recycle," said NEA in the tender.

The kits will be distributed to HDB residents, with the primary target being household decision markers who are not recycling due to perceived inconvenience or lack of knowledge about what can be recycled.

The NEA also intends to reach out to those who are already recycling but are not clear about the overall recycling process or have doubts that items deposited in recycling bins really get recycled. It also hopes to appeal to young children and youth with the kit's detachable visual reminders.

NEA also wants void deck posters that direct residents to the nearest recycling bins, according to the documents.

The tender closes on May 20.

The agency's latest efforts come as the country saw a 1 percentage point drop to 19 per cent in the domestic recycling rate last year. The overall rate also fell 1 percentage point to 60 per cent, with industries being the main contributor of recyclables.

Green groups said the kit and void deck posters are a step in the right direction as they tackle the most common barriers to household recycling. But there must also be engagement with residents.

Mr Eugene Tay, founder and director of consultancy Green Future Solutions, said the NEA should work with non-profit groups and volunteers on face-to-face sessions with residents.

Mr Kavickumar Muruganathan, lead environmental engineer at the Singapore Environment Council, said it is important to ensure that the effort "does not result merely in heightened awareness, but leads to behavioural change and action".

He added that incentivising households could also help spur recycling rates.

This proved successful in the South West District, which has a weekly "Trash-for-Cash" programme, where residents could exchange unwanted items for necessities such as rice. The scheme contributed to the 2,350 tonnes of recyclables collected in 2013.

In Marine Parade GRC, an electronic waste recycling pilot with a charity element yielded positive results too. Panasonic Asia Pacific donated energy-saving light bulbs to needy households based on the amount of e-waste collected. A total of 10,204kg of recyclables were collected in seven months.

Seamstress Ong Beng Choo, 54, agreed that incentives would work better as she believes habits die hard. She has been recycling items for 10 years now but has hardly converted anyone despite telling her friends and family about the merits of recycling.

"It is not that they don't know, but that they don't want to because they find it troublesome," she said.

Quantifying recyclables

A project is being conducted to quantify the amount of recyclables collected in the blue recycling bins at HDB blocks.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) is doing that at 30 blocks in Choa Chu Kang and aims to develop and promote "routine" recycling in HDB households, said tender documents put up by the agency in March.

A contractor is to supply a manual pallet lift equipped with weighing scale to measure the weight of the recycling bins, and manpower to count the number of items in the bins. Additional recycling data will also be collected.

The contractor is also tasked to measure the contamination rate of recyclables found in each of the blue bins.

Contamination of recyclables by food, liquid or other wet waste has been an issue as many people are not aware that they have to clean their recyclables before depositing them in the bins. When that happens, entire truckloads of recyclables have to be rejected, and the items incinerated instead.

This article was first published on May 15, 2015.
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