Litterbugs caught in 2015 hit 6-year high

THE number of people caught littering hit a six-year high last year.

More than 26,000 fines were issued by the National Environment Agency (NEA) - the highest number since 2009, when just over 41,000 were given out.

NEA told The Straits Times that most litterbugs were caught discarding cigarette butts, tissue paper, cigarette box wrappers and plastic cups inappropriately.

It added that about 69 per cent of them were Singapore residents.

Last year's figures mark a jump of 32 per cent from 2014, when 20,000 tickets were meted out.

In 2013, 9,346 tickets were issued for littering offences, up from 8,195 in 2012. More than 11,000 people were fined in 2011, down from almost 24,000 in 2010.

Last year also saw the number of corrective work orders imposed by the courts for littering rise to more than 1,300 from 688 in 2014. In 2013, the figure was 261.

NEA said the increase is due to stepped up enforcement efforts against littering.

It added that the Government has also taken a tougher stance on littering.

In April 2014, it doubled the maximum fines to $2,000 for the first conviction, $4,000 for the second and $10,000 for the third and subsequent ones.

The court can also impose a corrective work order, which requires offenders to clean public areas for up to 12 hours.

Those caught littering for the first time can face a $300 composition fine.

Edwin Seah, executive director of the Singapore Environment Council, said while the significant rise in the number of littering tickets issued is a concern, it is even more important to know and understand who are fined and why they choose to litter.

"A person would not litter at home or in the office, so why would they do so in public? It is a highly inconsiderate and anti-social behaviour," he said.

He added that values must be nurtured from a young age so everyone sees the need to protect and conserve the environment they share.

Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Environment, Lee Bee Wah, suggested that the Ministry of Education remove cleaners from schools, as is the case in Japan and Taiwan, to inculcate such values.

In October last year, she suggested implementing a reward system like that in Taiwan, where people are given a portion of the summons payment after they submit evidence of litterbugs caught in the act.

She told The Straits Times that Singapore's littering woes are not due to lack of effort on the part of the Government but a lack of conviction from the public on the benefits of having a clean environment.

"They don't appreciate how littering can cause water to be collected in a discarded receptacle, resulting in mosquito breeding, for example," she said.

"In Singapore, some people think that they pay town council fees and, hence, someone will clean after them.

"We need a mindset change."

Related: Why is littering still a problem?

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