Six and saving the earth, one bag at a time

While most are still in dreamland, Bowen Beckman wakes up at 5am every Tuesday to fulfil another kind of dream.

He takes the lift to the top floor of his condominium block and collects recycling bags laid out for him at various doorsteps.

Once he has four bags in hand and can no longer pick up any more, he throws them into a bin which his father wheels behind him.

Bowen is only six, but already making a big impact.

He completes his collection of bags and newspaper stacks an hour later and sorts the items into recycling bins for paper, metal and plastic before getting ready for breakfast and pre-school. The items are then picked up by a waste-collection company.

"Sometimes, I find it hard to wake up. But it is good for the earth and I have already made it a habit," he said.

Ashokan Ramakrishnan, a council member from the management of The Makena in Meyer Road, said: "We were pleasantly surprised with how small the boy is, but how big his idea was."

Bowen decided to start the recycling service after watching a documentary in June about polar bears losing their homes when ice caps melt because of the excessive use of fossil fuels.

He spent a day crafting a letter to the condo's management, asking for permission to let him take his neighbours' recyclable trash downstairs for a small fee.

"We didn't think the condo would permit it and expected that Bowen would get over the idea after a while," said his father, Kurt Beckman, 50, an American architectural designer who relocated to Singapore four years ago.

But Bowen delivered the letter in July and the management board at The Makena met him the next month.

They gave the green light and 28 households signed on for the service after he distributed fliers and went door to door to canvass for support.

After three months, his idea has caught on with other children in the condominium.

About 18 of them started their own collection services in the other four apartment blocks after Bowen presented his project to the residents at two gatherings.

A training session to teach the other children was held last month. About a fortnight ago, the children also gathered at the condo's multi-purpose hall to share their experiences.

"I hope my neighbours will make recycling a natural part of life," said Bowen.

The volume of recyclable materials collected since the start of the recycling service has tripled, said Mr Ramakrishnan. In the past, residents rarely used the recycling bins downstairs as they usually just threw rubbish down the central chute.

Bowen's project has also led to stronger bonds between residents - something that the condo's management had been scratching their heads over as the locals, Western and Indian expatriates largely kept to their own groups.

"It is amazing how one child with an idea can help them come together in a way that has never happened before," said Mr Ramakrishnan.

Parents started talking to one another about the projects and many took to recycling. At a flea market held in the property at the end of last month, they sold used items to their neighbours.

Bowen, who has two younger sisters, is donating $50 of the $72 he has collected so far to his father's project of building a school in Africa. He is saving up the rest to buy lollies and an iPad.

He said: "I want to change the world, maybe by telling my story to more children."

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