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NEA to continue stepping up enforcement against litterbugs

The National Environment Agency (NEA) will continue to step up enforcement against litterbugs, but it is hoped this will ease once the anti-littering message is ingrained.

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) will continue to step up enforcement against litterbugs, but it is hoped this will ease once the anti-littering message is ingrained.

Minister for Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said that after an event to clean up the Bedok South Road area. The event, called “Operation WE Clean Up!” was organised by the Public Hygiene Council, the Singapore Kindness Movement and the Keep Singapore Beautiful Movement.

Recent NEA figures show that more than 9,200 summons were issued for littering in the first six months of the year -- just short of the 9,346 for the whole of last year.

More than 360 participants, together with the minister himself, got in on the litter-picking action on Saturday, with participants covering an area comprising some 60 blocks.

Naeson Menon, a Temasek Junior College student, said: "Most of the litter around is very small things that people, when they throw, may think it won't matter, it won't make a difference, but actually all the small things coming together form a lot of litter everywhere and it's quite unsightly."

Bedok was a litter 'hotspot' in 2012, but efforts by residents to keep it clean transformed it into what the Public Hygiene Council calls a 'Bright Spot'.

Chia Ngiang Hong, chairman of Bedok Citizens’ Consultative Committee, said: "We'd pick up the rubbish, take pictures and during functions and events, we'd show them the effect their rubbish has on our environment, and this seems to have sunk in and has been effective.

“I mean compared to two years ago, when they started the same exercise, they'd pick up about 300kg of rubbish. Now it's only 120kg. Still a lot but it's a lot of improvement from two years ago."

The idea is to pick up litter and separate it into bags, with the waste going into the blue bag and the recyclables going into the green bag. It may sound easy, but imagine doing this around the estate -- where the litter can range from the easier-to-spot items to the harder ones like cigarette butts.

It seems cigarette butts continue to be a common problem.

Speaking to the participants, Dr Balakrishnan spoke of a man who was smoking close to where they were picking up litter.

"His friend told him, 'Please don't throw your cigarette butt. You see they're all picking them up.' And you know what the guy told his friend in front of him, 'Don't worry, this is the cleaner's job',” he said.

Elaborating later, Dr Balakrishnan said enforcement, along with education and public engagement, will need to be stepped up.

"To expect someone to clean up after you and say that is the cleaner's job is not acceptable. And the fact that I come around and pick up your cigarette butt, and even if I don't say anything to you, will make you pause and think and reflect -- we need more of such encounters."

Dr Balakrishnan said it's about reaching a stage where Singapore's cleanliness is a reflection of intrinsic civic values. 

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