Nee Soon Town Council steps up fight against sanitary pad litterbugs in Yishun

Nee Soon Town Council steps up fight against sanitary pad litterbugs in Yishun

Block 841, Yishun Street 81
There have been complaints of sanitary pads thrown down from Block 841, Yishun Street 81. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)

SINGAPORE: Nee Soon Town Council is ramping up its battle against high-rise litterbugs at a housing block in Yishun, putting up notices in lifts and urging residents to report offenders to the National Environment Agency (NEA).

"The town council has received feedback on high-rise littering at this block," read a notice dated Wednesday (Sep 4) at Block 841 Yishun Street 81, adding that the most "prevalent article" being disposed of indiscriminately were sanitary pads. 

"These inconsiderate acts dirty and damage the property of residents living at the lower floors and could endanger the lives of passers-by below," the notice stated. 

Town council notice high-rise littering Yishun
The town council notice in the lift. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)

The town council appealed to residents to look out for instances of high-rise littering and report offenders to NEA via its email or hotline.

"Such irresponsible and anti-social acts will not be tolerated and stern enforcement actions will be taken against the offender(s)," it added.

The move follows Wednesday's Parliament session in which Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC Lee Bee Wah highlighted the issue of sanitary pad littering in her ward, questioning the effectiveness of surveillance cameras and suggesting the use of DNA testing for enforcement.

READ: More than 7,700 reports of high-rise littering offences made between 2016 and 2018: MEWR

In response, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor said that the number of successful enforcement actions taken from observing surveillance camera footage jumped 120 times from 2011 to 2018.

NEA surveillance camera high-rise littering Yishun
NEA has set up surveillance cameras near Block 841. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)

Dr Khor said NEA's enforcement efforts also depend on the quality of public reporting, noting that for the sanitary pad case, only a picture had been given with no information on where the pad might have come from.

Between 2016 and 2018, NEA received more than 7,700 reports of high-rise littering, although Dr Khor said these figures have remained relatively stable.

RESIDENTS "NEARLY HIT BY SANITARY PADS": DR LEE

Asked if she was satisfied with the response given in Parliament, Dr Lee told CNA on Friday: "Not really."

"I will explore with NEA the suggestions I brought up," she said.

Dr Lee said the high-rise littering problem at Block 841, involving mainly sanitary pads, has gone on for "many years", noting that she first raised it in Parliament in 2013.

"I don't have the exact numbers (on the number of complaints received)," she added. "But there have been quite a few as that block is in Khatib Central and many residents walk by it. 

"Passers-by have complained that they were nearly hit by sanitary pads."

High-rise littering poster Yishun
The poster warning against high-rise littering. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)

When CNA visited Block 841 - located near shops and eateries along a bustling walkway leading to Khatib MRT station - on Friday, NEA had set up two surveillance cameras at sheltered basketball courts nearby. 

At the lift lobby was a poster warning against high-rise littering.

Homemaker Anna Ho, 53, said her husband had "quite often" seen the ground being littered with used tissue paper and sanitary pads, and would advise her to use the sheltered walkway.

"(The problem is) quite bad," said the Block 841 resident of 15 years. "It's very frustrating because it's not hygienic."

READ: Surveillance cameras to be installed to monitor high-rise littering

Ms Evonne Choo, who has worked at a bubble tea shop in front of the block for more than a decade, said the problem was worse a few years ago. "They used to throw paper and clothing," the 53-year-old said, adding that mental health issues could be a factor.

THE PROBLEM OF HIGH-RISE LITTERING

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser told CNA a "large proportion" of people occasionally litter because of convenience and the perception that they would likely not be detected. 

"There is, however, a small minority who are habitual litterbugs. I believe they are self-centered, lacking in empathy or sensitivity towards others, and generally lacking in mindfulness of their surroundings," he said.

"Some habitual litterbugs may have mental problems and are unable to understand the consequences of their action for others."

File photo of a sanitary pad on the ground
The picture in the notice showing a sanitary pad discarded near the block.

Used sanitary pads are "very unhygienic", Public Hygiene Council chairman Edward D'Silva told CNA, stating that they can contaminate surfaces and spread diseases to people.

To combat the problem, the experts suggested a combination of education and enforcement.

Public education could include short and catchy segments on television, as well as door-to-door engagement by grassroots leaders. "The message can also be regularly communicated at block parties and other community events," Mr D'Silva said.

As for enforcement, Dr Tan said "soft" approaches could include bringing offenders to dirty estates and asking them to share their thoughts.

NEA littering corrective work order
The number of CWOs issued to offenders rose by 30 per cent in 2018. (Photo: National Environment Agency)

However, "clearly irresponsible and reckless" offenders should be "punished to the maximum extent of the law", Mr D'Silva said.

"This would include fines, conscription to do the work of cleaners through Corrective Work Orders or even imprisonment, in the case that the object thrown causes death," he added.

READ: Man charged with causing death of 73-year-old hit on the head by falling bottle

In August, a 47-year-old man was charged with causing death by a rash act after he threw a wine bottle from the seventh floor of a condo in Outram. The bottle struck a 73-year-old man, who later died of his injuries. 

SITUATION IMPROVING?

After Nee Soon Town Council began sending advisories to Block 841 and cleaning up the litter, the situation seems to be approving. 

Regular litter-picking activities in Nee Soon South have "improved the mindset" of residents, said Dr Lee. 

Five residents CNA spoke to also said they have not seen sanitary pads being thrown indiscriminately and do not have an issue with high-rise littering. 

Litter pick-up banner in Yishun
A banner near the block showing the next litter pick-up. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)

"I hope more constituencies start litter-picking activities," Dr Lee added. "And asking students to clean up will have a long-term effect."

Source: CNA/hz(hs)

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