Change mentality towards littering

I am a Japanese permanent resident studying at Hwa Chong Institution.

I have lived in Singapore for more than 10 years and I am still impressed by how clean Singapore is, very much like my home country.

However, unlike Japan, Singapore owes its cleanliness mainly to the efforts of cleaners and its strict laws.

This is perhaps why Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam late last year called on Singaporeans to change their habits and be more public-spirited, among other things (Take ownership to make Singapore cleaner: Tharman; Nov 5, 2017).

The penalties for littering, such as fines and the Corrective Work Order, have definitely reduced the amount of litter in the country. They have proven to be effective deterrents against littering.

However, it is undeniable that people still litter and that we still rely on others to clean up after us.

The anti-litter laws have given us a mentality that it is alright to litter, so long as we do not get caught. Ideally, we want to instil a culture of "cleaning up after yourself" in Singapore.

Deterrence was the first step towards this. But I think having stiffer penalties is not the answer (It's time to send litterbugs to jail; Nov 12, 2017).

We should perhaps look at the solution from another perspective - offering rewards.

For example, we could reward people who keep their Housing Board blocks the cleanest, or in schools, we can acknowledge students which manage to keep their classroom the cleanest.

Whatever the solution, it is time for Singapore to take another step towards changing the mentality of people here towards littering.

Matsumoto Yuto, 14,

Secondary 3 student

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2018, with the headline 'Change mentality towards littering'. Print Edition | Subscribe