Convenience of rubbish chutes an obstacle

I grew up in Seoul, South Korea, before I came to Singapore when I was 14 years old. In Seoul, recycling came naturally to me because it was not only taught in school but was also something that I did regularly at home.

Residential areas have central garbage disposal bins for various types of waste - general (unrecyclable), styrofoam, plastic, glass bottles and paper.

Each district has its own standardised trash bags which households have to purchase to hold their unrecyclable waste.

Dumping garbage in other non-certified plastic bags is illegal and is monitored by closed-circuit television cameras from the city council.

In order to reduce our spending on trash bags, my parents taught me, from a young age, what could be treated as general waste and what could be recycled. What was taught in school about recycling could also be directly applied to my daily actions.

In Singapore, the domestic recycling rate has been stagnant at about 20 per cent for the past decade, despite national recycling initiatives and public education.

Even though there are recycling bins in residential areas, accessibility to refuse chutes discourages people from recycling.

Furthermore, the benefit of recycling cannot be reaped directly by individuals. Hence, people will not make the extra effort to sort their garbage into categorised recycling bins.

Legislation may be necessary to push society towards going green, although it may not be a popular option. With regulations in place, educating the public about recycling will be more effective, as the information becomes much more relevant.

Similar to the policy in South Korea, penalties for ineffective recycling may be required in Singapore. This may upset the public initially, but this change in lifestyle will become the norm for future generations.

However, this cannot be done without proper infrastructure. The convenience of refuse chutes is the main obstacle for Singapore in implementing any stricter policies about recycling. Measures to make refuse chutes less accessible by residents and facilitate greater accessibility to recycling bins can be the first step.

Choi Chang Min

Recycling efforts

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2016, with the headline 'Convenience of rubbish chutes an obstacle'. Print Edition | Subscribe