Culture of waste inhibits green efforts

A recycling bin in Pasir Ris.
A recycling bin in Pasir Ris.PHOTO: ST FILE

The special report on Tuesday ("Life with plastic, not fantastic") and Singapore's own experience in recycling plastic waste are a stark reminder that despite the Government's best efforts, the practice of recycling plastic and other waste has not caught on with households, organisations and individuals here.

In Singapore, only 9 per cent of plastic waste was recycled in 2014, and massive amounts of plastic waste are collected from rivers and canals before they reach the sea every year ("S'pore recycled 9% of plastic waste in 2014"; Tuesday).

The "culture of waste" in an increasingly consumerist world has made us accustomed to discarding plastic and other waste without attempting to recycle it.

This is because many people still lack awareness of the need to recycle waste.

Although various measures have been put in place by the National Environment Agency (NEA), our national recycling rate still lags behind that of other developed countries.

This state of affairs can be attributed to insufficient public awareness, coupled with inadequate waste management infrastructural facilities, the lack of which does not encourage people to recycle.

For example, although recycling bins are now placed at every block of flats, they are not user-friendly enough as they do not have separate receptacles for plastic, glass, paper and metal, with the result that very often, they are found to be foul-smelling and overflowing with all sorts of litter.

There is, therefore, little incentive for the public to be aware of the need to recycle waste, plastic or other materials.

Public education would mean that parents, children and teachers should take the initiative in spreading the message.

Educating the public will have far-reaching benefits for the environment and for the country.

Recycling is important to both the natural environment and us, so that sustainable resources can be managed efficiently.

As individuals, we are all part of the environment that we must protect at all costs.

Recycling habits should become a way of life for all Singaporeans.

V. Subramaniam (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2016, with the headline 'Culture of waste inhibits green efforts'. Print Edition | Subscribe