Spur recycling with informative labels

Reducing the accessibility of refuse chutes while raising that of recycling bins may work when recycling bins can effectively take the place of refuse bins ("Convenience of rubbish chutes an obstacle" by Mr Choi Chang Min; last Friday).

However, if individuals remain unaware or unwilling to separate their waste, and if refuse chutes get too inaccessible, people may just dump their waste out in the open, next to recycling bins.

The Government has significantly increased the accessibility of recycling bins, with one bin at every HDB block. The single blue bin in place of four separate recycling bins may have also been designed to ease the inconvenience of sorting out recyclables.

Yet, 30 per cent to 50 per cent of materials put into these bins are actually non-recyclable materials.

To target those who do not recycle due to a lack of confidence in doing so properly, an empowering approach may be more beneficial.

The labels on most recycling bins in Singapore do attempt to depict what can be recycled or not.

However, the information on recyclable items is not clear enough.

Currently, recyclables are tagged with only a simple recycling symbol.

A more effective label, like that of the How2Recycle label adopted overseas and by big corporations, could further include a breakdown of the different materials of an item, their suitability for recycling, as well as simple instructions on how to prepare them for recycling.

This may include the need to wash the item or to remove certain unsuitable parts like the lid or pump.

These direct instructions can be attached individually to each item and would be much more definitive in helping to make recycling more accurate.

Furthermore, for people who may not be so concerned about recycling, having the information presented upfront not only raises constant awareness, but may also evoke feelings of responsibility, as they are now aware of how they are able to recycle the item.

The question, moving forward, would be how to incentivise companies to adopt a more informative labelling system, and this is where legislation for subsidies or incentives may help.

With empowerment to make knowing, effective decisions, this soft infrastructure would pave the way for better use of physical recycling infrastructure.

Megan Quek Zi Ying (Miss)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2016, with the headline 'Spur recycling with informative labels'. Print Edition | Subscribe