Firmer action needed to encourage recycling

Government leaders have emphasised the need to work towards a sustainable Singapore and the importance of protecting the environment for future generations.

However, one major component of sustainability which has so far not been maximised is recycling.

Of the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle), recycling requires the least change in mindset and, thus, is the easiest to implement. But for more than a decade, efforts to promote recycling seem to have been muted.

The benefit of recycling is that less material will go into Singapore's only landfill, Pulau Semakau. It is running out of space, so we need to look at reducing waste urgently.

Here are three proposals to increase recycling:

First, to increase recycling rates, municipalities may need to seriously consider making recycling compulsory.

Recycling is still a voluntary scheme, thus, most people will not separate their refuse, out of convenience. Town councils or higher levels of authority need to be proactive to make that commitment.

Second, there is insufficient public education on how to recycle. I know of friends who want to recycle but are confused as to how to.

In public education, two things need to be made known: Food containers, such as drink cans, need to be rinsed first (because they will contaminate the batch and attract pests), and most paper cups cannot be recycled (because of the wax coating that makes the cup waterproof).

Third, if monetary incentive is required, the Environment and Water Resources Ministry or the National Environment Agency could consider the container-deposit system used in several countries, including Germany.

When one buys food in a glass or aluminium container, there is a deposit added to the price paid at the cashier. To get the deposit back, one returns the empty container, with label on, and puts it in a "reverse vending machine", set up at all supermarkets.

One benefit of this is that there will likely not be empty cans or bottles lying around in public spaces.

May we have a truly green Singapore by firmly establishing environmentally friendly practices.

Leong Mei Lin (Miss)