Get rewarded for catching a litterbug?

Residents taking part in a litter-picking exercise in Yishun Street 81 on Sunday. Ms Lee Bee Wah yesterday said she suggested the reward system idea to the NEA a few months ago and hoped to roll out a pilot in Nee Soon South.
Residents taking part in a litter-picking exercise in Yishun Street 81 on Sunday. Ms Lee Bee Wah yesterday said she suggested the reward system idea to the NEA a few months ago and hoped to roll out a pilot in Nee Soon South.ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

MP's suggestion to implement system like that in Taiwan draws mixed reactions

Reward people for catching litterbugs? The bold idea, which Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah said she was thinking of trying out, has sparked mixed reactions from experts and members of the public.

During a litter-picking exercise in Nee Soon South on Sunday, Ms Lee said she has suggested to the National Environment Agency (NEA) to implement a reward system like that in Taiwan, where people are given a portion of the summons payment after they submit evidence of litterbugs caught in the act.

Yesterday, she told The Straits Times she suggested this to the NEA a few months ago and hoped to roll out a pilot in Nee Soon South.

When asked, NEA said it is studying the feasibility of the idea, which arose after a study trip to Taiwan by the Public Hygiene Council. The suggestion comes against the backdrop of stepped-up enforcement against litterbugs by NEA.

Responding to ST queries, the agency said for the first half of this year, over 12,000 tickets were issued for littering - a 34 per cent rise from the same period last year. About 70 per cent of the tickets were issued to residents. Over the same period, there were 551 instances of corrective work order (CWO) imposed by the courts, a 72 per cent rise from the same period last year. Less than 6 per cent of those who served the CWOs were caught littering again.

  • 12,000

    tickets issued for littering from January to June this year

    20,000

    tickets issued for littering in 2014

    551

    instances of corrective work order imposed by the courts from January to June this year

    688

    instances of corrective work order imposed by the courts last year

Yesterday, an ST street poll of 50 people saw 34 disagreeing with rewarding people for nabbing litterbugs and 16 for the idea, saying it would have a deterrent effect.

"When people know that they will be photographed for littering, they will be more diligent (in not littering)," said Ms Srilata Krishnan, 39, a regional compliance manager.

Of those against the idea, 10 said education was the long-term solution. Dentist Ahmad Hassan, 36, said of the idea to reward people for catching litterbugs: "People will suspect other people and (this will) create a sense of animosity."

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser was also against the idea. He said: "Civic consciousness should not have a price tag to it. As a parallel, do we want to see a day when accident witnesses need to be paid to come forward to give evidence?"

Public Hygiene Council chairman Edward D'Silva said implementing this approach will come with challenges. "The authorities will have to verify the authenticity of the picture and whether the person who took the picture is bona fide."

Ms Lee told ST yesterday: "The main objective is to have everyone playing his part so the environment will be much cleaner. If you do not litter, you need not worry."

NEA chairman Liak Teng Lit said he is open to the idea. When it comes to recalcitrant litterbugs, neighbours may be more familiar with them than NEA enforcement officers, he noted.

If implemented, the idea will add to measures over the years to encourage people here to keep Singapore clean. They include No Cleaners Day and the Bright Spots challenge, which encourages people to adopt an area and keep it clean.

Asked if these have worked, Mr Liak said: "We may not have made a vast improvement but the decline in cleanliness has slowed down."

Most people do not litter, he said. They just need to continue to do so and to remind those who litter not to do so. Where possible, people should also pick up litter, he said.

"When that happens, Singapore will be truly clean, not cleaned."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2015, with the headline 'Get rewarded for catching a litterbug?'. Print Edition | Subscribe