'No-cleaners week' to help keep Singapore clean? Participants come up with suggestions at public forum

Mr Ng, an MP for Nee Soon GRC, helping to clean up his ward last Friday. He called the work "physically exhausting" and said small pieces of litter add up to a big pile of rubbish.
Mr Ng, an MP for Nee Soon GRC, helping to clean up his ward last Friday. He called the work "physically exhausting" and said small pieces of litter add up to a big pile of rubbish.PHOTO: FACEBOOK PAGE OF LOUIS NG

Participants come up with suggestions at public forum on keeping Singapore clean

Stop issuing plastic bags at supermarkets. Get residents to clean up the corridors outside their homes. And have a "no-cleaners week" each month so ordinary Singaporeans can get their hands dirty.

These were some of the suggested made yesterday at a public forum organised by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources on keeping Singapore clean. Mr Masagos Zulkifli, who heads the ministry, facilitated the discussions.

He said residents must be personally involved in keeping the country clean, and this spirit of civic consciousness had to become a social norm if Singapore were to progress from being a cleaned city to one that is simply clean.

"This involvement must come from the heart, from belief; it must come from culture," said Mr Masagos, adding that this can simply involve residents cleaning up their HDB corridors instead of waiting for cleaners.

Yesterday's forum was part of the larger SGfuture discussions - a series of public dialogues on the country's future that was launched last November and will run until the middle of this year.

Two discussions were held at the Future Of Us exhibition at Gardens by the Bay yesterday, attended by about 40 participants each, and centred on the theme "A Cleaner, Greener and Smarter Home".

Civil servant Chris Koh, 43, pointed out that people learnt in schools to return food trays but forget this good habit when they start working. "In order to change mindsets, perhaps we need more education for adults," said Ms Koh.

Others, such as facilities and maintenance manager Low Kok Peng, said Singaporeans kept homes that were spick and span - but started littering the moment they stepped outside.

"We should get neighbours to tell each other not to litter and clean up," said the 58 year-old, who wanted Singaporeans to get their hands dirty and not wait for cleaners.

Meanwhile, Mr Louis Ng, an MP for Nee Soon GRC, spent last Friday working with a broom and dustpan alongside cleaners in his ward. Mr Ng, who called the work "physically exhausting" in a Facebook post on the same day, said small pieces of litter add up to a big pile of rubbish.

"If everyone plays their part, puts the cigarette butt in the bin, throws the rubbish in the bin... it will make it better for all," he said.

Public Hygiene Council chairman Edward D'Silva said problems such as clogged drains and pest infestations had their roots in the simple act of littering.

"It is the cause of a lot of the downstream problems that we have," he said during the discussions.

Mr Masagos said there was space for the community to play an active role on this issue - instead of waiting for the authorities to clamp down on litterbugs.

"We certainly need to work more with schools, to think how we can make what we do in schools perpetuate when we go out into the community," said Mr Masagos.

"Maybe 50 years from now, there will be a culture for Singaporeans to not just want a clean environment, but have attitudes and behaviours that keep the environment clean."

Additional reporting by Samantha Boh.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 10, 2016, with the headline 'Have 'no-cleaners week' so people can get hands dirty?'. Print Edition | Subscribe