Singapore Budget 2015: Tackling the litter problem in the neighbourhoods and at events

SINGAPORE - The various Town Councils are working to set aside a day to get the community to clean up their own neighbourhoods in a show of appreciation to cleaners, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan told Parliament on Wednesday.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) will also work with organisers of all major public and private events to remind participants and spectators to clean up after themselves, Dr Balakrishnan added.

This includes events such as this year's National Day Parade (NDP), which will have its main shown at the Padang, where the first NDP was held in 1966.

"Spectators and participants will be encouraged to clean up the Padang at the end of each show and its fringe celebrations... as a reflection of our national pride," Dr Balakrishnan said.

Singapore's litter problem was thrown in the spotlight in January 2015 following Facebook posts from three politicians, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. They had commented on the appalling amount of rubbish left behind by about 13,000 concertgoers at the Laneway Festival at Gardens by the Bay.

On Wednesday, Dr Balakrishnan also shared with the House that surveys conducted by his ministry had shown that from 2006 to 2010, the number of litter items observed had almost doubled.

In 2014, some 19,000 tickets were issued by NEA officers for littering offences - almost double that in 2013. Dr Balakrishnan added that the NEA has stepped up its enforcement efforts against litterbugs, but have on occasion been confronted with physical attack and abuse.

To better protect NEA officers, Dr Balakrishnan said they will be equipped with body-worn cameras, like the ones worn by the police, that will record the interactions between officer and offender.

"We will also make it easier for members of the public to provide video or photographic evidence which we can use for investigation and prosecution," he added.

NEA will also extend its Community Volunteer Scheme to individuals who are passionate about public cleanliness but who may not be affiliated with any non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The scheme, established in 2013, was first introduced to allow volunteers from NGOs, such as the Waterways Watch Society and the Singapore Kindness Movement, to persuade litterbugs to bin their trash.