Cultivate new social norm against littering

The problem of littering has been the subject of much discussion in recent times, yet there appears to be no end to this social menace ("From clean Japan to dirty S'pore" by Yim Kwing Hei ; Wednesday).

This is in spite of the National Environment Agency's anti-littering campaigns that stress the need for greater awareness, right attitudes, healthy social norms, greater respect for the environment as well as stiff enforcement action.

It is a fact that there is a visible increase in litter on our roads, pavements, parks, void decks and other public places.

It is paradoxical that while people's attitudes against littering have been gathering momentum, so has the incidence of littering. Strangely, many people litter, even though they may hold strong views against such behaviour.

Anti-litter campaigns and slogans have meant little to the culprits. They also tend to litter in places plagued by rubbish, thinking it is fine to ignore anti-litter signs.

We need to inculcate a new social norm that frowns upon littering and sees it as socially unacceptable.

Such a social norm can be achieved only if people strongly regard littering as inappropriate and take a clear stand against it.

This can be achieved only by public education and raising awareness through outreach and intervention efforts.

In particular, parents, children and teachers should take the initiative in spreading the message of a "clean and green Singapore".

It cannot be emphasised enough that efforts to raise awareness should begin at home and in school, and be followed up at the community level.

We must adopt a mentality of social responsibility and civic-consciousness to safeguard our environment. Such an attitude should become second nature to us so that we will not litter, even when tempted to do so.

V. Subramaniam (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2016, with the headline 'Cultivate new social norm against littering'. Print Edition | Subscribe