Forum: Going green requires a lifestyle change

A woman walking past the recycling bin in Pasir Ris.
A woman walking past the recycling bin in Pasir Ris.PHOTO: ST FILE

I was disappointed to learn that 93 per cent of 40,700 tonnes of waste meant for recycling was shipped overseas last year (Just 4% of S'pore's plastic waste recycled last year, Nov 24). It seems Singapore was among several countries exporting their waste.

Clearly, our recycling efforts fall far short of expectations. Making recycling bins available, putting up educational posters and organising roadshows have barely moved the needle to encourage the habit.

There is no easy solution and a lifestyle change is needed.

While in Tokyo recently, I spotted recycling bins inside a neighbourhood supermarket. In Singapore, they would likely be outside the premises.

A woman approached the bins to drop her plastic items in them for recycling. I was amazed to see that every single bottle or container she put in was clean and dry. This is how the Japanese discard items for recycling.

Back home after the trip, when I took a pile of paper to the recycling bins at my apartment block, I spotted, among boxes and cartons, a dried-up house plant in a pot. A single person's indiscretion negated his neighbours' recycling efforts.

Meanwhile, we should also consider less-toxic alternatives to plastic. I am old enough to remember hawkers wrapping piping-hot cooked food in opeh leaves. We took tiffin carriers to eateries, and takeaway coffee came in recycled milk cans.

The time to demonstrate consideration for future generations is now.

Nicholas Tan Kok Peng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2019, with the headline 'Going green requires a lifestyle change'. Print Edition | Subscribe