NEA can work with karung guni men to boost recycling

I laud the National Environment Agency for its commitment towards increasing recycling efforts in Singapore.

The National Recycling Programme has resulted in various recycling schemes since its inception in 2001, including the rolling out of the blue recycling bins.

However, the amount of waste recycled remains unchanged at 61 per cent from 2016 to 2017.

Domestic recycling rates were staggeringly low, at 21 per cent, with only 2 per cent of waste generated coming from the National Recycling Programme (Singapore generated less waste, but also recycled less last year, says NEA; ST Online, March 20).

It was reported that, strikingly,the informal recycling sector - which includes rag-and-bone men, or karung guni men - collected nearly nine times more waste compared to national efforts.

Why is this so? Has adequate awareness been raised about national recycling schemes?

One possible reason is the convenience that rag-and-bone men offer.

Most rag-and-bone men are willing to collect a plethora of recyclables, ranging from metal to paper, and even electronic devices.

Their door-to-door collection service also makes it less troublesome for residents than taking recyclables out to the blue bins.

This approach also gives an element of the human touch.

It is no wonder that Singaporeans are more likely to use their services. I, for one, have utilised their collection services to recycle used newspapers and magazines.

However, we must be reminded that being environmentally conscious is everyone's concern, and should not be a competition between sectors.

Perhaps the National Environment Agency could consider collaborating with the informal recycling sector.

This would benefit both parties.

Our national recycling efforts would be bolstered by the effectiveness of the rag-and-bone men, while the latter would profit from increased support from a government organisation.

Nevertheless, as citizens, we must remember that recycling is not solely in the hands of the Government or any organisation.

We must be responsible consumers ourselves and continue to play our part for the environment.

Nicholas Ng Yu Heng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2018, with the headline 'NEA can work with karung guni men to boost recycling'. Print Edition | Subscribe