Show pride in S'pore by not littering

We thank Mr Yim Kwing Hei and Dr V. Subramaniam ("From clean Japan to dirty S'pore"; July 6 and "Cultivate new social norm against littering"; July 9, respectively) as well as news reporter Carolyn Khew ("Finished eating? Here's coffee if you clear your own tray"(July 7) for stating the reality that is seen today.

It is also our hope that more citizens will take greater personal responsibility in keeping our environment clean.

Singapore's economic success since independence has taken us from Third World to First World status. But we cannot continue to be a First World economy if most of our tight manpower resources are devoted to low-skilled jobs such as those in the cleaning industry.

Priority for manpower must be given to high-skilled jobs in the major sectors of our economy.

Unfortunately, our society has become over-reliant on cleaners, even though we complain of having too many foreign labourers here.

Another key feature of a First World economy is high productivity, and cleaning companies are no exception.

Sad to say, our social habits, such as littering and not returning our trays, not only reflect a society that is anything but First World, but also do not contribute to productivity improvements in cleaning companies.

If trays are not returned, cleaners are not able to focus on cleaning the tables quickly. This results in a slower turnaround of tables for patrons.

There needs to be a major and fundamental mindset change among our citizens.

While fines can serve as a deterrent, they are not effective in the long run.

Society must set the norm. This can be achieved only when every one of us makes it a habit to not litter and makes it known to others that littering is not acceptable.

We can take a leaf from Japan's book where citizens walk up to litterbugs and tell them that littering is a bad social habit. We should make this practice part of our culture.

More importantly, civic consciousness must be a big part of our psyche if we are to be a truly First World society.

As Dr Subramaniam rightly pointed out, everyone has a role to play in developing and encouraging good cleanliness habits - teachers, parents and even children.

Recognising the need to cultivate good social habits in children from a young age, the Ministry of Education is getting all schools to institute daily cleaning activities by the end of the year.

Parents can help reinforce the right values and behaviour at home.

The young can, in turn, be role models for those within their circles of influence, such as family members and friends.

To encourage the public to take ownership of keeping Singapore clean, the Public Hygiene Council has been actively promoting the Keep Singapore Clean (KSC) Movement by mobilising more people to participate in activities to remove litter around the island.

We are glad that many town council advisers understand the importance of keeping Singapore clean and organise similar activities to spread the message to the residents in their estates.

We hope that more people will support the KSC Movement in the near future.

National Day is around the corner. Let us show our pride for our nation, and our commitment to keep Singapore clean, by not littering.

Celebrate and party all we want, but don't forget to collect our trash and throw it into the rubbish bins.

Edward D' Silva
Public Hygiene Council

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2016, with the headline 'Show pride in S'pore by not littering'. Print Edition | Subscribe