Take personal responsibility for keeping public spaces clean

A jogger picks up litter at East Coast beach.
A jogger picks up litter at East Coast beach.PHOTO: ST FILE

The picture of the Teo family and what they were doing at the Padang on Aug 9 is a heart-warming one. Mr Caleb Teo, his wife and three children volunteered as Litter-free Ambassadors at the National Day Parade this year ('Litter' things that matter to this family of volunteers, Aug 12).

Helping to preserve and protect our environment is certainly a wonderful way for a family to celebrate Singapore's 54th year of independence and commemorate its Bicentennial.

I am reminded of what Mr Lee Kuan Yew said when he launched the Keep Singapore Clean Campaign in 1968: "We have built, we have progressed. But no other hallmark of success will be more distinctive than that of achieving our position as the cleanest and greenest city in South Asia. Only a people proud of their community performance, feeling for the well-being of their fellow citizens, can keep up high personal and public standards of hygiene."

Indeed, Singapore has attained the enviable reputation of being one of the cleanest and greenest cities in the world. We have arrived here after many years of public education and advocacy, improvements in city planning and services delivery, and some strict enforcement.

It is thus disconcerting that a significant proportion of Singapore residents still admit to "situational littering", which means they sometimes intentionally litter when it is inconvenient to bin their trash.

This explains why we need 58,000 cleaners to pick up after us every day.

We can see the after-effects of littering everywhere - in parks and beaches over weekends and holidays, in heartland central carparks and around businesses and food establishments in housing estates, and even around smoking bins and bus stops in the city centre.

People who consistently return trays and cutlery at canteens after meals in school, army camps and institutes of higher learning somehow leave their mess behind at hawker centres, food courts and even fast-food restaurants where bins and tray return stations are conveniently located.

The Public Hygiene Council would like to encourage communities throughout Singapore to take personal responsibility and embrace the value of keeping our shared public spaces clean.

So as we celebrate yet another successful milestone of national progress, let us work together to keep Singapore clean and beautiful.

Tony S. Tan

Executive Director

Public Hygiene Council

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2019, with the headline 'Take personal responsibility for keeping public spaces clean'. Print Edition | Subscribe