Singapore has some of the strictest anti-littering laws globally.
Under the Environmental Public Health Act, anyone who litters can be fined up to $2,000 for a first conviction, $4,000 for a second conviction and $10,000 for subsequent convictions.
Therefore the habit of not littering is ingrained in most Singaporeans. While we are aware of these heavy consequences, recent photos shared on social media, showing overflowing trash bins near the Rail Corridor, seem to reveal that we do not understand what constitutes "littering" in the first place.
People know that someone is littering if he throws an empty bottle onto the pavement. Now, let's say someone has rubbish to throw and the nearest bin is full.
As the next empty bin is some distance away, he decides to place his trash beside the filled bin.
According to the Act, littering is the act of "throwing matter anywhere other than in a refuse bin or receptacle". Therefore, leaving trash beside a bin constitutes littering too.
A common misconception is that organising trash next to bins makes cleaners' jobs easier. This is untrue, and actually makes their jobs harder. It creates significant problems such as attracting pests and wild animals.
Instead, taking a few more steps to an empty bin will benefit the cleaners and the environment.
The authorities could consider placing bins nearer to one another in areas with frequent bin-overloading issues. Such access will encourage individuals to take a few more steps to dispose of their trash properly.
Environmental agencies can consider holding educational clean-up sessions during events such as SG Clean Day, to instil proper waste disposal habits.
The authorities can reinforce this by pasting simple infographics on public bins to remind and educate people on appropriate waste disposal.