With beach clean-ups and school trips to landfills, the Singapore education system has long instilled the belief that the onus of playing our part in waste reduction lies with the individual.
From a young age, we are taught the 3Rs of reducing, reusing and recycling and how we all have to play our part, especially given Singapore's lack of natural resources and landfills.
However, can individuals practising the 3Rs make a significant difference, when the bulk of Singapore's waste is generated by corporations?
There is a clear lack of gratification in playing one's part, and it is especially disheartening to view statistics which show that the amount of recycled items has gone down, and that the amount of waste being incinerated has largely increased, especially in the wake of Covid-19.
While an individual's contributions should be fuelled by civic consciousness and an instilled responsibility to our environment, the Government can do a lot more to constantly encourage the public and help them visualise the impact of their actions.
I have three suggestions:
First, the Government can provide more detailed information on the sources of waste and recycled items. A clear separation between the waste produced by households and that produced by corporations will place more emphasis on who in society has proactively played their part. Such data will be especially encouraging for various individuals and environmental groups.
Second, a campaign which emphasises a unified, numerical goal to work towards can also be helpful. Currently, working towards zero waste seems impossible and daunting.
Having a clear goal such as recycling a certain number of tonnes of plastic each month would likely be better received by the public. More can be done to publicise accomplishments as well, with a counter to track our progress and the milestones hit. More ownership of one's efforts can also be created by sharing the number of recycled items per neighbourhood.
Lastly, to tackle the disconnect between one's efforts and the outcomes, the big picture effect of the actions taken should be shared with the public.
This could be done by sharing the physical processes and outcomes for recycled items.