One Sunday in April next year has been designated as a day off for cleaners islandwide to get residents to take responsibility for the cleanliness of their estates.
Similar initiatives have been implemented on a smaller scale in some areas by MPs who said they got a good response from residents.
But some Singaporeans interviewed by The Straits Times felt that one day was not enough to effect any concrete change.
On April 26, designated CleanSG Day, residents will be encouraged to help their town councils to clean their estates. This could include sweeping public spaces, combing for litter and clearing the rubbish bins - tasks that cleaners complete on a daily basis.
Led by the Public Hygiene Council (PHC), the initiative means there will be no cleaning done that Sunday in public housing estates, which includes common areas like void decks and lifts. It will be part of PHC's yearly month-long Keep Clean, Singapore campaign, a nationwide litter-picking drive.
A council spokesman said: "We will encourage residents to keep their shared spaces clean by not littering and by conducting clean-ups where possible." The PHC hopes to promote greater awareness of the amount of litter thrown indiscriminately and encourage everyone not to do so, and reduce the dependency on cleaners.
Coordinating chairman of the PAP Town Councils Teo Ho Pin confirmed that all 15 PAP town councils will participate in CleanSG Day next year. He added that based on past events, residents were generally supportive of such initiatives and welcomed the gesture to thank the estate cleaners.
A spokesman for the opposition-held Aljunied-Hougang Town Council said it is scheduled to meet the National Environment Agency in the first week of December to discuss the matter, and would be able to elaborate then.
It is important for us to understand that Singapore is not just a 'clean city' but also a 'cleaned city'. The initiative helps residents understand how important our cleaners are.
NEE SOON GRC MP LOUIS NG, on showing appreciation to cleaners.
GETTING EVERYONE INVOLVED
We would like to encourage residents to bin their trash right, conduct clean-up where possible and nudge their family members and neighbours to keep their neighbourhoods clean.
PUBLIC HYGIENE COUNCIL CHAIRMAN EDWARD D'SILVA
Many of those interviewed by The Straits Times praised the initiative as a good one, saying it will give cleaners a rest.
Retiree Tan Siew Hua, 72, felt there was a need for public education on cleanliness. "I often see people throw rubbish, such as drink cans, on the ground and while I sometimes stop to pick them up, not everyone else does."
But a once-a-year event might not be effective in driving home the message, said the Yishun resident.
Madam Tan, as well as Lakeside resident Seng Naw, 34, suggested that it could be more frequent, such as once or twice a month. Mr Seng added that it was good to hold it on a Sunday as most people were off work that day, and would have the time to take part in cleaning efforts.
The novelty of the initiative as well as its infrequency concerned IT manager Daniel Sek, 52. He said people might not be aware of it happening, and cleaners may find more rubbish than usual when they return to work the next day.
"Perhaps having more dustbins will better solve the problem of littering as it will be more convenient to throw things away," he added.
This is not the first time that residents have been galvanised to clean litter in their estates.
Nee Soon Town Council has held a No Cleaners Day for the past few years. Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng said it was also meant to give cleaners a break from work and increase awareness of litter in the estate. "Some of the residents are involved in the initiative every year. Our cleaners feel appreciated and it gives the residents a chance to take ownership of their estate," he said.
"It is important for us to understand that Singapore is not just a 'clean city' but also a 'cleaned city'. The initiative helps residents understand how important our cleaners are."
Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah said her Nee Soon South ward does a small-scale version of No Cleaners Day every month for a particular zone. "I think that's a better way of doing it. That will sustain the awareness and let more residents have the chance to join litter-picking activities," she told ST.
The initiative has improved the awareness of residents not to litter, she said. "We can see this from the reduction of litter picked on the (constituency-wide) No Cleaners Day. In 2012 (when we first started) it was nearly 1,500kg, and for the past few years, it is around 200kg."
Madam Tan, who lives in Ms Lee's ward and was aware of the anti-littering initiatives by her town council, said she had seen some improvement in her estate.
PHC chairman Edward D'Silva said the initiative would be continued if next year's pilot is a success.
This year's edition in May involved some residential estates and communities, and employees and patrons of 134 McDonald's outlets, 10 parks and three Kopitiam outlets.
Said Mr D'Silva: "We hope the CleanSG Day will open Singaporeans' eyes to how much trash they throw out in a day. We would like to encourage residents to bin their trash right, conduct clean-up where possible and nudge their family members and neighbours to keep their neighbourhoods clean.
"We aspire to emulate Japan, where there are few cleaners and trash bins, and citizens take personal responsibility for the cleanliness of their environment."