New programme aims to spur efforts here to end plastic waste

Clean4Change seeks to improve recycling knowledge, boost clean-up activities

Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu and Mr Jacob Duer, president and chief executive of the Alliance To End Plastic Waste, at the launch of Clean4Change yesterday. PHOTO: ALLIANCE TO END PLASTIC WASTE
Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu and Mr Jacob Duer, president and chief executive of the Alliance To End Plastic Waste, at the launch of Clean4Change yesterday. PHOTO: ALLIANCE TO END PLASTIC WASTE

People in Singapore can now join in the global effort to end plastic waste through a new programme launched yesterday.

Clean4Change is a 150-day programme that aims to improve people's knowledge of recycling and encourage community clean-up efforts through a combination of clean-up activities, community events and workshops.

It is an initiative of the Alliance To End Plastic Waste, an international non-profit organisation based in Singapore.

Speaking at the launch of Clean4Change at the ArtScience Museum yesterday, Mr Jacob Duer, president and chief executive of the Alliance, said the programme is part of the organisation's efforts to support Singapore's Green Plan.

The Green Plan, launched in February, is the nation's blueprint for sustainable development. One of the targets set out under the plan is for the country to send 20 per cent less waste to its only landfill on offshore Semakau island by 2026.

Mr Duer added: "We believe that every clean-up is more than just a clean-up. Picking up and binning a piece of plastic litter is the first step to making sure it enters the waste management cycle, so that it can be processed and recycled. It is a universal activity that anyone can take part in."

Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu, who was the guest of honour at the event, said there are several issues holding Singapore back from improving its recycling rate.

As a small country producing a relatively small amount of plastic waste, Singapore lacks the infrastructure and solutions to make plastic recycling economically worthwhile for recycling operators.

Also, the mindset of people here towards recycling and conserving resources needs to change as well.

But Singapore is working on these issues, said Ms Fu, adding that the nation is trying to find ways to extract the most value it can from its waste. "Increasingly, it's not (about) waste as a problem, but waste as an opportunity," she said.

In addition to workshops and events, Clean4Change participants will be given access to educational resources on reducing plastic waste, recycling and organising their own clean-ups.

For instance, during the clean-up sessions, participants can use a mobile app called Litterati to log the location and type of litter they spot. The data will be used by the Alliance to plan future initiatives. For instance, if certain areas are found to have a higher concentration of waste, the Alliance will try to engage community groups in that area to tackle the issue.

Dr Natalie Hallinger, director of behavioural science at Litterati, the company behind the app, said: "Getting people to relate with a clean-up in their neighbourhood opens the door to helping them understand how to better manage plastic waste."

Mr Duer said the Clean4Change event is meant to translate bigger concepts, such as sustainability in the region, into relatable community events.

"I am confident that Singapore will play a leading role and become a 'green bridge' for sustainability solutions not only here, but across the region," he added.

The Alliance intends to engage at least 100 schools, companies and community groups here.

Those who wish to find out more or join the programme can visit www.clean4change.org

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2021, with the headline 'New programme aims to spur efforts here to end plastic waste'. Subscribe