SINGAPORE - More will be done to get Singaporeans to take charge of cleanliness in public spaces, with plans to expand a nationwide initiative to encourage residents to pick up after themselves.
The initiative, SG Clean Day, is currently observed once a year. Town councils cease public sweeping at open areas and ground levels of housing estates for a day with the aim of showing what the amount of litter there will be without cleaners to sweep it away.
The Public Hygiene Council (PHC) is holding talks with town councils to step up the frequency of the initiative to once every quarter this year, and eventually, once every month by 2022.
PHC chairman Edward D'Silva announced this on Sunday (April 25) in conjunction with the launch of the council's annual month-long Keep Clean, Singapore! campaign.
Speaking at the launch, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu said everyone plays a critical role in fortifying Singapore's defence against public health threats.
"As we've learnt from this Covid-19 pandemic, the first line of defence is cleanliness and hygiene of our public spaces. This is so essential for each and every one of us to take up this responsibility because we have to also keep our cleaners safe," said Ms Fu, adding that she was heartened to note that more than 30,000 places have achieved the SG Clean Quality Mark since February last year.
The SG Clean Quality Mark is given to organisations and businesses across specific sectors as a certification of sanitation and hygiene standards. The PHC will be taking over the certification of premises from the National Environment Agency later this year.
Urging the public to properly dispose of their used tissues and masks, Ms Fu said: "If we do not do the right thing of protecting (the cleaners) for them to protect us, because they are keeping our environment clean, our defence against public health threats will be weakened."
The first SG Clean Day of the year was also held on Sunday, from 6am. This is the first time that all 17 town councils are taking part.
PHC said there are also plans to make this permanent, as town councils previously participated in the initiative on an ad-hoc basis.
Other plans under the month-long Keep Clean, Singapore! campaign include a neighbourhood clean-up event with non-profit organisation Habitat for Humanity, which is expected to involve up to 1,000 volunteers.
Mr D'Silva said that despite years of public education, bad habits such as littering, not returning trays after a meal, and dirtying public toilets, still remain.
He said the biggest challenge is trying to change the mindsets of people, as there are still some who think that cleaning up after themselves is not their job.
He also said that while personal hygiene has improved during the pandemic, partly due to compulsory measures, public hygiene has not.
Mr D'Silva said: "Doing (SG Clean Day) nationwide and frequently may sound onerous, but it is only when we do it often that it will become a way of life."