Many unsure of of what can and cannot be recycled

Textiles, old furniture and light bulbs seem like things that should be reused, but the vast majority of households do not realise that these things cannot be put in the blue bins for recycling.

"It feels weird to throw out clothes because they are not meant to be disposable (like plastic bottles)," said Mr Ashvine Naray Pandian, 19.

But, like most Singaporeans, he is unsure of how to prevent them from ending up in the landfill.

Two recent surveys by the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), which polled 2,003 households, and the National Environment Agency (NEA), which polled 3,445 households, found that more can be done to help Singaporeans identify items that should not be placed in recycling bins - especially items, such as food waste, which could contaminate the entire collection.

In the MEWR survey of what people think can be recycled, only 13 per cent of respondents stated correctly that clothes are not recyclable.

Yet apparel, shoes and bags are often left in the blue bins.

"Sometimes I am not very sure what can go in the recycling bin, so I just place whatever items that I think can be recycled," said clerk Catherine Ng, 49, admitting that she has left items like styrofoam boxes in the recycling bin.

RECYCLING AT RANDOM

Sometimes I am not very sure what can go in the recycling bin, so I just place whatever items that I think can be recycled.

CLERK CATHERINE NG


INCONVENIENT

A small part of it is lack of awareness, but it's mostly a convenience issue.

MR LOUIS NG, who is on the Government Parliamentary Committee for the Environment and Water Resources, on the need for accessible recycling bins.

For old clothes, she tries to resell them or donate them to the Salvation Army.

Households can also schedule a doorstep collection by non-profit organisation Greensquare, which picks up clean clothes, linens and accessories at no cost.

Used items are sold to second-hand textile importers in various countries to be reused.

Another common issue in MEWR's survey was how some find recycling inconvenient.

Mr Pandian, who lives in a condominium, said: "It's a hassle trying to separate the items, and the recycling bin is located at the lobby area, which is quite inaccessible."

Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng, who is on the Government Parliamentary Committee for the Environment and Water Resources, agreed.

He noted: "A small part of it is lack of awareness, but it's mostly a convenience issue."

He said most blue bins are underused as they are located in carparks in HDB estates and condominiums.

"The waste bin beside letterboxes, for example, has a lot of junk mail in it that can be recycled but isn't. Unless someone is very passionate about recycling, they wouldn't take all their junk mail back to the carpark to recycle," said Mr Ng.

He suggested moving the bins to more convenient locations and making them more visible.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2019, with the headline 'Many unsure of of what can and cannot be recycled'. Print Edition | Subscribe