Sunday, November 23, 2008

Trash Your 'Just Trash' Attitude

On 21 Nov 2004, Singapore had its very first "Recycling Day". Four years on, has recycling become part of our lives?

In 2007, 54% of of the 5.6 million tonnes of rubbish generated was recycled, up from 40 percent 7 years ago. In the Singapore Green Plan, the National Environment Agency (NEA) aims to up recycling rate to 60% by 2012.

If you compare this to some other countries, we are probably lagging in our recycling effort. However, considering the fact that recycling was quite unheard of several years back, we are progressing pretty well.

Starting from Nov 1, it has become mandatory to provide recycling receptacles in condominiums and private apartments. Since 2002, NEA has been nudging management councils and managing agents to set up recycling facilities but it was only greeted with low take up rate. I guess it is typical of Singapore's rule-based style to now make it mandatory just to get things going.

I welcome the move. With more bins placed within the private estates, inconvenience would now be less of an excuse for not recycling.

In conjunction with Earth Day 2007, NEA worked with major supermarkets and launched the first 'Bring Your Own Bag Day' (BYOBD) on 18 April 07. Since then, every first Wednesday of the month will be designated BYOBD. This is to encourage shoppers to switch to reusable bags instead of the single-use plastic bags.

I was already using reusable bags for grocery shopping way before the BYOBD thingy. I must say that there was visible resistance on the part of the cashiers to accede to my preference, perhaps because I slowed them down.

Since BYOBD, there has been a slight switch in attitude. I would not say that they welcome the use of reusable bags with open arms. Rather, they show less resistance. When I casually look around the other check-out counters, I do not see many other shoppers shoving their reusable bags to the cashiers. I guess it is going to take some time for the habit to change.

In Japan, 99% of Japanese municipalities collect and recycle steel cans despite not being required by law. The environment agency in Japan only mandates the recycling of PET bottle, glass containers, paper and plastic. To make recycling easy, containers are marked with 'Recycling Symbols' which clearly points consumers to direct the waste into the appropriate bins.

In Singapore, most people ping recycled items in the bins provided - any bin. Most of the time, probably 20% of the items ended up in the wrong bins. It is a case of low green awareness and the lack of public education on how each type of waste is to be disposed off or recycled.

For example, battery recycling is rarely heard of here even though there is a great concern about potential contamination to land and water by disposing batteries incorrectly. If you bother to read manuals for electronic products, you will often find instructions on the proper disposal of used batteries. Honestly, have you not been throwing all your used batteries in the same bin as you would have for all your other trash?

Many Singaporeans are not so concerned about recycling. For those who are, their recycling knowledge is often confined to old newspapers and magazines. They are often clueless on how to dispose items which are not commonly known to be recyclable. The next time you scratch your head on how to deal with your used handphones and batteries, the Singapore Environment Council has some tips for you.

If you have watched the movie Wall-E, you would have some ideas on how our planet Earth will look like when it is covered with trash.

Don't make that day come. Start recycling now.

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