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Bright spots in anti-litter battle

WAR AGAINST LITTER: Staff members of businesses on Sentosa chipped in to pick rubbish last month. The army of about 50 people does this once every two months.


    Mar 10, 2014

    Bright spots in anti-litter battle

    NOT long ago, the task of keeping Sentosa clean was down to 70 contract cleaners hired by the management.

    Now, an army of about 50 staff members of businesses on the island also chip in for free to pick rubbish once every two months.

    As a result, the island has graduated from being labelled as a litter "hot spot" by the Public Hygiene Council (PHC) to a "bright spot", or model example of cleanliness.

    Sentosa island is just one of 160 litter hot spots that the PHC has converted into bright spots, in 11/2 years since September 2012, when it embarked on this project.

    Other recent conversions include smaller localised bright spots like Dunman High School and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, as well as Nee Soon South.

    A litter hot spot is a problem area with incidences of littering, or one where littering is likely. It is converted into a bright spot normally after it is adopted by a civic group - like residents that band together or even a Community Development Council that takes charge of efforts to reduce littering in the area. These could include regular litter-picking sessions or the spreading of anti-litter messages.

    The PHC aims to convert at least another 100 community places into bright spots by the end of this year.

    The National Environment Agency (NEA) said that the aim is to get the community involved and to foster a sense of ownership.

    "This programme aims to establish norms for good personal and public hygiene, so that everyone will embrace and advocate them as a way of life," said NEA, which added that the PHC is working with Yishun Pond, Katong, Sembawang-Nee Soon town, Punggol Waterway and Sentosa to share and replicate litter-free practices.

    This move is one in the right direction, said experts interviewed.

    Such initiatives, they pointed out, are not meant to take the place of hired cleaners but, rather, are an attempt to solve the problem at its source.

    Mr Tay Lai Hock, chief of the Ground-Up Initiative, a non-profit organisation that connects people back to nature, told MyPaper: "It is a good idea because if people clean up their own space, they will inculcate a sense of ownership."

    However, he warned that there is a risk that few will stay committed, resulting in just a small pool of regular volunteers in the long run. "To keep it going, the organisers could ensure that one member of each household participates, for instance," said Mr Tay.

    Mr Mohamad Aidi Mohd Lahab, a staff volunteer on Sentosa, said he participated to understand what cleaners go through each day. He said he now has a new-found respect for them, after having to bend down and stand up to pick litter along the beach.

    The beach-patrol officer, who is in his 50s, said it is imperative for Sentosa staff to take the lead. "Sentosa has always been a home to me and the sense of ownership to keep the island clean is strong," he said.