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    Mar 10, 2014

    Volunteers help curb littering

    ARE fewer Singapore residents littering in recent years?

    Figures from the National Environment Agency (NEA) seem to indicate so.

    Last year, 9,346 tickets were issued for littering offences, down from 11,131 in 2011, and a slight increase from 8,195 in 2012. In 2010, 23,898 tickets were issued. In 2009, the number was 41,392.

    The National Environment Agency (NEA) has stepped up enforcement hours by 50 per cent since May last year. NEA's community volunteer scheme has also helped bring littering down.

    Under this programme, which started in January last year, 127 volunteers from non-governmental organisations, such as the Cat Welfare Society, Singapore Environment Council (SEC) and Singapore Kindness Movement, have the power to ask offenders to pick up and bin their rubbish. If they refuse, the volunteers can take down their particulars and give these to the NEA.

    As of January this year, the volunteers successfully engaged 321 litterbugs, persuading them to bin their trash. Only one was taken to task for being uncooperative and, being a repeat offender, he was given a court fine of $500 and three hours of Corrective Work Order, said the NEA.

    The Government is also mulling over a plan to enlist and train members of the public and give them the same warrant cards as NEA enforcement officers. This means they would have the power to impose fines on offenders on the spot.

    SEC's executive director, Mr Jose Raymond, said that, while he supports the programme, it currently "lacks bite without the ability to impose fines".

    "If they are just there to put social pressure and to encourage, over time the litterbugs will realise that they can't do much," he said.

    He would like to see volunteers in the scheme who police their own neighbourhoods. A block ambassador, for instance, could be appointed for a block of flats.

    "If the community gets involved more, they can ensure they have clean surroundings where they live," he said.

    First-time littering offenders face a $300 composition fine. Recalcitrant litterbugs can face court fines of up to $2,000 for their first conviction, $4,000 for their second, and $10,000 for third and subsequent convictions.