Public Hygiene Council

Keep Singapore Clean


Aiming for cleaner, greener Singapore

May 06, 2019

A slew of initiatives that have been launched recently serve as another reminder that keeping Singapore clean is everyone's job. Residents will be encouraged not to litter in their community areas and to dispose of waste properly. Then, a CleanSG Day will see people all over Singapore being cleaners for a day while the real cleaners take a day off to rest. Additionally, a network of interest groups will be set up to not only reduce waste this year, but also make Singapore cleaner and greener than before. The Public Hygiene Council should be commended for these initiatives. Getting Singaporeans to clean up after themselves is an attempt to inculcate social habits that can be commensurate with Singapore's economic success. Citizens must take personal responsibility for public hygiene in a socially advanced nation.

Public attitudes will take time to change. It is said that Singapore is a clean city because it is really a "cleaned city". That distinction draws attention to the presence of 58,000 workers who clean up housing estates, roads, public walkways and waterways every day, to say nothing of the domestic workers who help to keep homes clean. Without them, Singapore might be anything but clean. There is nothing wrong with the employment of cleaners in the public or private spheres: No city can afford to do without them, and it is customary for many homes in other countries to also have someone come in to help tidy up the house. However, the worry is that the presence of a large number of these workers will inure Singaporeans to their dependence on cleaners. What is needed, instead, is greater public awareness of each individual's responsibility for the cleanliness of his immediate surroundings, whether these are community areas or office spaces.

One clear benchmark is Japan, where cleanliness is ingrained – a national habit, an internalised norm that individuals transgress only at peril to their self-respect whether they are being watched or not. After Japan’s football team played at the World Cup matches in Russia last year, exuberant Japanese fans cleaned up their rows and seats in the stadium. And the team also cleaned up its locker room before leaving. These actions are emblematic of a nation where the intolerance of litter represents a general respect for hygiene and order. It is a habit worth emulating in Singapore.

Another area in which Singapore can go further is that of recycling. The good news is that about six in 10 Singaporeans households recycle regularly. However, more can be done to help Singaporeans identify items that should not be thrown into a recycling bin, especially those that could contaminate the entire collection. At the end of the day, recycling broadens the concept of caring for the immediate environment into a sense of ecological responsibility.

Source: The Straits Times