Friday, July 25, 2008

Singapore... litter free?

I met up with a French for lunch today and we hit it off pretty well considering that he spoke limited English and my French doesn't go beyond Oui, non and Bonjour.

After some polite conversation, I asked him whether he has been to Singapore and was pleasantly surprised when he said yes; Singapore is not exactly a popular tourist destination for Europeans who prefer more exotic places like Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and even Myanmar.

When asked what he thought of our island state, he said, "It's very clean..., ' he paused as if to find a suitable word, "but it seems that the people are... compelled to keep it clean.

I was at a loss for words. At that particular instant, the 'social education' lessons that we had in our primary schools, signs warning us not to litter and the corrective work order (CWO) all came back to me. I began to wonder whether it was really those that kept us from littering.

I think generations of Singaporeans (mine at least) grew up knowing that it's wrong to litter. However, I would like to think that education (i.e. incessant drilling) and laws (readily enforceable) that made it a habit for me to hang on to my litter until I find a bin to dispose of it.

I think most would agree that the real secret behind Singapore's cleanliness is the army of cleaners that clear the streets every single morning. Try walking around the island in the late evening and you'll catch it at its worse.



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14 comments:

waitingkitty said...

Most of my European friends describe Singapore as "ridiculously" CLEAN. I dunno but some I dun associate something good to the word ridiculous...Anyway, I still feel that the education that we have gone through was good. In Japan, they do not only teach that litter should be thrown into the litter bins but into the correct litter bins! They sort out all their litter to recycle and I think that it is noble. We should all be responsible to the litter we produce, if not, the world will become the world we see in Wall-E...all covered with trash. BTW, I watched Wall-E and I enjoyed it very much. :D

C K said...

@waitingkitty,
I think the main thing that differentiate Singapore and most European countries is the lack of graffitti. The fact that most tourists arrive through the airport helps quite a bit as well.

Anyway, glad that you enjoyed Wall-e. I'll be catching Batman tonight. :p

Dutchie said...

Like u, the habit of keeping one's city clean is ingrained in me. I have seen groups of school kids leaving their food wrappers when they abandoned their hangout along Orchard boulevard n elsewhere. Are they utterly indifferent to keeping their city clean ? Good social behaviour has to be taught n practised when one is young, otherwise it will be a lost cause.

In my own town, I'm plagued with droppings from wild ducks (the ponds nearby are their habitat), the horses (riding school just a stone-throw away), the herd of cows (we share the same dirt-roads when I go for my walks around the meadows) n lastly the biggest eye-sore of all, the doodoo from the numerous dogs in the neighbourhood in spite of the rule of cleaning up after one's own dog !

My general impression abt the locals here is their lack of pride in keeping the streets tidy. U should see the heaps of plastic beer cups n other litter after any open air gathering like the annual carnival, pop-concert, etc. !! This aspect of life here really irks the hell out of me.

One more burning question - how do I tactfully tell visitors that shoes r not allowed inside my pristine home ? I also wished they won't bring their dogs with them - urrrghh !!!

eastcoastlife said...

I thank the sweepers and cleaners for keeping our city clean.

In recent years, the population boom has caused a worse problem with the littering. It seems that the fines are not working any more. Youngsters and even the old are littering blatantly, because they know the cleaners will clean up after them.

There's even lucky draw at National Parade to encourage people to bring their rubbish to dispose at designated rubbin bins. OMG!

C K said...

@dutchie,
Well, I tend to line my shoes just at my doorway and make a big fuss about removing my own shoes when I walk in... then I turn to my guests and say,"Well, you can just leave your shoes in here...". That works for me.

As for dogs, I haven't not encountered that problem yet....luckily.

I think the mentality of not littering has to be taught at home really. If its not emphasized by the parents, kids will grow up thinking that it's ok to leave their litter around. Actually, come to think of it, it's really the difference between public/private goods (oh no... edging towards economics...).

It really irks me to see people blatantly dropping their litter as they walk along the streets. It really says much about their upbringing.

C K said...

@ecl,
I think you've given those who're littering too much credit. I don't think they really care whether there's anyone picking up after them. They just don't give a d@#n.

I think the govt really have got to move away from using monetary incentives to discourage people from littering. It's really not sustainable.

Like I mentioned earlier, it's really the upbringing. But I must admit that the population boom from immigration has worsen the problem.

SheR. said...

It's really odd for my fiance to see SG. His first comment was SG is PERFECT. Yeap.. he said we have been brainwashed to expect perfectionism in everything in SG. It's crazy he said.
Over in Croatia, you'll expect the total opposite end of the scale. Law and order is not obeyed. Not even fines work here. Why is Croatia looking pretty clean? And mind you there are no street cleaners like in SG... It's called civic-mindedness. Seriously, it's hard to explain. It's in one's upbringing.

Rudy said...

I don't know what the problem is. A clean city should be everyone's goals from the local citizens to the politicians. I salute Singaporeans for keeping their city clean.

We need more city sweepers/cleaners. Access to cheap labour is quite necessary.

Loong said...

I thought it was the summons / fines that did that? Hehe ...

kyh said...

I'd love to see and experience the clean state of Singapore. :P

Malaysia has a lot to learn from her small neighbour down south. There are litterbugs in Malaysia everywhere, from cities to rural areas. Some sights will make you faint!

C K said...

@sher,
So would you say that Singaporeans have got no innate civic mindedness? I'm not too sure about that. If the end result (of being litterfree) is the same, then do we worry about how we got there in the first place?

But I agree with you on the part on upbringing.

C K said...

@rudy,
Maintaining litter-free may not be the main priority of most government (or mayors for that matter). They have more important issues to look at. i.e. crime, healthcare.

However, in my opinion, being able to maintain a clean facade is a step towards larger social issues.

But as you mentioned, access to cheap labour is important. Most of our cleaners are low skilled foreign workers.

C K said...

@loong,
It is, partly. But as the saying goes, "As long as the cat catches the mouse, who cares whether it's a black or white cat?"

C K said...

@kyh,
I would think that being a smaller state, such rules is more easily enforceable.

As my comment to rudy, I think the emphasis isn't there for Malaysian government. Honestly, I don't think PM Abdullah is worried about the littering problem at this point in time. :)