Friday, 27 April 2007

No Littering in Singapore?

There’s an article in page 35 of The Straits Times today titled, Singapore Wows Vancouver Visitor. Written by a Vancouver architect, planner and property developer, Michael Geller, the article was full of praise for our country; especially its cleanliness. “During my stay, I did not see any litter on the streets.” he declared.

002a - No Littering
“CLEAN LIVING: No littering, no graffiti … Singapore has to be the cleanest country in the world.”

Really? Maybe if Mr Geller had visited blogger, Walter’s estate, or those of some of Walter’s readers who left comments in his blog, he might have a change of opinion. Of course, he should make his visit early in the morning before our army of cleaners start their rounds.

One of my Japanese 5S teachers at the National Productivity Board, Mr K. Tsuchiya once told us that there are 3 classes of workplaces.

1) A First Class workplace is one where nobody litters and yet everybody is picking up any rubbish that is found.

2) A Second Class workplace is one where some people litter but there are others who pick up the rubbish.

3) A Third Class workplace is one where many people litter but nobody is picking up the rubbish.

Walter’s article about the littering problem in his estate prompted me to ask, Is Singapore 1st, 2nd or 3rd class by Mr Tsuchiya’s yardstick?

There was a time when I liked to ask my trainees what they thought. Usually, most of them would say 2nd class. We have many litter bugs here, but we also employ many cleaners to clean up after them. However, judging by what Walter wrote and what his readers have commented, I suspect we are not even 2nd class because, the litterbugs seem to doing a more efficient job than the cleaners. Hence, nowadays, I dare not put the question to my trainees anymore, for fear of hearing the truth.

As a 5S trainer, I liked to collect newspaper articles regarding the littering/cleanliness problem in Singapore. I post a few of them here. Take a look for yourself and see if you agree with Mr Geller that there’s no littering in Singapore.

002b - Dirty Estate 1995
The picture above is from 1995

002c - Dirty Estate 2005
This picture is from 2005. See any improvement?

002d - Dirty HDB Block

002e - Dirty Park1


Unknown said...

Chun See,

Thanks for the plug and highlighting an issue that has burdened my family for quite some time. Even my son at 3.5 years old will mutter "Why the people litter all over the place. So naughty!"

Once, the lift was so filty that he didn't want to step in there and I had to carry him. Of course, thankfully, we have cleaners who have helped make our estate livable. Sometimes, we need to be thankful for the many non-Singaporeans who help make our city green.

Anonymous said...

Littering outside the flat is considered mild when compared to what happen inside the lift: urine, even shit, vomiting remains, discarded foods and the likes. This is the ugly side of some Singaporeans. One day I deliberately asked one colleague (a irresponsible type) what he thought about dirtying of lifts by residents or other lift-users. Guess how he replied - "what to do when urgent, I urine lah, whereas, inside the lift lah", as though the lift is a public toilet, and this guy was supposed to be an educated person!

Anonymous said...

After saying much of the ugly side of some Singaporeans, generally there is a noticeable improvement all round from the kampong days, where there was a free-for-all attitude. Previously the govt employed campaigns to instill public-spiritedness among its citizens. One of the most successful campaigns is the queuing-up national movement which many did not believe could succeed at that time, but it paased the test with flying colours. Now queuing-up is second nature to most Singaporeans. If you care to observe, many bus commuters (late comers) would form a side queue at bus terminal, and would not dare to cut into the main queue, waiting for the main queue to finish before joining in, that includes the older folks, a fine exemplary act .

Anonymous said...

I would say we in in the Lower Second Class. I do see people picking up litter though very few.

When we see others litter I feel we must not be afraid to tell them off. Try doing it nicely.

Anonymous said...

There are litters in my estate and in fact in most estates. They are everywhere and anytime except when VIP is visiting the estate.

I've seen a few years back when my MP is visiting my block; the town council get the cleaner to sweep the floor clean a few floor before the MP. If the MP is at 10th flr, the clean must sweep the next 3 floors down. So how can the MP find any litters in your estate?

Anonymous said...

HDB estates are not the only places in Singapore that have a littering problem.
Condos suffer the same problem.
Singapore's clean and green image is a figment of the imagination of the government and the Singapore Tourism Board.
Take a look at this blog and you will see what I mean.

Anonymous said...

Many joke that Singapore is a 'fine' city, fining as a corrective way for those wayward people who litter. Presently the authority also penalise offenders by making them sweep up the littered areas. Apparently all these measures have limited success. One of my former colleagues even joked that littering is in fact good because it provides employment to many sweepers. It is because of such bad attitude that makes littering so difficult to overcome. My teacher used to say: "if there is a will, there is a way". I hope Singaporeans can find a way out of this littering morass.

Lam Chun See said...

Sometimes, we (and I speak for myself here) have to do more than gripe about it. For example, I ocassionally see litter right outside my gate discarded by inconsiderate passers-by. Instead of picking it up, I wait for the cleaners to do it.

I really admire those Keep Our Rivers Clean people. These volunteers sacrifice they weekends to go around clearing rubbish from the rivers of Spore.

Anonymous said...

Chinese wisdom was true before, and is still now, that a country could easily change, but not the human nature of its people. Let us hope that negative side of some Singaporeans' could change in the course of time.

Fat Cat said...

I fully agree with what zen has mentioned. It is easy to put in place systems, have a anti-littering campaign, a public education package etc.

However, it is much harder to change a person's behaviour, thinking and character.
In some way or another, it is linked to a person's upbringing and also has got to do with the person's environment in which he or she grow up in.

IMHO, parents themselves must set an example. No amount of education and campaigns will be enough if parents do not bring up their kids right. It has to be inculcated since young, so that they will feel that it a part of their moral upbringing.

Unfortunately, for the 'hardcore' type, it has got to the 'fine' system that will enforce the type of system and environment we would like to build and live in.

Roselia Rose said...

Hi! Where did u get those articles? They r so gr8! Please tell me the web. Kay? Thank u ever so much!Email me the website at! Thank u!

Anonymous said...

Hi ,
we are girls from secondary sch and we really fascinated by your posts . To be truthful,we are doing this project on littering in sch and really need these newspaper articles.We are in dire states and these articles are what we have been trying to find
those for the past 2 months but without any luck . It would be great if told us where we can get this article .
Please, your help will be greatly appreciated
Yours Sincerely,
Secondary sch girls who need help.

Lam Chun See said...

Hi Sec Sch girls. The above articles are all scanned from the Straits Times. If you like, I can email them to you. Or I can simple let you have the dates. I understand nowadays you can view the old newspapers from the National Library website.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sir,
we really appreciate your help and are terribly sorry that we were not able to reply to you as soon as possible . It would be wonderful if you could email us the date at this email address ( Once again , thank you so much for your help .

Roselia Rose said...

Kashmeraa and I r in the same sch and class so could u please send me the articles in case she doesnt get them at
Thank u kind sir!

Im just wondering... Where do u get this stuff?
R u like into saving the world?
Where do u live? In what country?
U r like really cool. If u r then can u assist us when we have trouble with our school work?
We r in sec 1 so its like totally new and hard.
Thank u!!!!!!!

Roselia Rose said...

And could u please make them bigger? Like A4 size?

Plus we need to hand in the articles by......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................TOMORROW!

Roselia Rose said...

OMG! I live in Sembawang too!
Hi-five brother!

im doing a project. said...

Hi. Can i know where u got all the articles from? We are currently doing a project and we need local source. So i need the main source. Is it ok if u share it with us? Thanks!:D