Mr Yong Teck Meng, National Director of the Habitat for Humanity Singapore
Mr Edward D’Silva, Chairman of the Public Hygiene Council
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning. I am pleased to join you today at your inaugural LitteRally.
2 Today as I was coming in, I met some volunteers who had just finished collecting trash and rubbish in this beautiful park. I understand 600 of them responded to Habitat for Humanity’s call to come to pick up trash around us. The first group I met was from Singapore Polytechnic. Six of them came after getting an email from their school asking them to come and volunteer. I asked them if they were from an eco society, and they said no. They just wanted to respond.
3 I really appreciate your time and effort to keep our environment clean.
Keep Singapore Clean Movement
4 In 1968, Singapore launched our first Keep Singapore Clean Campaign. This has been one of the longest running campaigns in Singapore. Some campaigns have come and gone, but this campaign stayed on.
5 Mr Lee Kuan Yew was the man who started it all. He was so concerned about the environment that Singapore was one of the first countries in the world to have a Ministry of the Environment. The environment was not something that everyone worried about then, but Mr Lee Kuan Yew had the foresight to think, from the very beginning, about keeping our environment clean and hygienic.
6 Today, the Keep Singapore Clean movement is spearheaded by the Public Hygiene Council (PHC), and it rallies the public to look at what we can do together to keep Singapore clean. The Government has done such a good job that we always have cleaners picking up the trash for you if you don’t clean up. But what we really need to do is to get everybody involved in not littering in the first place. We need to find some way for us to take ownership of the problem and work together.
7 This culture of cleaning up after ourselves is something that Mr Lee Kuan Yew wanted us to have. I remember picking up litter every day after recess when I was in school. That was the habit instilled in us. Today when I have litter I just put it in my pocket if I can’t find a bin.
8 The Singapore Management University recently undertook a Public Cleanliness Satisfaction Survey with a sample of over 2,000 Singapore residents. Ninety-five per cent of the respondents agreed that Singapore is a clean city, and around 90 per cent agreed that Singaporeans take pride in keeping Singapore clean. This is good news. The survey also found that Singaporeans are adopting prosocial behaviours such as picking up and disposing litter in public spaces. Around 70 per cent said they hold on to their litter when there is no rubbish bin in sight, until they are able to dispose it properly. This is very good news too.
9 Last month, I was at Bedok Town Square to launch the annual ‘Keep Clean, Singapore!’ campaign 2019. Since then, close to 500 clean-up activations have been conducted. These efforts would not have been possible without the leadership of the PHC, and the support and participation of organisers, and volunteers like yourselves.
10 Today’s event marks the closing of the month-long ‘Keep Clean, Singapore!’ campaign, but I hope the end of the campaign will not mean we stop doing what we are supposed to do every day. Continue the good habit. Encourage people to pocket their litter. Don’t throw it anywhere just because you cannot find a bin.
Year Towards Zero Waste
11 As you know, the real issue is not just about binning our litter. It is about reducing our waste. Today we generate almost 8 million tonnes of waste a year in Singapore. That is equivalent to the weight of 530,000 double-decker buses! All of us must play a part to reduce this waste.
12 Use less disposables. Use reusable bags. Use reusable bottles. I don’t see why we need to buy bottled water. All you need is a reusable bottle. Fill it with clean PUB water. It is much cheaper too.
13 We have designated this year as Singapore’s Year Towards Zero Waste. We are serious about it. We think we can go towards zero waste, and recover precious materials from the waste that we throw.
14 The first thing we have to do is to recycle right. We must make sure our blue bins have only usable recyclables. If we throw food or containers contaminated with food into the blue bin, everything inside becomes unrecyclable. Let’s be responsible. Do not contaminate recyclables in the blue bin with things which make them unrecyclable. In the process, you waste the efforts of others who are doing their part for the environment. Empty out your containers and rinse them out if necessary, before putting them in the blue bin. Keep our blue bins clean.
15 Let me conclude. Let’s continue to keep this Keep Singapore Clean Campaign alive. This is one heritage that we can all be proud of. It is something we started, something we continued, and something we can leave for our children.
16 But there is more we can do. We must reduce our reliance on our efficient cleaning force. Let’s reduce the amount of litter we generate. Let’s increase the amount of recyclables we can collect. Let us work together to keep Singapore clean, and protect our environment for our generations to come.
17 Thank you.