Singaporean households find recycling regularly convenient but can’t differentiate between waste, ‘recyclable’ and ‘reusable’

In a joint statement by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Monday (29 April), two separate surveys conducted by the authorities reported that about 6 in 10 Singaporean households recycle regularly, mostly through the blue recycling bins located around the neighbourhoods.

The surveys covered different aspects of household recycling between June 2018 and February 2019, said MEWR and NEA.

NEA’s Customer Satisfaction Survey on Public Waste Collection Scheme 2018 is a biennial survey on households’ experiences with the recycling collection services and infrastructure at their homes.

Meanwhile, MEWR’s Survey on Household Recycling Behaviours, Attitudes and Knowledge was commissioned specially for the Year Towards Zero Waste, designated as 2019, and complements NEA’s survey by delving deeper into specific areas of interest.

The MEWR and NEA surveys interviewed 2,003 and 3,445 randomly selected Singapore households face-to-face, respectively.

They found that around 60 per cent of Singaporeans recycle regularly and the top items recycled include newspapers, magazines, junk mail, brochures and writing paper. It also divulged that Singaporeans cited convenience as one of the most commonly cited reasons for recycling regularly.

“Encouragement by the Government, concerns about being ‘wasteful’, and the feeling that one should match others’ recycling efforts were also important motivators of recycling,” the statement said.

Conversely, respondents also cited that the most common reason for not recycling was that they had too few items to recycle. “Other common reasons given were being too busy or tired, and not having enough space to accumulate recyclables in the home,” the statement added.

However, it was also discovered that a significant proportion of Singaporean respondents were generally capable of identifying recyclable items, but had difficulty identifying contaminants and non-recyclables.

Items such as soiled paper food packaging, tissue paper and styrofoam should be disposed of as general waste while reusables like soft toys, bags and shoes are not suitable for recycling. They “should be donated, if in good condition, instead of being recycled”, said the authorities.

Paper is a suitable material to be placed in blue recycling bins, but it can be contaminated by food and liquids, the statement added.

Moreover, about 60 per cent of Singaporeans surveyed also mistakenly sorted the recyclables by type before depositing them into blue bins or recycling chutes.

According to the MEWR and NEA, pre-sorting is not necessary because recyclables are usually transported to Material Recovery Facilities to be sorted.

The authorities also stated that all new public housing developments launched since 2014 have been fitted with dual chutes, for refuse and recyclables, to make recycling more convenient.

Pilot trials to ease recycling into Singaporeans’ daily routine and help cultivate stronger recycling habits are in the works, and the design of recycling bin labels will also be refreshed to better present information.