by Henry Tan
I refer to the report in Today on-line of 19 Sept article by Navene Elangovan entitled “Most Singaporeans too reliant on cleaners, unwilling to pick up trash from the ground: Study“.
The article reported on a Singapore Management University (SMU) survey led by SMU’s Paulin Tay Straughan and Institute of Policy Studies (IPS)’s Mathew Mathews. I have read the survey and find that results are surprisingly narrow and mundane which suggests that the scope may have been too narrow.
Unfortunately, the questions in the survey were not included for us to conclude whether the coverage was inadequate or that the whole exercise lacks rigor. Sadly it misses the opportunity to really spur changes. Here is where it could be better.
Cleanliness depends on the effort of people and public services. The later was ignored except for the mention of cleaners and bins. The relevant Public services comprise of the cleaning infrastructure, organization, systems, and cleaning contractors.
Why were the participants not asked about them? Is the exercise avoiding issues that may look back on the authorities? It used to be that litter bins were strategically placed for public use and much effort made exhorting the public to use them with the annual campaign.
Today one has to search for one with difficulty. Tens of thousand bins were ostensibly removed for a bomb threat in the past without much thought of finding alternatives to preserve the habit of dropping litters into bins. The inconvenience is slowly eroding the hard-won habit of binning litters yet the survey found that on average only 11% said that there are insufficient bins. It would have made a difference to the public if the survey were to be instrumental in bringing back more badly needed litter bins.
Should the emphasis be on getting the public to bin litters or to get the public to bin other people’s litters? Surely it should be the former. The findings that 48% reported that they would dispose of an empty plastic bottle lying on the floor into a close-by bin and that only 27% of respondents would pick up the bottle to dispose of it if there was no nearby bin are not really useful and tax credibility. Almost 1 in 4 participants would pick litter bottles and search for a bin to dispose of it? If it were true it would be at odds with our productivity drive.
That 94% agreed that residents should bring their litter to another disposal area rather than add to the full bins and that the great majority also expected residents to help move the excess trash to the central bin centers rather than wait for the cleaners to clear it the next morning (81%) do nothing more than to confirm that individuals expect others to do things they themselves would rather not.
Have anyone ever seen an individual taking away excess trash from one bin to another let alone to a bin center? Are our authors so removed from reality? Do they know how messy excess trash is?
The survey would have been more useful had it address how people can help by bagging their own trash properly for easy and clean disposal.