Singapore and Recycling. How far behind are we?

By February 24, 2017Perspectives

TL;DR – Ain’t nobody got time for that?

I’ve been travelling quite a fair bit in recent years and one thing I can’t help but notice is how although Singapore is well-known to be a clean and green city, we seem to be relatively behind when it comes to recycling.

When I say that, I do not mean that our government or the recycling companies in Singapore are not doing well enough but rather, I feel that it is our people who are not doing our part. If my memory serves me right, I remember that I was taught the standard 3Rs in primary school. Yet it’s been more than 20 years and things still haven’t changed much.

via Wikipedia

I have two bins outside my place which should be very familiar to most Singaporeans. The green one for general waste, and a blue one meant for recyclable items. I’ve this strange habit of walking around the neighbourhood and opening some of these bins to check their content. There’s no surprise that most of these bins are filled with unsorted trash.

I used to work for a property management company and it was one of the most painful experiences ever when we tried to advocate trash sorting. The company organised talks and first, we had to beg tenants to attend. Next, most either don’t attend or will simply send any random staff over to “show face”. We ended up going door to door just to tell tenants the importance of sorting your food waste, general waste, and of course, the recyclables.

To facilitate this exercise, the company also purchased the different bins for them. Yet we still found the rubbish in a mess at the end of the day at the rubbish collection centre. Upon asking some of them why, the responses we got were mostly,

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“Your bins are too big. We have no space in our kitchen for them.”

“Your bins are eating into our rented space. Are you guys going to give me a rental rebate then?”

“Sorry, short-handed. We don’t have time to sort anything.”

“So… I use my manpower to sort rubbish. Are you  then going to hire someone else for me to do the job’s he’s employed to do?”

What about you as an individual?

Do you know which trash goes where? Such bins are usually placed side by side at shopping malls. If you are there at the bins, you will see all the three bins beside each other. Do you then make the conscious choice to throw your thrash accordingly?

Or even better, I saw this bin at a hotel the other day that had clearly Recyclable marked on one side, and Other Waste on the other.

But guess what?

They all end up in the same thrash bag anyway.

It was reported by Channel NewsAsia last year that,

‘According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), Singapore’s domestic recycling rate was 19 per cent in 2015, and the target is to bring this to 30 per cent by 2030. This is below other developed economies like the United Kingdom and Taiwan, where the household recycling rates in 2013 were 44.2 per cent and 42 per cent, respectively.’

I know it’s not a competition but it baffles me sometimes how can we as a first-world city be so far behind?

How much more can we do to advocate recycling?

How can we encourage Singaporeans to sort their rubbish?

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Is it simply a case of lack of awareness?

Don’t believe me? The next time you’re at a mall, just take a look at the different bins for yourself.


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Smith Leong

Author Smith Leong

Your resident Sports, and NetFlix but no chill guy. Also blogs at

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Join the discussion One Comment

  • ariel o says:

    The thing is, most of the people are not adequately educated enough about recycling. When you say recyclables, do you wash them first before recycling? For example, after you finish your bubble tea, how do you separate your trash. To the general waste? Or the recyclables? I’ve seen recycling companies saying that not all recyclables are actually recyclables. That include some with small non-recyclable components, colour printouts and etc, and are generally gone unnoticed by people. People who would recycle would just dump all papers, plastic and stuff they deemed recyclable in the recycle bins and that’s it. Our blue bins are not useful in the long run as recycling companies still have to sort through the mess after collection. There should be bins or at least sections for papers, glass, plastic. If you’ve seen countries like Taiwan or Korea, they have even thorough breakdown of recyclables. I hope Singapore would continue to keep up with the rest of the world in recycling. After all, we only have one Earth. Unless all of us would be living in another planet in time to come!

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