Most Singaporeans take pride in the cleanliness of our city, myself included. Whether I am in Singapore or overseas, I would hold my trash till I found a trash bin. There were times when I was overseas, I held my trash all the way back to the hotel because I could not find a trash bin along the way. I want to keep Singapore clean and also the city I am visiting clean by the simple act of not littering. Unfortunately, not everyone living in Singapore thinks that way. Singapore is a clean city because we have hardworking and efficient cleaners.
I remember the moment when I started becoming more conscious of the environment around me was when I started my early morning walks at Marina Bay area. As it was early morning, the cleaners have yet to clear all the trash left behind by the users.
While jogging along the boardwalk in front of Marina Bay Sands, I started picking up the plastic bags and emptied cans and bottles, throwing them into the trash bins, just before they got blown into the water.
I fully understood anyone would want to have a drink, perhaps some snack and sit at the boardwalk in front of Marina Bay Sands to enjoy the view and the evening breeze with their family or friends. I totally get that as I enjoy doing that too.
It’s one thing to have a drink and a good time, gather up your trash in your plastic bag and throw it in the bins provided along the Bay area. It’s quite another to leave everything you brought with you lying around. Not only does it ruin the splendour of the areas such as Marina Bay, the riverbank or the beach for that matter, the trash could be blown into the reservoir, river or sea, causing potential harm to the fishes and other wildlife, and hurting the environment. Or worse, throwing trash directly into the reservoir, river and sea instead of the trash bin.
Just last month, I was at the River Hongbao celebration. I overheard a conversation between a young boy, probably around eight or ten years old, and his mother. This is how it went…
Boy: Mum, throw the can into the river
Mum: Cannot. A lot of people here. They are watching
Boy: Just throw. Why aren’t you throwing the can into the river?
Mum: Cannot, a lot of people here. Police will catch. You not afraid of police catching you?
I was shocked and speechless though that last statement did stop the boy’s persistence in throwing the emptied can into the river.
At that very moment, a few questions popped up in my mind. Firstly, why did the kid insist that his mother throws the emptied can into the river? Secondly, why did the mother not teach the kid to throw the emptied can into the trash bin or recycle bin just a few metres away? Instead, she responded that a lot of people are watching and that the police will catch them if they threw the can into the river. Did she just imply that it is alright if no one is watching and as long as they don’t get caught? Has she or her husband thrown trash into the river in front of the boy, as a result, he insisted his mother do it “again”? Well, only the mother has the answers.
Whether there is anyone watching is not important, it is wrong to pollute the environment. I guess the availability of trash bins and recycle bins located a few metres away can’t beat the “thrill” of throwing trash into the river which is absolutely absurd.
I managed to compose myself after a minute or two, I said to the boy calmly,”Boy if you throw the trash into the river, you will dirty the river. When the river is dirty, fishes and other animals living in the river will die. Do you wish to see the fishes die?”
The boy kept quiet and his mother repeated what I said. When I related the incident to my friend, he laughed and was surprised that I did not give the boy and his mother a good lecture.
Below is a screenshot from OtterWatch Facebook page. Did you notice the strip of plastic on the fish that the otter was eating? That strip of plastic was the wrapper for disposable chopsticks.
A picture of plastic trash along the shore of Mandai Coastal area washed in with the tide. These plastic bottles were either thrown into the sea by people out at the sea or from the shore.
I am not a perfect human being. I don’t think I am expecting too much for people to clean up after themselves, leaving the place looking the same before they were there. The best practice would be to place the items that are recyclable into the recycle bin and trash into the trash bin. Of course provided there is a recycle bin nearby. In Singapore, there is no lack of trash bins.
Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.
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