Singapore

Littering fines hit 
seven-year high last year

Corrective work orders also higher than in previous five years

The number of littering fines meted out has hit a seven-year high, proof that old habits die hard.

For decades, the different agencies have worked hard to clean out litterbugs.

While there were some winners - today's pristine Singapore River being the biggest success story - it appears the problem has never really left us and has only become worse.

The number of fines issued each year has been on an upward trajectory since 2012, when 8,195 were issued.

Last year, more than 31,000 fines and 1,700 corrective work orders (CWOs) were issued to litterbugs. The number of CWOs issued was also higher than in the previous five years.

As soon as the numbers made the news, the blame game started with some netizens singling out foreigners.

When they realised that more than six in 10 litterbugs caught were Singapore residents, they directed their unhappiness at new citizens and permanent residents.

There have been calls for the authorities to be tougher on litterbugs. This includes reverting to the "show-and-shame" practice of the 1990s, where offenders were made to clean public areas, with their pictures splashed across newspapers the day after.

Besides an enforcement blitz, Public Hygiene Council chairman Edward D'Silva suggested displaying a scorecard for each estate with the number of litterbugs caught.

That way, residents have a stake in keeping their estates clean.

The spike in fines is indicative of tougher enforcement action.

There have also been campaigns to pique the sense of social consciousness, while penalties for littering were raised in April 2014.

Sticks and carrots have been used. But it may be time for a different approach.

Sharing her experience in Japan, the chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for the Environment, Ms Lee Bee Wah, said she witnessed how passers-by surrounded a man who had littered and told him off.

She said: "That is the mindset we need, that cleanliness is everyone's responsibility."

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