Waste as an opportunity


150-day programme aims to improve recycling knowledge and encourage community clean-up efforts.

People in Singapore can now join in the global effort to end plastic waste through a new programme launched in April.

Clean4Change is a 150-day programme geared to improving recycling knowledge and inspiring and facilitating community clean-ups through a mix of sustained clean-up activities, community events and workshops.

The initiative of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, an international non-profit based in Singapore, the programme is part of Clean4Change’s efforts to support Singapore’s Green Plan, the nation’s blueprint for sustainable development. 

Mr Jacob Duer, president and chief executive of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, said at the launch event at the ArtScience Museum last month, “…every clean-up is more than just a clean-up. Picking up and binning a piece of plastic litter is the first step to making sure it enters the waste management cycle, so that it can be processed and recycled. It is a universal activity that anyone can take part in.”

Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu, a guest of honour at the event, added that there are multiple issues holding Singapore back from improving recycling literacy. As a small nation producing a relatively small amount of plastic waste, Singapore lacks the infrastructure to make plastic recycling economically viable for operators. Secondly, the mindset of people here towards recycling needs to change as well. Ms Fu, added that Singapore is trying to find ways to extract the most it can from its waste. “Increasingly, it’s not (about) waste as a problem, but waste as an opportunity,” she said.

Recycling is key to reducing the amount of waste per capita per day sent to landfill in Singapore. Additionally, it enables the recovery of a very precious resource and the unlocking of value from plastic waste. Figures, though, from the National Environment Agency show that more than half of Singaporeans engage in recycling but do not have a strong knowledge of what can be recycled or how to recycle efficiently.

In addition to workshops and events, participants in Clean4Change will be given access to educational resources on reducing plastic waste, recycling, and organising their own clean-ups. Mobile app Litterati will be used to log the location and type of litter they spot. The data will be used by the Alliance to plan future initiatives, with the Alliance to End Plastic Waste engaging community groups in that area to tackle the issue. Dr Natalie Hallinger, director of behavioural science at Litterati, the company behind the app, said: “Getting people to relate with a clean-up in their neighbourhood opens the door to helping them understand how to better manage plastic waste.” Mr Duer said the Clean4Change event is aimed at translating concepts such as sustainability in the region into relatable community events.

“I am confident that Singapore will play a leading role and become a ‘green bridge’ for sustainability solutions not only here, but across the region,” added Mr Duer.

The Alliance intends to engage at least 100 schools, companies and community groups in the island nation.

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