Singapore

Despite govt efforts, high-rise littering refuses to go away

Despite govt efforts, high-rise littering refuses to go away
TODAY file photo
Published: 4:04 AM, March 3, 2014

SINGAPORE — The problem of high-rise littering appears to be rearing its ugly head again, with the number of offenders being caught each month doubling since December.

Figures from the National Environment Agency (NEA) show that 17 people were caught for tossing things such as cigarette butts, tissue paper and food waste out of flats in the span of two months — Dec 4 last year to Feb 13 this year, an average of 8.5 cases per month.

This is up from 4.3 cases per month on average, or a total of 73 such cases, in the previous 17 months, starting from August 2012 when surveillance cameras were installed to curb high-rise littering.

Worryingly, potential killer litter remains a concern — half of the 2,200 or so complaints on high-rise littering that the People’s Action Party (PAP)-run town councils get every year are related to this.

Notably, there were three such cases in the span of one week in December, when items such as a dustbin, a microwave oven, bricks and a water dispenser were flung down from flats.

Speaking to TODAY, Dr Teo Ho Pin, who is Coordinating Chairman of the PAP Town Councils, said high-rise littering remains a problem despite many years of education and public awareness efforts. “This is something we still need to address, as it poses hygiene problems and safety hazards to the public,” he said.

In response to queries, the Housing and Development Board said that, since January 2008, it has served warning letters to 51 households who were convicted in court for throwing potential killer litter. The HDB and town councils have also issued more than 267,000 warning notices to lessees and tenants for placing and/or hanging objects in a precarious manner.

The Environmental Public Health Act was amended last month, doubling the maximum penalty for littering-related offences to S$2,000 for first-time offenders — the first revision since 1987. Fines were also increased to S$4,000 for second-time offenders and S$10,000 for third and subsequent convictions.

During the parliamentary debate on the legislative amendments, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said that high-rise litterbugs are difficult to nab. Only 19 offenders out of the more than 1,300 complaints it got last year were prosecuted, after the NEA’s “effort and considerable expenditure”.

The highest penalty meted out thus far was a S$4,800 fine to an offender for committing multiple acts of high-rise littering, said the NEA, in response to queries.

Meanwhile, the NEA said surveillance cameras targeting litterbugs have been put up at around 700 locations and helped to address the problem in about 80 per cent of these places.