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Most S’porean households recycle regularly, but many can’t differentiate between ‘recyclable’ and ‘reusable’

SINGAPORE — About six in 10 Singaporean households recycle regularly, with the most common channel being the blue recycling bins located around housing estates, two surveys conducted by the authorities have shown.

Most S’porean households recycle regularly, but many can’t differentiate between ‘recyclable’ and ‘reusable’

Around 60 per cent of Singaporeans mistakenly thought that recyclables have to be sorted by type before being deposited into blue bins or recycling chutes.

SINGAPORE — About six in 10 Singaporean households recycle regularly, with the most common channel being the blue recycling bins located around housing estates, two surveys conducted by the authorities have shown.

The surveys — done separately by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) — also found that convenience was an important factor to recycling, and that respondents were generally capable of identifying recyclable items, but had difficulty identifying contaminants and non-recyclables.

The surveys were conducted between June 2018 and February 2019 and covered different aspects of household recycling, said MEWR and NEA in a joint statement on Monday (April 29).

SOME KEY FINDINGS

  • Around 60 per cent of Singaporean households recycle regularly

Newspapers, magazines, junk mail, brochures and writing paper are the top items recycled, the survey found.

Paper is a suitable material to be placed in blue recycling bins, but it can be contaminated by food and liquids, said the authorities.

Other popular items placed in bins include clothes, shoes and bags, which are actually “not suitable”, the statement added.

Instead, these items — dubbed reusables — “should be donated, if in good condition, instead of being recycled”.

  • Convenience a key factor

The MEWR survey found that convenience was one of the most commonly cited reasons by Singaporeans for recycling regularly.

“Encouragement by the Government, concerns about being ‘wasteful’, and the feeling that one should match others’ recycling efforts were also important motivators of recycling,” the statement said.

Conversely, the most common reason for not recycling cited by respondents was that they had too few items to recycle.

“Other common reasons given were being too busy or tired, and not having enough space to accumulate recyclables in the home,” the statement added.

  • Reusable or recyclable? 

A significant proportion of Singaporeans surveyed mistakenly classified as recyclables, items that should either be disposed of or be treated as reusables.

These include soiled paper food packaging, tissue paper and styrofoam, which should be disposed of as general waste; as well as soft toys, bags and shoes, which are reusables and not suitable for recycling.

Around 60 per cent of Singaporeans also mistakenly thought that recyclables have to be sorted by type before being deposited into blue bins or recycling chutes.

Pre-sorting is not necessary, said the authorities, because items in recycling bins are transported to Material Recovery Facilities and sorted there.

GETTING RECYCLING RIGHT

The authorities added that all new public housing developments launched since 2014 have been fitted with dual chutes, for refuse and recyclables, to make recycling more convenient.

Pilot trials to ease recycling into Singaporeans’ daily routine and help cultivate stronger recycling habits are in the works, and the design of recycling bin labels will also be refreshed to better present information, added the statement.

MORE ABOUT THE SURVEYS

  • NEA’s Customer Satisfaction Survey on Public Waste Collection Scheme 2018 is a biennial survey which focuses broadly on households’ experiences with the recycling collection services and infrastructure at their homes.

  • MEWR’s Survey on Household Recycling Behaviours, Attitudes and Knowledge was commissioned specially for the Year Towards Zero Waste, designated as 2019, and complements NEA’s survey by delving deeper into specific areas of interest.

  • MEWR and NEA surveyed 2,003 and 3,445 randomly selected Singapore households respectively, via face-to-face interviews.

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