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‘Less trash’ left behind at NDP 2019, but empty plastic bottles, food wrappers among litter lying around

SINGAPORE — The total trash collected after the National Day Parade (NDP) on Aug 9 was lower than the amount left behind in previous years, said the parade organisers in response to TODAY’s queries.

‘Less trash’ left behind at NDP 2019, but empty plastic bottles, food wrappers among litter lying around

Bags of trash at the National Day Parade 2019 on Aug 9, 2019.

SINGAPORE — The total trash collected after the National Day Parade (NDP) on Aug 9 was lower than the amount left behind in previous years, said the parade organisers in response to TODAY’s queries. 

However, they declined to reveal the statistics. Based on TODAY’s observations, many spectators were spotted carrying bags of rubbish with them as they left the venue. As a result, the stands were generally clear of litter. Still, items such as empty plastic bottles from the funpack, used tissue paper and food wrappers were seen lying around. 

“Despite the higher number of spectators present at this year’s NDP, the total trash collected was lower than previous years,” said Military Expert 6 (ME6) Ignatius Tham, who chairs the parade’s logistics and finance committee. 

About 27,000 spectators attended this year’s parade which was held at the Padang. The NDP was held at the Marina Bay floating platform — which has a capacity of 25,000 — last year and in 2017. In 2016, the NDP was held at the National Stadium, which can seat up to 55,000 people. The last time the NDP was held at the Padang was in 2015, when Singapore celebrated its 50th birthday. 

TODAY understands that the trash collected this year was lower than the amount collected from the parades in 2018, 2017 and 2015. 

With Singapore having declared 2019 as the Year Towards Zero Waste, the NDP this year saw the introduction of waste reduction initiatives including cutting down the number of single-use items in the funpack. Out went items such as maracas and scarves. 

This year’s funpack consisted of one 750ml water bottle, reusable bamboo straws that can be used as clappers, a miniature handheld Singapore flag (without a stand), snacks, tissue paper and a sun visor, among others. Parade organisers also hope that after the parade, the funpack can be reused as a bag to hold emergency supplies.

The parade’s logistics and finance committee had worked with non-profit group Zero Waste Sg on the waste reduction efforts. Bins were set up for the return of clean, unused ponchos and light-emitting diode wristbands alongside general waste disposal. Volunteers from youth charity Heartware Network — trained by Zero Waste SG — were also deployed to facilitate the proper return of items by spectators.  

Mr Nick Ngo, a volunteer who participated in the clean-up after the parade, said that common items picked up by the volunteers were things from the funpack such as plastic bottles, mini national flags and visors. 

Mr Ngo, 25, noted that the layout of the stands was not conducive for spectators to dispose of their trash. While trash bins at the Marina Bay floating platform — where some past parades were held — had been “within walking distance” of spectators, those who attended this year’s NDP had to walk “a few levels down” to the bins. 

In his response to TODAY, ME6 Tham reiterated that in order to promote cleanliness at the venue, volunteers were “stationed at collection points around the Padang and dispersal routes to encourage spectators to dispose their trash and deposit recyclables such as water bottles”. 

The waste generated by the NDP, particularly from the funpack, has come under the spotlight in recent years, as public awareness on environmental sustainability and waste management grows. 

Spectators at the National Day Parade 2019 on Aug 9, 2019. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong/TODAY

Prior to the NDP this year, Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency MP Louis Ng tabled a parliamentary question last month on efforts to cut waste at this year’s parade. In response, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said that in support of the Keep Singapore Clean Movement, NDP organisers had included a plastic bag in each funpack to facilitate the disposal of waste, and positioned volunteers at collection points to encourage spectators to return unused items.

While providing drinking water in reusable bottles was considered, the committee had not implemented this as there was a lack of companies which could supply such bottles affordably, said Dr Ng. Instead, to cut back on single-use plastics, the funpack would have a larger 750ml water bottle instead of two smaller bottles provided in previous NDPs, he added. 

Speaking to TODAY, Mr Louis Ng suggested that in future, organisers could allow spectators to indicate if they require the funpack during the balloting process. 

At the same time, organisers can drive home the message that Singapore is looking to achieve zero waste by encouraging the spectators to bring reusables. “It’s really a very simple thing that they can do… and it’s a brilliant opportunity to do some advertising (on zero waste),” he said. 

WHAT SPECTATORS THOUGHT OF FUNPACK 

Several spectators at the NDP said they appreciated the organisers’ efforts to make the funpack more environmentally-friendly. 

Mr Mohammad Faizal Abdul Aziz, 21, said he was glad the funpack had only provided “essentials” rather than items such as glow sticks which could only be used once before being disposed. 

He, along with several others, also said they liked the design of the funpack and they expect to reuse it at least a few times after the parade. 

A few, however, felt that the funpack was unnecessary. One of them, Ms Wong Wei Sum, 40, said: “I believe Singaporeans just want to look forward to watching the parade, rather than the items in the funpack.” 

Among those interviewed by TODAY, there were also complaints about the reusable bamboo straws. For example, some of the straws had holes that were too small or with splinters in them. 

Ms Wong, who is a preschool teacher, said that out of the five funpacks which her family received, only one had a “perfect” pack of straws. At least one of the straws was mouldy and “some powder” also flew out when she took out the straws from one of the packs, she said. 

Ms Wong said out of the five packs of straws she and her family received, only one pack was in perfect condition. The pack she received contained a mouldy straw (extreme R). Photo: Wong Wei Sum

Ms Melissa Lam, 27, founder of Bamboo Straw Girl, a firm which has been selling biodegradable straws for six years but did not supply those for the parade, said that over the past few weeks, several people had asked her about the straws from the funpacks given out at the NDP and its preview shows. 

Some people were concerned about mould and the uneven surface texture of the straws, she said.

ME6 Tham said the NDP executive committee “works closely with sponsors to include a range of sustenance and interactive items”. All items were inspected prior to being packed into the funpack, he said. 

On the bamboo straws, he stressed that they had been “tested by an independent local laboratory to comply with the requirements of the Singapore Food Regulations”. 

“As the straws are made from natural materials, they vary in colour, texture and straightness,” he added. 

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NDP2019 environment funpack

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