60 per cent of Singaporean households recycle regularly, but many still think clothes and shoes can go in the blue bin (they can’t)

The Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources and National Environment Agency  said paper materials were the most regularly recycled items.
Singapore Press Holdings

Many Singaporeans are doing their part to go green, but a large proportion are recycling items wrongly, two studies have found.

In a joint press release on Monday (April 29), the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) and National Environment Agency (NEA) said that 60 per cent of Singapore households recycle regularly, but findings from two surveys conducted also showed that many were misinformed about what should or should not go into the blue recycling bins.

The complementary studies – NEA’s biennial Customer Satisfaction Survey on Public Waste Collection Scheme 2018 and MEWR’s Survey on Household Recycling Behaviours, Attitudes and Knowledge – surveyed 2,003 and 3,445 households respectively between June 2018 and February 2019.

Paper items most regularly recycled

Blue recycling bins were found to be the most common recycling channel for Singaporeans, with 56 per cent of people who recycle regularly using the blue bins at least once a week, the press release said.

As for the top items recycled by households, paper materials such as newspapers, magazines, junk mail, brochures and writing paper came in first, with 60 per cent of respondents indicating so.

While paper materials can be placed in the blue bins, they should not be contaminated by food and liquids, NEA and MEWR said. When items are contaminated, they can no longer be recycled.

National Environment Agency

Also among the most regularly recycled items are plastic drink bottles, which are recycled by 50 per cent of respondents. Other commonly recycled items include plastic food containers, aluminium drink cans and glass beer or wine bottles.

And while clothes, shoes and bags are regularly recycled, NEA and MEWR said that these items should not be thrown into the blue bins and should instead be donated if they are still in good condition.

Wrongly recycled items can cause contamination of recyclables collected from the blue recycling bins. As a result, if they cannot be donated, they should be placed in the trash bin, the press statement added.

Not knowing what can’t be recycled

In the press release, NEA and MEWR also said that respondents of the survey could correctly classify an average of seven out of 10 items as recyclables or non-recyclables.

However, a significant number of respondents wrongly classified items which should be disposed of or reused as recyclables.

National Environment Agency

Soiled food packaging was the top item identified wrongly by 67 per cent of respondents as recyclable.

Additionally, Glassware, porcelain, and ceramics were also thought to be recyclable by 62 per cent of respondents. Other commonly mistaken items include plastic toys, tissue and styrofoam.

NEA and MEWR also found that around 60 per cent of Singaporeans had an added misconception that recyclables have to be sorted before being dropped into the recycling bins or chutes. In reality, sorting takes place at material recovery facilities.

Recycling for convenience

When respondents were asked by MEWR for their reasons for recycling, convenience was one of the most commonly cited. Other responses included encouragement by the Government, concerns about being “wasteful”, and the feeling that one should match others’ recycling efforts, the statement said.

On the flip side, the most commonly cited reason for not recycling was having too few items to recycle. Others said they were too busy or tired or did not have space to accumulate recyclables at home.

To make recycling more convenient for households, public housing developments launched since 2014 have been fitted with dual chutes for both refuse and recyclables.

This requirement has also been extended to buildings taller than four storeys in new non-landed private residential developments from April 1, 2018.

In their statement, NEA and MEWR also said that pilot trials of in-home recycling will also be carried out in residential households. Additionally, the design of blue recycle bin labels will be improved to help people recycle correctly.

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