Monday, 19 November 2012

Littering will cost you $500

Fines to be raised from $300; senior members of NGOs to get power to catch litterbugs
By Kezia Toh & Melody Zaccheus, The Straits Times, 18 Nov 2012

Fines for littering are to be raised from $300 to $500 in a bid to clean up Singapore's streets.

And senior members of non-governmental organisations will be trained and authorised to issue the tougher penalties.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan announced the changes yesterday at an anti-littering event in Bukit Panjang.

He said: "This is a symbol of society's repudiation of the bad habits by a very small minority. Money cannot buy cleanliness.

"This is a matter of public safety and public health, so we are treating this as a symbol of our commitment to making sure Singapore remains clean and green."

The $500 fines, which will kick in from March, apply to first-time offenders. Penalties for repeat offenders will also be raised next year, from the current level of up to $5,000.

Mr Eugene Heng, founder and chairman of volunteer group the Waterways Watch Society, said the tougher fines provide a crucial deterrent. "It is good to increase the amount to make a dent in the litterbug's pocket, but you also need manpower to enforce and educate them not to do it again," said the 63-year-old.

MP Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) agreed that more than one approach was needed.

"We are constantly searching for ways to solve the littering problem to improve our living environment," she said. "These include education, enforcement and community peer pressure. While $500 is a rather heavy fine, it is appropriate, considering that complaints of littering are on the rise."

Mr Heng said that the 15-year-old society, which has about 250 volunteers, is looking forward to being given greater power to catch litterbugs.

He added that training sessions, organised by the National Environment Agency, might include lessons on how to be diplomatic with litterbugs and persuade them that their behaviour is wrong.

Volunteers could also receive training on how to book offenders and extract information from them. Dr Balakrishnan said he had been receiving feedback from members of the public who pinpointed litterbugs using e-mail, social media and even digital photographs. He added that he was examining the legal implications of acting on their complaints.

"I am optimistic that we can succeed through a combination of renewed personal commitment, increased peer pressure, tighter enforcement, heavier penalties and improved cleaning routines on the ground."

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