Friday 3 May 2013

Residents pick litter for taste of cleaners' toil

They learn about vital, tough effort it takes to keep neighbourhood clean
By David Ee, The Straits Times, 2 May 2013

PICKING up litter is a tough, dirty job - as growing numbers of ordinary people are finding out.

Across the island, residents are increasingly volunteering for "work experience" as cleaners. The idea is to build empathy with those who perform this vital task, and help discourage littering.

More than 10 Members of Parliament have begun litter-picking sessions for their residents, Keep Singapore Clean Movement head Liak Teng Lit told The Straits Times yesterday.

In some wards, cleaners are told not to pick up rubbish in a six- to 10-block area for up to 24 hours. Residents then take to the streets the following day to clean up the mess.

"Most Singaporeans don't know how bad things are," said Mr Liak. "You ask them to clean, then they'll know how bad it is and how difficult it is."

Singapore has about 70,000 cleaners, about a third of whom are foreigners. There are about 3,500 complaints about littering in public places every year.

Mr Liak was speaking on the sidelines of a May Day litter-picking session organised by MP Lee Bee Wah in her Nee Soon South ward.

The constituency has been holding these events every month since October, drawing up to 200 residents each time.

Ms Lee pioneered them as part of her vision to turn the ward into a "mini-Japan" for cleanliness, and a model for other constituencies. "Hopefully next year we can have this on a bigger scale, say, Nee Soon GRC," she said.

Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC has been holding similar sessions at least once a month for half a year.

MP Zainudin Nordin said: "It is part and parcel of caring for their estate. People need to understand how every individual contributes to their lives.

"Cleaners are always behind the scenes doing good work, but people don't notice them."

All 77 cleaners in Nee Soon GRC were told to give the south part of the constituency a miss for 24 hours, ending yesterday. About 500 residents and employees of businesses such as Khoo Teck Puat Hospital then fanned out across the ward with garbage bags and litter-pickers.

About 1,400kg of rubbish was collected. Nee Soon South has about 52,000 residents living in more than 9,000 flats.

Ms Deasy Wijaya, 30, joined the session with her two-year-old son.

"It's a tough job," she said. "You sweat a lot and the bin centre smells really bad. I brought my son so he'll learn from young not to litter."

Cleaner Farhad Kabir spends eight hours a day on foot picking litter.

"This is my job," said the 22-year-old. "But it is good for people to teach their children not to litter, but to put it in the bins."

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