JUNE 9, 2016
It is a bad idea to make residents “pay as you throw” in order to reduce waste (“Pay as you throw among ideas to cut down waste in Singapore”; June 4).
First, it would raise the high cost of living and send stress levels here even higher. That surely cannot be a good thing.
Second, littering is already a problem in Singapore. If we have to pay as we throw, unclaimed and anonymous rubbish would probably be more prevalent.
A more effective and meaningful way to encourage recycling and to cut waste here is to educate the public and create awareness of this subject through interesting programmes on Channels 5 and 8 during prime time.
[Wow. Interesting programmes on recycling on Mediacorp channels. Now why didn't anyone ever think of things like that?]
People are not recycling owing to ignorance mainly — ignorance of why caring for our environment is beneficial and of the proper ways to recycle.
Although I try to recycle as much as possible, I have questions about recycling that nobody I ask seems to know the answers to, either. For example, is it necessary to rinse empty bottles and cans before recycling? I have had both “yes” and “no” answers.
Can we recycle Milo tins, milk powder tins or tennis ball cans with aluminium cans? Do we recycle tetrapacks as paper, or is it a different category?
Should we recycle plastic containers for liquid laundry detergent, which are almost impossible to rinse completely clean, or should we discard them?
How should we recycle used batteries and fused light bulbs? Can we recycle the lids of milk tins as plastic, or clear plastic packaging?
I hope there will be a series of fun, educational television programmes to address such questions about recycling and the need to reduce waste.
[Actually there is. It's called, "Why I need to be spoonfed information when there is Google Search and self-directed learning is the way of the future." You can find it on the internet. Oh wait, YOU can't.
And so the point of this uninformed forum letter is to argue that "pay as you throw" will raise stress levels (her second para). So recycling is less stressful?
Why don't people recycle more?
Partly, it's convenience. Or rather, inconvenience.
But in the end, some items simply do not make economic sense to recycle. For instance, the combination of plastic, foil, coffee grounds and paper in a single-serving coffee capsule is difficult to take apart.And if it doesn't make economic sense, it probably doesn't make environmental sense (usually).
Labour has to be very cheap in order to make some of these things economical to recycle.
For instance, it takes very cheap manual labour to painstakingly pick the tin foil apart from the plastic of a blister pack so that each can be recycled, as Adam Minter, author of Junkyard Planet, saw in India.
Moreover, it still takes energy to process old glass, melt down metal cans and shred phone books.
“It makes sense to recycle commercial cardboard and some paper, as well as selected metals and plastics... But other materials rarely make sense, including food waste and other compostables."Here is another problem: amount of "recyclables" collected is not worth the cost of setting up recycling plants. And no, we don't mean recycling collection centres. I mean actually turning glass bottles into NEW (or recycled) glass products - melting the glass, and recasting/blowing them. Or re-pulping used papers to make newspapers.
So what can we recycle?
The only sure recycling I know is for aluminium cans. That there are people trying to scrape together a living collecting and selling those cans assures me that there is value in recycling that, and that it is actually recycled. Probably in Singapore.See also this article.]
I believe (it is only a belief), that newspapers are also recycled. But NOT in Singapore. That means the paper needs to be shipped to a 3rd world country, to be repulped and recycled. But I have stopped buying newspapers (read online), I "lock" my mailbox so I don't get junk mail, leaving only the flyers stuck on my door/gate, so I don't have alot of paper for "recycling". Anyway, paper has very little value for recycling.
So what I do is I collect cans and hand them to my neighbour (who collects cans), and I am assured that he makes a little money from that. If you don't have a neighbour who collects cans for recycling, drop off your cans with the cleaners in your condo, or estate. You might just want to check if they sell the cans.
And if you have old appliances, give or sell to the Karung Guni. If they pay you for it, you can be sure that they will recycle it (just don't bargain too much. Getting money was never the point, right?)