More than 2,500 students from four primary schools are taking the lead to show others the right way to recycle. Instead of merely throwing recyclable items like plastic bottles and drink cans into recycling bins, they are taking the extra effort to rinse them in order to reduce contamination in recycling.
Four final year students of Nanyang Technological University’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Aysha Quek, Fatin Amira Hairy, Nadhirah Ismail and Neo Jie Yao, conducted a communications campaign in four local primary schools to spread the message about contamination in recycling and ways to reduce it. The four primary schools participating in this pilot project are Bukit Panjang Primary School, Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Primary School, Jurong West Primary School and Princess Elizabeth Primary School.
Eleven-year-old Sarah Dharmarasu from Jurong West Primary School mentioned that she used to just throw her can drinks into recycling bins after drinking it, even if there was still some left in the can. Now that she is aware of contamination and its impact, it has become a habit for her to first rinse it before putting it in the bin.
“I learnt that by not cleaning before recycling, I can contaminate other items in the recycling bin which make them not recyclable,” said Sarah Dharmarasu. “At home, I rinse or use a tissue to clean out remainder food items from plastic containers before putting them into the recycling bin. I also show my parents and siblings the proper way to recycle and not contaminate other items in the recycling bin.”
Right-cycling campaign spokesperson Nadhirah Ismail, 24, said: “Singapore is known for being a clean and green country and we all have a part to play in keeping up that reputation. Unfortunately, when it comes to recycling, especially domestic waste recycling, we fall behind countries like Germany and nearer to home, Taiwan and Japan.”
“The problem is that there are people who want to recycle but their efforts become futile when the bin gets contaminated. We want to increase household recycling rates by not only encouraging the act of recycling, but more importantly, by first doing it right. Therefore, we have devised an easy three-step process for students to follow: Remove, Rinse, Recycle. We hope this can supplement the existing 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) to make every recycled item count and in turn, increase our rate of recycling.”
Contamination in recycling occurs when non-recyclables are thrown inside recycling bins or when items are contaminated with food or liquid waste. Contamination in a recycling bin may even render an entire bin unrecyclable, wasting the efforts of others.
Singapore’s contamination rates in recycling in 2016 were reported to be between 35% and 50%. Contamination in recycling not only affects overall recycling rates, but they also cause knock-on effects such as the extra time, manpower and cost to remove the contaminated items.
About the campaign
Highlights of the campaign included assembly talks with the students, ‘right-cycling’ workshops with environmental leaders, and interactive pop-up booths set up during school recesses where informational posters were displayed to spread the message. In addition to that, campaign messages were reiterated by using innovative games to get students to practice reducing contamination.
Workshops were also held for selected student environmental leaders to provide more information about contamination in recycling. They were also taught communication skills and techniques on how to increase awareness of environmental messages to their peers and teachers in their schools. This is aimed at improving the sustainability of the campaign by empowering the students to take the lead in highlighting environmental issues in schools.
Campaign activities were conducted over a period of seven weeks, from January to February this year.
“The campaign was timely to raise awareness on recycling habits. The series of activities and events were interactive and engaging for the young pupils. The campaign imparted important values to students and educated the students on the correct recycling habits,” said Wan Ping Gui, 46, Head of Science Department at Princess Elizabeth Primary School.
Chong Siew Hui, 38, Level Head of Science at Jurong West Primary School also mentioned that students are more aware of what recycling is about and the statistics that were provided during the assembly show shed some light on our recycling habits.