While Singaporeans pride themselves when it comes to awareness of global warming and their own consistent efforts to practice the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), the MEWR and NEA Household Recycling Surveys showed that only 60% of Singaporean households recycle regularly!

the blue recycling bin

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Although it is heart-warming to hear that Singaporeans actively participate in recycling efforts, large proportions of waste matter end up in recycling bins (blue bin) that they do not belong too. When only a small amount of contaminated material is put together with fully recyclable material, the entire bag of recyclable substances is rendered useless.

top items recycled in sg

Photo credit: National Environment Agency

Most Singaporeans recycle paper materials such as newspaper and used A4 paper (which is perfectly fine). However, do you know that paper materials, once contaminated by food or liquid, cannot be recycled anymore? Just like the cardboard pizza boxes and takeaway coffee cups do not belong in the blue bin too.

Among the commonly recycled materials are bottles and containers which are used primarily to store food. While it is among the top items recycled, most recycled bottles and containers are not washed and sterilised properly, hence contaminating the other items in the blue bin, making it non-recyclable items.

One of the problems that recycling companies face in Singapore is Singaporeans do not know what ought to be in the blue bin, and others in the regular bin despite the robust structure by National Environment Agency.

This is the reason why Singaporeans are bad at recycling!

Around 70% of Singaporeans feel that it is correct to throw soiled food packaging into the blue bin.

slap forehead

Even my colleague is shocked by their belief!

things that cannot be recycled

Will you recycle used tissues and styrofoam cup?

Other common materials that Singaporeans think are recyclable are used tissues, plastic bags and unused styrofoam boxes. Recycling wrong materials can lead to wasting an entire bag of recyclable material.

Singaporeans also place clothes and other wearable apparel into the blue bin. Are you aware that if your apparel is in good condition, it will be best to donate them out instead of being in the blue bin?

misconception of recycling in sg

Photo credit: National Environment Agency

Recycling is an important stage in fighting against global warming. Recycle with knowledge! Recycle with a heart!

Now, let’s look at Kamikatsu, a town in Japan located in Tokushima Prefecture. Sorting rubbish isn’t just the run of the mill process of throwing the waste products into recycling bins based on the labels on the bin where typically there are only 4 to 5 categories of recyclables. Instead, recycling in Kamikatsu involves a whopping 45 different categories of recyclables!

Some of the residents have expressed their displeasure when they are required to separate all of their waste into 45 different categories while others have praised the town council of Kamikatsu for the addition as they became more environmentally conscious even though the process of separating the rubbish is onerous.

The town council decided to commit towards ‘zero waste’ by 2020 with 80% of their waste already being recycled and reused.

kamikatsu recycling workers

Worker in Kamikatsu sorting out recyclable waste
Photo credit: Phys.org

The difference between Singapore and residents in Kamikatsu is that they are willing to change their habits to make recycling a way of life even though it was really inconvenient at the beginning.

If Singaporeans were to follow the National Environment Agency’s robust structure each time when they decided to put substances into the blue bin, they will remember that not all items belong in the recycling bin. If Singaporeans would take time to learn more about recycling, together they can make Singapore a more eco-friendly environment, just like how the residents in Kamikatsu did.

You can check out on the detailed lists of how to recycle properly via Zero Waste Singapore. Time for a change of lifestyle for all Singaporeans as we work towards zero-waste Singapore!

Here is an immediate action for you (Co-operatives and Coop Clubs’ students only) to act on!

go green challenge 2020

As we celebrate the International Day of Co-operatives this year on 4 July 2020, we would like to invite our fellow Co-operators to show that we care for the environment as we advocate Co-operatives for Climate Action.

Fellow Co-operators can send photos, videos and other innovative ways of going green to us and stand to win attractive prizes!

You may consider the 5 focus areas of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint:

  1. Less Strain
  2. Less Me
  3. Less Waste
  4. Less Today
  5. Less Footprint

Submit your submission to maggilim@sncf.org.sg before 12 June 2020 and include your co-op’s logo. Points will be given for group effort.


1st prize: $100 NTUC FairPrice vouchers

2nd prize: $60 NTUC FairPrice vouchers

3rd prize: $30 NTUC FairPrices vouchers

This article is brought to you by a student from Bukit Batok Secondary School who was having his internship at SNCF during the November holidays and Esther Wong, a staff from Singapore National Co-operative Federation, Campus and Youth Team.