[i am @ Youth.SG]
This Sunday will be Earth Day and it is timely to be blogging about green issues. You could label this post "How to save the environment 101".
The Singapore government has recently stepped up its efforts to stop carbon dioxide emissions - the gas behind global warming which in turn causes climate change. Apart from promising to use more natural gas to generate power, the National Environment Agency (NEA) hopes to have 60% of the state's electricity be generated by natural gas by 2015.
Our current air quality standards are sound with concentrations of major air pollutants are well within the World Health Organisation's standards.
But more is being done. Two weeks back, the NEA launched a campaign to encourage using reuseable bags. Singapore consumes 2.5 billion plastic bags each year and 2,900 kilograms of carbon dioxide is generated with every tonne of plastic bags incinerated. It is a wise move to cut down on using such bags to reduce emissions. The NEA hopes to inculcate the habit of using reusable bags - currently only 2% of Singaporeans practice this. Organisations like Ikea and NTUC Fairprice will be asking shoppers who still want a plastic bag to make a 10 cent donation to drive home the message. Guess what my mum's reaction was? "Wah, now plastic bag must pay ten cents leh!"
Still, we can do more to add to current efforts by the government to slowdown global warming.
Currently, only 56% of Singaporean households have the habit of recycling. Although the NEA reports that there has been an increase in the figures, 56% is just slightly more than half of the number of households in Singapore.
Recycling is not new. According to NEA's website, a National Recycling Programme was launched in 2001 to actively involve Singaporeans to achieve the targeted recycling rate of 60% by 2012. There's even a day specially marked for recycling - 23 September! However, this cannot be done by the government alone. Although the government sets the targets, it is people like you and me who carry out such actions to make things happen (or not happen).
Why is it important for us to recycle or have the habit of recycling?
Apart from the emissions that are spewed when burning waste, our landfill areas for burying non-incinerable trash are running out. Singapore's last remaining landfill on mainland was exhausted in 1999 and the current one that we have is Semakau Landfill.
But the message is not seen to be strong as indicated by the numbers.
In a recent letter to Today, Patrick Wong noted our lack of efforts to recycle. He wrote: "For establishments that are guaranteed large amounts of trash daily, where are the efforts to recycle? For example, at Lau Pa Sat, where thousands eat daily, I see cleaners recycling the cans, but not the plastic cups given with each drink."
Some food establishments have grey bins for recycling aluminum cans but it stops there. HDB estates have centralised recycling bins as well. I'm not sure if you notice but here are some of the different types of recycling bins around Singapore.
The bins in HDB estates will complement the current programme that distributes recycling bags (that are made of plastic) to households to store items that can be recycled (e.g. newspapers). These bags are then left outside their homes for fortnightly collection. Does it sound familiar?
My friend Rachel from Switzerland tells me that that Swiss people are very enthusiastic towards recycling. Even in their homes they have dedicated little bins to sort out the trash according to their types - glass bottles, plastic and aluminum cans. And since February, my flat has this bag in which I put all my cans for recycling.
On the home front the National Climate Change Committee (NCCC) brings together efforts from various government agencies, industry representatives, academia, and non-governmental organisations (e.g. the Singapore Environment Council) to tackle climate change.
Internationally, Singapore is a party to the Kyoto Protocol and a member of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Good habits are picked up and nurtured at home. So while the government makes the effort to encourage recycling in HDB estates by providing the facilities, it is up to the people to start or cultivate a recycling culture.
Corporate partners also have to have a hand in this. One example is the habit of recycling papers (that are printed on one-side) in the office.
The key to succeed is to band Singaporeans together to join the national effort in protecting the environment so that all stakeholders take responsibility of their daily lives, at work, at play, or at home, to pro-actively partner the government in energy conservation and efficiency efforts.
It means little efforts like saving energy by switching off the air-conditioner and lights when not in use, recycling or even putting trash in the correct place. It's cliche but green efforts begin at home. Just like the phrase "home is where the heart is".
This post is in conjuction with the Youth.SG blogging festival.
Thought of the day: It's never too late to start saving the environment.Read more about the blogging festival on Youth.SG