I live in a beautiful neighbourhood – 166 units of three-storey houses built neatly on a hill, with burgundy coloured roofs. I try to keep my estate clean by sweeping the road up to two doors away on both sides, clearing the leaves and picking up any litter I see along the road. I don’t know if I should thank or blame my alma mata Nanyang for making the students sweep the school compound on a weekly roster and making a competition out of it when I was a student. The habit of picking up leaves to keep the place clean has stayed ever since.
Most houses have maids and they too do a good job cleaning the roads outside the houses. It’s unfortunate both my next door neighbours have no maid and are oblivious to the piles of decaying leaves or litter in front of their houses. Thus I do my part and their parts as well. (Worse, there is a culprit who keeps throwing wet tissues outside on my beautiful carpet grass turf. I have yet to catch him.)
My estate is near a nature reserve with beautiful trees and wild monkeys. Green environment and fresh air.
In the last few years, the roads flanking my estate is often peppered with litters, drink plastic bags, styrofoam food containers, tissues, cigarette boxes and butts, etc.
The natural reserve is not spared, with litters around benches, some mere steps away from a garbage bin.When I jog from my house to the nature reserve, I am saddened by this state, and angry that there are inconsiderate people with no qualms about the environment. The early years of Keep Singapore Clean campaign was a wasted effort.
On my runs, sometimes, if I spot a bin nearby, I would pick the rubbish along the way to throw. Other times, there are just too many and I have to ignore them.
One Sunday, I spotted a woman in a golf shade, a tong and a plastic bag picking up litters along the road.
I wrote to the press to commend her and a journalist asked me to try to get her contacts. I don’t know if its fate, but my friend texted me to tell me without prompting that the lady is her neighbour and so, I met my hero, M. (It’s even more a coincidence when I discover I had actually met her in Hokkaido in May!)
M tells me about the battle she has to fight to get her neighbourhood clean. She requested for bins for the public court-yard next to her condo (still requesting) and for lights to be installed (done). She is tired of picking up used condoms at the court-yard. At the large vehicle park, she pasted homemade printed notices in Chinese requesting the drivers of the large vehicles to ‘Love and Keep Singapore Clean.’ This, she tells me, has reduced the packets and bottles of urine thrown out of the vehicles. People look at her curiously, but she ignores the stares and focus instead on the litter.
She does this whenever she is in town and her absence is glaringly obvious by the sheer numbers of litters. Come, join me, she told me on Monday when I met her as I finished my 10km walk at half past nine that night. I laughed and did not commit.
The problem with me is, I do not have her courage and her sprite. (Remember the RICE motto I learn, C- courage to do what’s right.)
Once with Mike for company, we picked up a huge Cold Storage bag from the roadside after our morning Sunday jog and started picking the trash along the way. The bag was filled to the brim in no time and we had to hold the rest of the litters with our bare hands until we reach a litter bin.
I was hoping that when the article about M appears in the press, it would spur a bottom up action for more people to pick trash. I had image of Facebook pages ‘Cleanup Singapore’ of how community would pick trash, or schools doing this regularly. Unfortunately, M told me that the journalist could not publish her story for some reasons.
I am disappointed with the outcome. But I have taken some actions – no, I have not purposely gone around to pick trash yet, instead, I have written to my council for additional bins for the bus stop, posters to deter littering, and for additional cleaning to be done.
If all these fail, I guess then I shall go pick litters. Anyone wants to join me then?