Opening Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Launch of “Keep Clean, Singapore!” 2021 on Sunday, 25 April 2021
Mr Edward D'Silva
Mr Lim Biow Chuan
Coordinating Chairman for PAP Town Councils
Ladies and Gentlemen
1 Good morning everyone. I am pleased to launch this year's "Keep Clean, Singapore!" campaign organised by the Public Hygiene Council (or PHC).
2 This annual month-long community campaign is an important initiative that encourages Singaporeans to take personal ownership of the cleanliness of our shared public spaces.
Public hygiene and cleanliness as our first line of defence
3 We are now into the second year of battling COVID-19. The pandemic has underscored the need for us to maintain high public hygiene and cleanliness standards to protect ourselves, our family and our loved ones.
4 In early 2020, the National Environment Agency (NEA) launched the nation-wide SG Clean movement to bolster our public health defences. A few months later, Parliament also passed the Environmental Public Health (Amendment) Bill to implement mandatory baseline environmental sanitation standards for specified premises. This is an important milestone in our efforts to instil a national "keep clean culture".
5 I am happy that more than 30,000 premises have since achieved the SG Clean Quality Mark. Later this year, the PHC will take over the certification of premises for NEA, as an expansion of its mandate.
6 We are also partnering three key stakeholder groups: (i) premises owners to maintain high public health standards, (ii) the environmental services industry to transform the sector, and (iii) individuals to foster greater social responsibility towards public cleanliness. Let me share some of our efforts.
7 First, we will continue to promote the SG Clean Quality Mark and waive certification costs to encourage greater adoption of good hygiene practices at premises. We will work with premises managers as we implement the Environmental Sanitation (or ES) regime. Under this regime, premises managers must meetnew mandatory ES standards. We target to cover more than 2,000 premises in the sectors of preschools, schools, youth and eldercare facilities, hawker centres and coffeeshops by end of 1Q 2022. Training for Environmental Control Coordinators (ECCs) who will assist premises managers in developing the ES programmes and monitoring the implementation of the ES regime has commenced last month.
8 NEA has launched a Technical Guide on Environmental Sanitation for High-Risk Non-Healthcare Premises in Singapore. It contained baseline ES guidelines with details on the scope and frequencies of cleaning and disinfection, and pest management. Owners who wish to raise the cleanliness and hygiene standards of their premises can refer to the Guide on NEA's website.
9 Second, we will support the ES industry to futureproof their businesses. We have extended the Productivity Solutions Grant until September this year to support companies to adopt mechanisation and automation. And we are working with Tripartite Partners to extend the Progressive Wage Model to waste management workers.
10 Third, we will foster individual responsibility in public hygiene. In February, we launched the Clean Tables Campaign at hawker centres, coffeeshops and food courts, to remind diners to keep tables clean. NEA will install around 75 tray return racks at hawker centres on top of the 900 today, and provide 50 more new trays to each hawker stall. Presently, 10 per cent of coffeeshops have tray return facilities. The Singapore Food Agency will work with the remaining coffeeshop operators to implement localised solutions.
11 NEA will also provide co-funding support for coffeeshop and food court operators to defray 50 per cent of the costs, capped at $2,500 per premises, for the installation of tray return facilities and purchase of trays under the Clean Tables Support Scheme (CTSS) which will be rolled out on 1st May. NEA is monitoring the campaign outcome and will conduct another survey on public's attitudes towards tray return. We will consider our next steps beyond education to safeguard public health.
Celebrating SG Clean Day
12 This year, the PHC celebrates its 10th anniversary. I thank the PHC for a decade of hard work to promote good hygiene. In conjunction with its 10th anniversary and Keep Clean, Singapore! 2021, the PHC has designated today 25 April as SG Clean Day, in partnership with 17 Town Councils. Cleaners will not be sweeping open areas and ground levels of housing estates. Through this initiative, we hope to get Singaporeans to reflect on the problem of littering and observe the amount of litter that is generated when we go without our cleaners in a day. This will make us appreciate our cleaners more. Some Town Councils are also conducting litter-picking activities to encourage their residents to take ownership of cleaning up their own estates.
Singapore's cleanliness as a shared responsibility
13 I commend the PHC for spearheading many outreach initiatives over the years to keep Singapore clean. In 2019, the PHC launched the Sustainable Bright Spot programme to encourage residents to organise regular clean-up activities in their common living spaces. Since then, 22 residential estates around Singapore have become Sustainable Bright Spots, and the programme has reached out to more than 6,000 residents.
14 One of the estates is in the Bukit Timah Constituency. Residents there clean up their estates in groups on every last Sunday of the month. Between last September and March this year, there was a 20 per cent increase in residents' participation, and the clean-up was expanded to 13 locations to include Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the Rail Corridor. I applaud such ground-up efforts and hope that more estates will do the same.
15 The PHC also collaborated with NParks in 2019 to set up CleanPods at parks around Singapore. CleanPods are community storage facilities where litter picking tools are stored and shared for easy access. My colleagues Amy Khor and Desmond Tan and I joined in to to clean up the beach along East Coast Park last August, and the tools from the CleanPod came in handy! Last year, about 200 organisations and groups involved in beach clean-ups used the CleanPods. There are currently 12 CleanPods across Singapore, and more will be set up later.
16 Cleaning up public spaces is a habit which should start from young. Since 2014, the PHC has been conducting Buddy Clean workshops to encourage students to take personal responsibility to keep the public spaces clean, starting from their schools. At the workshop, students are introduced to the value of being considerate in cleaning up after themselves, the consequences of littering, and develop empathy and respect for cleaners. The PHC also supports schools in their clean-up programmes.
17 In conclusion, each of us plays a critical role in fortifying our nation's defence against public health threats. As we have learnt from this COVID-19 pandemic, the first line of defence is cleanliness and hygiene. This is so essential for each and everyone of us to take up this responsibility because we also have to keep our cleaners safe. Many of our local cleaners are quite senior in age and vulnerable. If we do not protect them for them to protect us by keeping the environment clean, our defence against public health threats will be weakened.
18 I urge everyone in Singapore to keep our beloved public spaces clean, such as our neighbourhoods, hawker centres and parks. We spend a lot of time in hawker centres. Many of our family members, including the elderly, spend time in coffee shops, hawker centres and parks. If we do not do our part to keep these places safe and hygienic for them, who will? We do not have enough cleaners to be everywhere all the time to clean up. And look at our parks which were places of relief for us from staying at home during the Circuit Breaker period. But it just dampens the mood if there is litter among the greenery. It is the users of the public spaces, and not the cleaners, who are responsible for the cleanliness. We can do our part simply by disposing our litter properly, returning our trays after meals, flushing the toilets properly after use, and encouraging our families and friends to do the same. I firmly believe that it starts from us – our individual habits will go a long way to make Singapore cleaner, safer and better.