SPEECH BY DR AMY KHOR, SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT AT THE PUBLIC HYGIENE COUNCIL’S PANEL DISCUSSION ON 16 SEPTEMBER 2021
Mr Edward D’Silva, Chairman of the Public Hygiene Council
Ladies and Gentlemen
MULTI-STAKEHOLDER APPROACH TO PUBLIC HYGIENE
2 Singapore has always aspired to build a clean, liveable and endearing home for our people. From the cleaning up of the Singapore River in the 1970s and 80s, to the annual Keep Clean Singapore campaign, our pursuit of high public hygiene and cleanliness standards has brought about a clean and safe living environment, as well as improved health and quality of life for everyone.
3 This was made possible by adopting a multi-stakeholder approach and encouraging all sectors to play their part. First, premises managers in public and private sectors take ownership to upkeep their spaces and maintain high standards of cleanliness. Second, our professional cleaning industry enables and supports cleaning works required across settings. Third, individuals are encouraged to take personal responsibility for public hygiene and cleanliness through public education efforts.
4 The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of ensuring high standards in public hygiene and cleanliness. In February last year, we launched the SG Clean movement to encourage social responsibility in keeping common public spaces clean to minimise the spread of diseases and safeguard public health. I am heartened that more than 32,000 premises have now achieved the SG Clean Quality Mark. The Mark demonstrates their commitment to maintaining high standards of environmental public hygiene.
ENHANCING PUBLIC HYGIENE AND CLEANLINESS STANDARDS
5 As awareness and expectations of public hygiene and cleanliness rise, there will be increased demand for quality cleaning services. Last year, we passed the Environmental Public Health (Amendment) Act, which requires premises managers to maintain baseline environmental sanitation standards. The new environmental sanitation regime was introduced in July this year to youth and eldercare facilities and will be progressively expanded to cover more sectors. To enhance toilet cleanliness, the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Singapore Food Agency have enhanced penalties for lapses in public toilet cleanliness since April 2020.
6 Meeting these demands will require the environmental services industry, comprising cleaning, waste management and pest control service providers, to develop new capabilities. With an ageing and shrinking workforce, we need to also transform the industry to improve productivity and make the jobs more attractive. To better guide this transition, NEA has launched the Environmental Services Industry Transformation Roadmap to outline 12 strategies and 33 initiatives to increase technology adoption and create higher value-added jobs in the industry by 2025.
IMPROVING CLEANLINESS AT FOOD OUTLETS
7 The demand for higher cleaning standards, especially in food outlets, is reflected in the latest Public Cleanliness Satisfaction Survey findings by the Singapore Management University. The proportion of survey respondents who felt that cleaning in coffeeshops need to be more thorough doubled from 16 per cent in 2019 to 32 per cent this year. The cleanliness of public toilets in coffeeshops also registered the lowest satisfaction rate at 61 per cent, amongst all the premises surveyed.
8 The NEA has introduced various initiatives to support operators in improving the maintenance of their premises. One example is the Toilet Improvement Programme. Under this initiative, NEA will co-fund the cost of infrastructural improvements and redesign, deployment of technologies and adoption of productivity measures for more effective cleaning of public toilets. NEA has received applications for the TIP from 38 eligible coffeeshops and 10 hawker centres so far, and I urge more to apply for the programme. NEA is also working with the Restroom Association of Singapore to raise cleanliness standards at selected locations through a systematic framework comprising audits, a checklist and training for cleaners.
ENCOURAGING INDIVIDUAL EFFORTS
9 As mentioned earlier, keeping our public spaces clean requires everyone’s collective efforts. In February this year, the NEA launched the Clean Tables Campaign to encourage diners in public dining places such as hawker centres, coffeeshops and food courts to return their trays. To increase individual responsibility, enforcement against table littering was implemented in hawker centres on 1 September and will also be implemented at coffeeshops and food courts from January 2022. So far, the response has been encouraging. Most diners returned their dirty crockery and trays, and binned their litter after they finished their meals. Others did so when advised by our officers. Hawkers have provided feedback that the initiative has resulted in a cleaner environment. They observed that diners were also able to get a cleaner table more quickly as the turnover time for clean tables is now shorter. Bird encroachment issues at hawker centres have also improved significantly. I thank diners for cleaning up after themselves, and hope that everyone who is able to do so will proactively return their trays and dirty crockery. I hope that over time, this habit of clearing our tables after eating at public dining places will become second nature to us. Keeping the table clean for the next diner is an act of graciousness to the diner. Remember, every time you dine at these public dining places, you are also the next diner! The act also shows care and consideration for the health and safety of others, including our cleaners.
10 To complement these efforts, the Public Hygiene Council (PHC) has organised various activities to rally the community to do their part. Earlier this year, cleaners working in 17 Town Councils were given a day off on SG Clean Day in appreciation of their hard work and to encourage public reflection on the problem of littering in our estates. Some Town Councils organised their own litter-picking activities and encouraged residents to take ownership of cleaning up their neighbourhoods.
11 PHC has made organising clean-up and litter-picking activities more accessible with the installation of Clean Pods as a community resource in our parks. Each Clean Pod is fully equipped with metal tongs and buckets for picking up and holding litter, as well as garden carts for transportation of tools and trash. I understand that PHC is expanding the network of Clean Pods and I hope that more members of the public will make use of this resource to organise your own clean-ups.
12 Let me conclude. Keeping our environment clean is a responsibility shared by the government, premises managers and individuals. Over the last decade, PHC has strengthened and coordinated efforts among the different sectors through ground up efforts to improve cleanliness and hygiene standards in Singapore. I commend the PHC for these efforts. As the Council celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, I hope today’s panel discussion will identify new ideas and opportunities for collaboration to create a clean, liveable, sustainable and endearing home for all Singaporeans. I wish you a meaningful discussion this afternoon.