Sunday, August 29, 2010

Starting a recycling program on my Singaporean campus

I work on this nameless campus in Singapore. Its supposedly one of the best universities in the world.

For all of Singapore's advancement, the idea of environmental consciousness and responsibility have still not made it here. People still eat shark fin soup everywhere, for example, and everything is overpackaged (I've been told its because of the rain...but seriously...
I've lived in some rainy, snowy places, and my stuff remains dry without the overpackaging). Not to mention the waste of paper, plastic and other resources out here.

Among other things, I'm trying hard to start a recycling program at our campus. No one knows what recycling here is. While this is NOT a third world nation, people here just don't get it. Everything goes into the same trash bin and it all ends up in the Singaporean incinerator. What's the big deal, people always ask me!

So I was thrilled when I found out that the University has an Office for Environmental Sustainability (OES). Apparently they do recycling and other stuff. So I wrote them last week, offering to drop by (its a drive away to get between the campuses). There was no phone number, so I emailed. This is what I wrote.

"Hi there,

we are water researchers at XXX at XXX campus. We have been extremely frustrated by the lack of recycling facilities on the campus and would like to start implementing one ASAP.

We'll be on your campus on tuesday, Aug 17 morning. Would you be available for a meeting after 11:30 AM?? We would love to hear your thoughts on how we can work with you to make XXX a greener, cleaner campus.


Two weeks later (and WAY after my first request for scheduled appointment), I got this email from them:

Dear XXXX,

Thank you for writing in to us!

A list of recycling locations on campus can be found at : ------ website

Do you find that it is insufficient for XXX campus? Perhaps you can suggest to us additional locations and we can forward your request to XXX Campus Management Office(XXCMO). OES will support with recycling bins if XXCMO agrees.

Thank you!

Yours Sincerely,

Office of Environmental Sustainability

Wow. Two weeks later I get nowhere. No sorry. No explanation. No "let's meet up so we can figure this out together." So I went to the website. As an afterthought, somewhere at the end of a badly designed excel spreadsheet, our campus of over 2000 folks has four little recycling bins. I went hunting for them in the rain today. It took me a while to locate one of them. It was sitting as an afterthought behind the canteen. And inside the bin, I found one soft drink can (I know the person who threw it in there). Back inside, at the canteen dustbin where I went to dispose off my food remains, there were about 200 aluminum cans sitting under the little food scraps I threw in.

That says it all.

I have a LOT of work ahead of me...

OES has a great website, twitter feed, Facebook profile and godknowswhatelse. My little office has none of those. Not that that means anything.


Keith Ferrell said...

Best of luck to you. We worked for 2 years with NEA and Sembwaste to bring recycling to our condo and after countless letters, phone calls and run-arounds it happened. After 2 months of having recycling bins at every lift lobby they were removed because they were "unsightly." It's so sad!

pragzz said...

Keith, This is horribly depressing. But I can't afford to give up (though check with me in a couple of months to see how I feel then!). Hopefully I can get in with the Government. They have some very forward thinking people there. If only we can get their ear, this would be a piece of cake!!

recycling bins said...

It's important first to make sure that the university has an actual waste collection service that does recycling pickup. Once you have that established, then fight for making recycling bins available on campus.

pragzz said...

@recycling bins, thanks for that. Its hard getting any information on the campus (or in Singapore in general). Everything is "classified," or more like people are scared to say anything that might get them in trouble (even if it won't!).

I guess I need to find the appropriate janitor and start there. Thanks!