Waste & Litter

It is undeniable that people produce waste. However, it is possible to change the quantity and manage it. According to one authoritative definition, “any substance or object the holder discards, intends to discard, or is required to discard” is “waste” under the Waste Framework Directive (European Directive 2006/12/EC).

Every environment where people live or work will produce a certain amount of waste, and schools are a good example. Most of a school’s waste is mainly made up of food, paper and packaging waste, as well as some glass, metals and plastics.

According to Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA), food waste made up about 10% of Singapore’s total waste in 2012, and about 60% of the country’s total waste is recycled. The target is a 70% waste recycling rate by 2030. More needs to be done by all sectors to achieve this.

Depending on the waste disposal system, schools can save money on disposal costs by reducing the amount of waste produced. Avoiding waste can also contribute to the reduction of our ecological footprint, since it reduces the amount of resources needed to produce unnecessary things.

Litter is closely linked to waste. In simple terms, litter refers to waste in the wrong place. That is, rather than being placed in a bin or other waste container, it is left on pavements, parks or school fields. Like graffiti and vandalism, litter is untidy and unsightly and can affect people’s view on the quality and safety of an area. Litter can also be a health hazard—food litter attracts rats and flies, which spread disease. Finally, litter can also be a threat to wildlife. Plastic garbage is often mistaken for food by marine animals and can be lethal.

The Eco-Schools Programme stresses the importance of eliminating litter on the school grounds as a first step, followed by minimising the production of waste primarily through the 3Rs:
  • Reduce: Reduce waste by changing manufacturing processes so that less material is used, or change consumer habits so that less wasted material is bought. Schools may also want to review the types of resources they buy and consider ways of cutting down.
  • Re-use: Choose goods and products that can be used again. Since waste minimisation is not likely to reduce waste output to zero, it is necessary to think about what is going to be done with the rubbish left. Re-using products or material that would otherwise become waste can provide a range of social, economic and environmental benefits.
  • Recycle/Recover: Recycling is one way every individual can help the environment every day—and it is easier to do than it has ever been. Make sure that waste is processed and made into another product wherever possible. Composting is also recycling: the nutrients in organic waste are processed and returned to the soil to help more plants to grow.
© Diego M. Garces / WWF
© Diego M. Garces / WWF