Can we sustain living sustainably?

By August 7, 2019 September 11th, 2019 Research Publications

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

This alliteration is synonymous with our formative years. Since young, we have been taught how to lead environmentally friendly lives through national campaigns in primary school. Who can forget Captain Green of Clean & Green Week?

The push for environmental advocacy and sustainable living now takes place on social media. Videos and photos of animals and their natural habitats being harmed by non-biodegradable waste are sparking movements across the globe.

How then, do Singaporeans respond to this call to action? To understand Singaporeans’ attitudes towards recycling and sustainable living, Black Dot Research conducted a survey with our panel of respondents to find out more.

Adopting a sustainable way of life

The survey, which drew 100 responses, found that Singaporeans in general are proactive in adopting steps towards a more sustainable way of living. 75% indicated that they reduce food wastage by purchasing or cooking only the amount required. They also conscientiously buy energy-efficient appliances (68%) and opt for online bills and letters (61%).

However, it seems less common for people to share with others on the benefits of sustainable living with about a quarter of respondents (26%) willing to do so.

Singaporeans are avid users of plastic bags. Our survey revealed that 82% of respondents use between one to ten plastic bags per week. In a 2018 study conducted by Singapore Environment Council, shoppers in Singapore were found to have taken a staggering 820 million plastic bags from supermarkets each year. To put it in perspective, 820 million plastic bags can cover 126 times the land size of Gardens by the Bay!

At the same time, people are also trying to go green by relying less on plastic bags for grocery shopping. Alternatives such as bulk stores and eco-friendly grocery bags provide people with the option of reducing their plastic waste. 60% of our respondents bring their own grocery bags to the store while 14% head to zero-waste or bulk stores where they can bring their own container for dry groceries.

Awareness on recyclable items

One will never fail to notice the ubiquitous blue recycling bins placed all around housing estates in Singapore as part of the National Recycling Programme launched in April 2001 by the National Environment Agency. When asked to identify the items allowed in the blue recycling bins, there appears to be ambiguity amongst our respondents. In general, there was high consensus on what can be recycled in the blue bins – newspapers, books and magazines (82%), cardboard boxes (69%), plastic bottles (69%) and metal cans (62%).

Less than a third, however, chose items that are supposed to be discarded instead of recycled – plastic drinking straws (27%), used paper cups (27%), used plastic cutlery (24%) and Styrofoam boxes (20%). More education might be necessary to increase awareness on what can and cannot be allowed in the blue recycling bins.

The way forward

So, what can be done to further promote the sustainable way of life? We asked for our respondents’ views, and 34% felt that incentives for such practices will be a key motivator. A further 21% preferred national campaigns to drive the society towards sustainability. Despite a more social media savvy public, a low 5% voted for influencer campaigns as a means of outreach.

The journey towards sustainable living is multi-pronged. It takes the joint efforts of not only individuals, but enterprises, educational institutions and the government alike. Only then can we set in place a good value system that can see us through the foreseeable future. Share your thoughts with us. Drop us a note at

This Black Dot Research study was reported on TODAYonline on 8 August 2019. Read about it here.

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