Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Recycling Transition

Having not much sleep last night, I am driven by adrenaline and feeling industrious. Today was collection day for my estate under the national recycling program. However, no plastic bags were distributed and neither were the recyclables collected.

As such, I began my usual phone call to Alvatar who has been our contractor for the last year. However, I was informed that the estate's contract has been taken over by Colex. They gave me the NEA call center hotline to make my enquiry.

Calling NEA's call center was pretty much useless since they couldn't give me any answers so I demanded for NEA's recycling department's phone number. A receptionist machik picked up the phone who then told me to call a Mr Chong. Mr Chong then directed me to a Mr Alvin Tan, in charge of the Jurong area.

Mr Tan then informed me that Colex began their contract on 1 April and gave me Colex's number. Colex informed me that because they took over from Alvatar, dates will be changed and collection schemes different, etc. So for the last few years, it has always been alternate wednesdays and years of habit forming goes down the drain overnight. Then I accepted the fact they will call me back and let me know when our recyclables will be collected as I felt helpless in knowing nothing will come out of venting my anger at the receptionist on the phone.

Thinking back, I really should have feedback to Mr Tan that in an estate with mostly old people in charge of taking out the recyclables for collection, a change of contractors and a total overhaul of dates for collection will result in the lost of many faithful recyclers. Many would not have made a million phone call like me but simply assume that the program has stopped or the contractor being useless and gave up. That's what my dad immediately assumed anyways. This is undermining the effectiveness of the program and we are back to square one. No notice was sent out in advance to advise of the change. In fact, 5 days after the changeover of contractors and STILL they are NOT aware of their new collection schedule. This is extremely ineffective.

No plastic bags. No notices. Nobody coming to collect the bags of recyclables people put out early in the day. What would residents think but the worst?

Now, if a new date was set, how many would actually notice. Many has already been so used to the alternate wednesdays system that nobody actually look at the dates on the bags. In fact, Alvatar often gave bags with the incorrect date reflected. Sometimes we use outdated bags to hold the extra recyclables. All of these can only be done because there is a consistent system in place.

All that of course is now down the drain.

How is NEA to build up a recycling culture in our country when it doesn't create the infrastructure or prepare for even something as important as a smooth transition between contractors? Humans are but creatures of habit. That is the first rule that the contractors and NEA has to understand and work to their advantage. Sadly, this was not done. If every 2 years there is a change of contractor with similar ineffective transition, then a consistent recycling habit and performance in Singapore's heartland will never been achieved!

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