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High Rise Flat Littering of Cigarette Butts

Singapore has been known as the “Garden City” for being a clean and environmental-friendly country. You can see trees and plants almost everywhere.

Are Singaporeans really so concern about the environment?

The government has done great work in order to earn the title. Many foreign workers are actually employed to clean up all the neighbourhoods. Late at night or in the early morning, you can get to see them walking around and collecting all the junks from the dustbins.

What are the most commonly found litters on the ground? Other than the “gold” from human's nostrils, it is cigarette butt.

Have you ever dropped a litter on the floor when you think nobody is watching because the nearest dustbin is a few metres away? This is rare inside a shopping centre because of the crowds and the clean place is too tidy to be unnoticed. However, on the streets, some people have been causally dumping their litters, especially when there is grass or bushes nearby, or, even a drain. Often, you may not get to see them because our cleaners are really quick in their reactions.

Another easy way to dispose litter is through the windows of the house. High rise littering is a serious offence and it may lead to confiscating of the owner's HDB flat unit. There are cases of people being hit and injured from falling objects, known as killer litter, but it seems that some smokers understand that cigarette butts are too tiny to be noticed when being thrown out of the flat, and it is almost impossible to cause big damage to the heads of the passers-by. Little do this group of ugly smokers know that Mother Nature provides us a natural booster of life – the wind – and the cigarette butts can be blown into the units below theirs. Lighted cigarette butts are fire hazards.

Smoking is a bad habit, which is adopted by people of all walks of life. Though only a smaller percentage of the Singapore citizens smoke, every of us would have at least a close friend who is addicted. We can conclude that not all smokers are bad people. However, there are many inconsiderate smokers who have led the public to a wrong prejudgement of all smokers. In every second, there will probably be at least one person cursing smokers in the world for their inconsiderate acts.

Will you help to encourage smokers to at least dispose the cigarette butts in proper places?

In Singapore, although the Tanjong Pagar district is ruled directly by the “father of Singapore”, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and the district is reasonably well maintained, it seems that some of the residents are not appreciating the cleanliness.

A complaint email was sent to the National Environment Agency (NEA) of Singapore and the Tanjong Pagar Town Council regarding high rise littering of cigarette butts on Sunday 13 June, 2010, by a resident who had been badly affected by the inconsiderate dumping of cigarette butts by his neighbour staying above his. During the next morning, on the first working day of the week, both the organizations had responded.

Cigarette butt found on the ground of block 4 Tanjong Pagar Plaza Singapore The town council had sent people to the flat to advice residents not to commit the offence at around noon. The letter sent by the Tanjong Pagar Town Council to the residents was written in a friendly tone and their ambassadors were very friendly-looking elderly.

Though the detail of the surveillance operation done by NEA was not described, it was a quick attempt. The culprit was believed to be doing it in the early morning for the smell of cigarette smoke usually surfaced at weird hours like 2am. It would be really amazing if the NEA officers had conducted the operation at such hour, moreover, dumping of the tiny cigarette butts in the darkness was difficult to be seen.

It was in fact a desperate attempt to raise awareness of the problem of the cigarette butts littering issue, knowing that the problem could never be solved because the ugliness of human beings was difficult to be purified.

A couple of week after the email was sent, a monitoring of the ground on the third storey where all the flats were linked together was done. Cigarette butts could be seen on the ground on both blocks of flat that had been randomly picked. It was obvious that the cigarette butts were being dumped through the back windows of the flats.
Cigarette butt found on the ground of block 3 Tanjong Pagar Plaza Singapore
Will true Singaporeans care and do something to help keeping the city clean?

Email from Resident

Sunday, 13 June, 2010

Dear Sir/Mdm,

I'm a resident of ***.

I have noticed since a few years ago, there are cigarette butts found on top of my air-conditioner compressor and nearby (at the back room) every now and then. Every late night, there will be smell of smoke coming in through the bedroom's windows as well. There was once which I found cigarette butts inside my flat near the same windows but luckily it did not land on any flammable item.

Please find in attachment, the picture of a cigarette butt caught right outside my windows taken on Friday, 11 June, 2010.
Cigarette butt found near the windows of a high rise HDB flat in Singapore

To summarize:
  • I believe it is illegal to dump any item, regardless of size, out of HDB windows.
  • The cigarette butts can cause fire easily once they get into my house.
  • The unknown smoker usually lights his or her cigarette after midnight and it poses great danger to my family and I if our flat catches fire while we are in our deep sleep.
  • The cigarette butts may also scald my family and I if we happen to be near the windows.
  • My mum gets very worried whenever the windows are opened and I believe the cigarette butts have been affecting her mental health greatly.
  • The cigarette butts may damage my air-conditioner system.
  • The cigarette butts landing on the ground would greatly tarnish Singapore's reputation being a clean island, especially when there are many foreigners staying around my neighbourhood.
Please kindly investigate and help to resolve this serious issue as it can be life-threatening to my family and the owners of the units below (and above?) my flat.

Thanks and Regards,

Reply from Tanjong Pagar Town Council

Monday, 14 June, 2010

Dear Mr *,

Thank you for your feedback.

We shall proceed to carry out a door-to-door visit, to advise the suspected above residents, to discourage their bad habits of discarding cigeratte butts out from the window.

We do agree that smoking is also harmful to our health and also to the neighbouring affected parties and it also hazardous as a result from the unfinished butts which could easily resulted in fire and burning issues.

Please be reassure that we shall gain our every best effort in getting the massage "Do not throw butts" across to the suspected residents units.

We do also hope that thru our advising efforts can the residents be awakened from their conscience to refrain from such bad habits/practise.

Thank you for your understanding.

Mr Hui(SPO)
Tanjong Pagar Town Council
Did:64119 419

Reply from National Environment Agency (NEA), Singapore

Monday, 14 June, 2010

Dear Mr *

Thank you for the feedback dated 13 June 2010 with regards to the above-mentioned subject.

2. Upon the receipt of your feedback, we have carried out a surveillance operation at the implicated block. However, no high rise littering was observed during our operation.

3. As the area is under the purview of Tanjong Pagar Town Council (TPTC), we had informed TC Officer Mr Tang Yew Beng (Tel No: 64119440) to monitor the situation and we will assist in the summary action where necessary.

4. Thank you for your feedback. Please contact the undersigned between 1430hrs and 1630hrs if we can be of further assistance.

Thanks and regards

Affendi Mohd Atan. Environmental Health Executive. Central Regional Office. National Environment Agency. DID +65 6854 6447. Fax +65 6273 9641

Letter from Town Council to Residents (English version)

Monday, 14 June, 2010

Dear Residents,

We have received complaints that some smokers had been throwing cigarette butts from high rise units of this block.

Please note that lighted cigarette butts can cause fire hazard and injured any passerby below and it is an offence of high rise littering.

Therefore we hope that smokers should refrain throwing cigarette butts from high rise and help us to keep your estate clean.

Thank you for your co-operation.


You may also be interested in:
- Singapore's National Environment Agency Responded Fast to Feedback
- Ways for Governments to Help Their Citizens to Quit Smoking
- Smoking in Corridor

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