One time, I was picking Kirsten up from school and as usual, I asked about her day so we were talking about this new snack she discovered at the canteen and as we walked past a trash bin, suddenly she was all, “Oh wait up, I need to throw this away!”
I thought it was her leftover snack or something but she started pulling out wads of crumpled trash remnants from her pocket. Like some torn paper and a plastic bag and a bunch of used tissues??!! I had no idea she could fit so much stuff into her tiny pinafore pocket. I was mildly appalled, like “Sweetie, why do you have all this trash in your pocket? Are you developing hoarding tendencies?? Is there something I should know about??”
“No lah! My teacher says if we see rubbish lying around on the floor in school, we should pick it up and throw it away. But I couldn’t find a rubbish bin so I put them into my pocket first.”
I’ve taught the kids about not littering, but this was something else. My 7-year-old was one-upping me on graciousness and civic mindedness because in all my life, I’ve never picked up someone else’s trash from the floor and stuffed it into my pocket for later disposal.
“Woah, well done! Although maybe you might want to find a rubbish bin immediately instead of putting it in your pocket because you don’t know what kind of germs are on the stuff you pick up. And then wash your hands ok!” I told her.
She beamed and then spent the ride home telling me about the importance of keeping Singapore clean so that we can live in a beautiful home.
This happened several weeks ago and when I heard about the Keep Singapore Clean Movement, I immediately thought of Kirsten. She would be the perfect person to teach the boys about doing our part to keep Singapore clean so I appointed her our family’s cleanliness ambassador. Her job was to teach the boys about how we can keep our home and neighbourhood free from litter.
Rule #1: Placing litter on top of the bin or next to the bin = littering.
This usually happens when the bins are full, but placing litter on top of or next to a full bin is considered littering. Instead, we should look for an empty bin nearby to bin our litter.
So the rule is that if it’s not inside the bin, it doesn’t count.
This is Kirsten teaching the boys the art of proper binning.
Rule #2: Not picking up litter that we “accidentally” drop = littering.
Yes, it’s an accident and yes, it’s extra effort to squat down and pick it back up to bin it properly but if it fell out from your pocket/person, pick it up.
“What if we don’t know that we dropped it?” Truett asked.
“I know! If other people see it, they can tell you so you can pick it up,” Kirsten volunteered.
“That’s a good point. If you see someone else drop something, you should definitely tell them about it.”
Rule #3: Leaving your unwanted items at the lift landing = littering.
If the unwanted items are too big to fit into a trash bin, there is a proper method of disposal, which I discovered when we were shifting out of our HDB flat last year. You can call up the Town Council for your estate and arrange for someone to come dispose of the furniture/appliances from your home, so instead of lugging it down to the lift landing and leaving it there, someone will come pick it up from your place and dispose of it properly.
I realised that kids are really great at doing their part when they feel like they are contributing to something important and also, learning how to be gracious and responsible while they’re young helps them to develop good habits that will last a lifetime.
They’ve started making a game out of binning trash properly, so much so that they are constantly asking me if I have anything to throw away. And this baby Theo doesn’t even ask. He’s just picking up random stuff from around the house and chucking them into the bin so these days, we have to dig through the trash for treasures before disposing of it. Once, I found $2.40 in coins, plus a remote control in the bin. While it’s still adorable, he’ll have to start learning to tell the difference between trash and non-trash items. :)