NUS Climate Action Day

Today, 6th of September 2011 was a Tuesday. A Tuesday in which dustbins went on strike. The purpose of the NUS Climate Action Day is to raise awareness in students about the use-and-throw society that we live in. They removed practically all wastebins around the school to make it inconvenient for us students to throw our waste.

Did you just bought take-away from the canteens? Or how about that plastic bag that contained your snack? You would have found it difficult to toss that today. I passed by the Central Forum where they had their event going on and noticed that they got it right at least. They had a lunch spread for the event organizing team etc… but they were using ceramic plates and steel cultlery. It probably did not come cheap, but they smartly saved themselves from being ‘self-pwned’.

I thought that it was an interesting way of raising awareness especially since they managed to announce to students about the upcoming disappearence of the dustbins through multi-media platforms such as social media, the NUS email, posters and lecture announcements. In order for a successful execution, awareness that the dustbins are going to strike when and why is needed. It would have been pointless to have many students clueless as to why the multitude of dustbins around suddenly disappeared. They also put up signage at the more heavily used bin areas directing students to the nearest ‘centralised’ dustbin. However, I felt that this should be a one-off event. Any longer, and it would inconvenience students, staff and even cleaners. Once an inconvenience sets in, littering will be resorted to. This is because the old habit of bringing your own containers to take-away hawker food (think 1960s street hawkers) has been supplanted by the convenience of take-away packaging. A long time ago when policemen wore shorts… there was no such thing as take-away packaging or plastic bags when you bought groceries. The circumstance of the lack of ‘packaging’ material made people bring their own containers.

The source of the disposable take-away containers, namely the food and drink stalls provide the convenience of take-away containers, therefore the customers who take-away their meals continue to buy their food and drink using these disposable containers. In fact, the convenience reason is so great that the 10 cent extra cost on take-away containers still has not deterred the use of such containers.

A greater but more difficult idea would be to convince the stall holders to selling food and drink using the disposable containers. Of course this would be a major inconvenience to everyone and would probably lower the business that the food and drink stalls get, since the cost of the inconvenience would cause students to resort to not buying anything instead.

Solving the problem of the use and throw mentality would not be successful if it ended here. There is the society at large that also requires education. This event was successful in my view becasue our university undergraduates are rational and understanding despite the propensity for complaint. It was easier to educate us students on our use and throw habits than to do the same for everyone else on a larger scale with more communication barriers and a larger pool of people as a whole.

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