Environmental issues often have far-reaching impact on daily lives. To ensure that policies meet Singaporeans’ needs, priorities and aspirations for sustainable living, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) is working together with Singaporeans to formulate and implement meaningful solutions to environmental challenges.
In 2019, MEWR convened its first-ever Citizens’ Workgroup to look at how to improve household recycling. The objectives were manifold. MEWR wanted to carry out in-depth conversations with a diverse group of Singaporeans on an environmental problem that was important and relatable to everyone. Through the Workgroup, MEWR hoped to catalyse citizen-led initiatives that would address these issues in practical ways, aligned with the daily lived experiences of Singaporean households.
The #RecycleRight Citizens’ Workgroup Journey
The #RecycleRight Citizens’ Workgroup was convened in September 2019. To ensure that a diverse group of Singaporeans was recruited for the Workgroup, MEWR worked with the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) to conduct a public call for applications in July 2019. More than 300 people responded. Potential members were shortlisted by IPS, to ensure diversity in age, race, household type, education and recycling behaviour. A total of 48 people accepted the invitation to be part of MEWR’s first Citizens’ Workgroup.
Members of the Workgroup were given a broad problem statement: How can we improve the way households recycle?
Over the course of a month, the Workgroup met at four full-day facilitated sessions to discuss the issue, and to ideate and propose potential solutions. To support them in their work, MEWR arranged for the Workgroup members to visit a Materials Recovery Facility prior to the first session. This enabled them to observe first-hand the recycling situation in Singapore.
Members were also provided with relevant information, such as survey findings on household recycling behaviour, data on household recycling rate, Singapore’s Zero Waste Masterplan, and educational materials on recycling put out by MEWR and the National Environment Agency (NEA). MEWR also arranged for the members to meet subject matter experts from Government, private sector and civil society to tap on their views and experience. By the end of the first two sessions (on 21 and 22 September), the Workgroup had formed themselves into teams to further develop nine key ideas.
The energy, passion and commitment of the members were evident throughout the process. The teams met outside of the four sessions to conduct further research and pilot testing to explore the feasibility of their ideas. MEWR supported these efforts by connecting them to the relevant stakeholders, and providing funds for their pilot testing and prototypes.