Zerowaste is possible!

A chronicle of waste minimisation and recycling in NUS

Page 3 of 4

Lessons from NUS In house IQC Convention

Quick notes:

1. In the survey on the ground to find out why people don’t recycle correctly, it should not only be a qualitative survey but a quantitative one where we ask the interviewees the same questions and see a before and after implementation difference.

2. There should be a table of highlighting the work of various people/departments and their direct responsibilities.

3. Cost savings of project could include the reduced administrative work that comes with less contracts to handle. We can calculate a per hour manpower costing and extrapolate accordingly.
– The cost savings of our project will be even higher then.

Metal Cage/cupboards for Cardboard

Trash bins filled with cartons

Trash bins filled with cardboard

Recent years, the bulk bins near canteens are filled more frequently than the others. The major component in this bulkh bin are empty cardboard thrown by the food vendors. This lead to the introduction of a separate cage for placing cardboard. Some of the important features in this cage/cupboard are:

1. The height of the cage is large enough to collect two times the cardboard collected in trash bins.

2. The empty cardboard must be flattened before placing it in the cage. This ensures that the cage can accommodate  more number of cartons.

3. The cartons should be properly arranged with one door always closed.

4. All the posters are with Chinese translation and helpline number for the vendors to know what to do

We got the idea for such cages/ cupboard after paying a site visit to NTUC to see how they better cope with the large numbers of carton.

New Cages to contain cartons .

New Cages to contain cartons .

Metal Cupboards made to contain cardboards

Metal Cupboards made to contain cardboards

Flattening the cartons will allow us to put more.

Flattening the cartons will allow us to put more.

New Recycle Bins


old recycble bins


new recycble bins







The new recycle bins which have been recently installed in the bus stops in the Kent Ridge Campus. Some of the important changes made in the new recycle bins when compared to the old ones are

  1. The common round shape has been changed into D shape with straight sides. This is because the old round bins have the issue of not being aligned correctly and the labels on the body of the bins are not facing the users. When the bins have straight side, the recycling bins are always facing forward and facing the users. This is applying the concept of Poka Yoke mistake proofing. Instead of having to always remind the housekeeping staff to have the bins face forward, this design change removes this human error.
  2. The wordings in the new bin appear in horizontal manner with an eligible size compared to the old ones which are in vertical manner. This facilitates users to read the labels.
  3. The labelling in the bin is a printed directly with the body of the bins as compared to previously where we had to make the stickers seperately. .
  4. The new bins are longer (50 cm) and taller (100 cm) compared to the old ones.
  5. The new labels are “Clean paper, Empty Cans, Empty plastics”. More importantly, the new labels for trash bins will be “Non recyclables” instead of “trash” to encourage/ involve people to recycle.

Going all the way to the boss of Housekeeping staff

Meeting with Eexcutive Director of Weishen

Meeting with Eexcutive Director of Weishen

Despite our efforts to brief the housekeepeing supervisors in early June, we were still noticing non compliance in the standards of our recycling bins, so this time we invited the Executive Director of Weishen, Gary to drop in to reemphasis how serious we are on this issue.

Director OED Michael Ng encourages staff on reaching recycling standards!

Briefing on Recycling to OED Staff

On 26th May 2010, we were very honoured to have Director of OED, Mr Michael Ng to brief the OED staff on recycling.

For the past one year, myself from OES and Wini, Supari and Edi of OED have been running ahead with recycling, just implementing. It was time to stop, brief the rest of the team and get more buy in.

Hence this time, we got the Zone Property Managers and their deputies managers in as well. As usual, we had the Estate maintenance (EM)Trade leaders, and most importantly we had Noordin from Retail and Dining.

A year ago, we started thinking we only need to manage the housekeepers of the EM but that was not true. Recycling bins in canteens belonged to the Retail and Dining, recycling bins at busstops were under the charge of Landscape instead. And if you include housekeepers managed by Office of Housing Services and those by halls, there will be 5-6 entities altogether. Complicated for big organisation to get simple thing like recycling done.

So in this case, Director Michael briefed the OED staff that handles the EM housekeepers and landscapers.

First, he shared the target by NEA on us due to our success in 3R funds and reminded everyone on the standards expected for our bulk bins and recycling bins.

Now with Property Managers also in the loop, I am sure there will be more eyes to help us maintain the standards!

It was also noted we have a lot to learn from the Safety Team in OED to create buy in.

Keep moving!!!

YIH Follow up check outs

Check out by Dr Peck on 5th May 2010

YIH Checkout by Dr Peck
Same check out by Dr Peck on 8th May 2010

Check out by Marcus Tay on 130510
YIH check out on 130510

As you can see in the photos, the situation seems to get worse and worse as the days past since our last walkabout.

Together with another checkout of the Science Bin centre, it seems that Spoke and Hub is almost a complete failure.

We have achieved:
1. Recycling of cartons from canteens = get into NUS data, that previously may have ended up in any rag and bone or in the trash
2. Increase recycling of vegetable metal oil cans and plastic bottles for sauces which definitely have ended up in the trash previously.


The housekeepers or whoever are still not collecting the plastic and cans from the recycling bins and throwing them into the bulk bins for recycling.

They are either being thrown away as trash or sold on their own.

Next thing to work on: people motivation.

Hubs walkabout on March 24th

On March 24th, we went to check out the following hubs to better address issues of:
– cartons are not flatten
– cans and plastics are not recycled

Sites visited:
– Engineering Canteen
– YIH Canteen
– Engineering workshop
– Staff Club Bin Centre

Engine Canteen
The purpose is also to bring together housekeeping supervisors, canteen vendors so that personnel under Retail and Dining, Estate Maintainence can meet face to face to solve issues. We also very lucky to have Mr Ismail from Veolia to join us as well and give us their inputs

Engine Canteen workabout

Despite the cartons looking well packed for this visit:
Well stacked cartons at Engineering

We understand that this is not the norm.

Cans and Plastic recycling bulk bin in Engn

There are still rubbish inside the plastic and cans recycling bulk bins.

– Try out Metal Cabinet to replace bulk bins. The hope is that being higher in height, we can fit more cartons. It is also because bulk bins are tapering in shape, hence not so suitable for cartons. Engineering Canteen Height: 2.3m, so the metal cabinet height can only be about 1.8m

– After we get the new equipment in, we need to put up all the posters about only using Veolia as ONLY recycler. According to canteen vendors, there are other recyclers who come and empty the cans.
– After the equipment and posters, we will gather all stakeholders : Canteen, MacDonald, Housekeepers. No one is to claim anymore that they are not aware that recyclables should be properly collected and be picked up by Veolia.
– We also need to explore if Veolia can pick up only in the afternoon where the cartons have culminated. This is probably not possible cause Veolia have to go other places to collect in the morning.

YIH Canteen:

Dr Peck in talk with YIH Canteen Owner Tracey

We still see trash in the organic food waste bin.
Approach has to be similar to Engin canteen – all equipment ready, poster up, then get all vendors so that they stop finger pointing at each other.

Possible location for sercurity camera at YIH

We have also identified a possible location for the sercurity camera, though I feel this is a very heavy investment just to prevent illegal dumping as well as improper disposal of recyclables

Summary improvement:

1. YIH needs lots of Chinese labels cause lots of chinese workers

2. Stakeholders – OSA, Munchie Monkey, COOP, Post office, Cheers, Subway, Old Chang Kee,

3. 2 more yellow bulk bins for cans and plastics due to yellow vegetable cans.

Staff Club
Site location for drain cover to create space for another bulk bin

Another location to install drain cover so that we can have  a bulk bin there

Another location to install drain cover so that we can have a bulk bin there

Staff Club decisions:
– need to fix up the drains and set up the bulk bins.
– then gather all the stakeholders – Staff Club, Great Wall of China Cafe

PGP walkabout

A combined survey was done by PGP housing service, SAVE and OES on 14th January 2010 to inspect the various recycling bins that have been placed in Prince George’s Park Residences.

Some of the important observations have been summarised below:

1. At a number of bin points, the trash bins were not present alongwith the recycling bins. This increases the probability of contamination in recycling bins as the users do not have the trash bin to thrown the non-recyclable items.

Residence 6 bin point

Residence 6 bin point

The R6 bin point had all three types of recycling bins however the trash bin was not present.

Residence 1 bin point

Residence 1 bin point

The R1 recycling bins were put together but the trash bin was at some distance.
GSA bin point

GSA bin point

The GSA bin point had the two recycling bins only.

Air-con canteen

Air-con canteen

Air-con canteen

The recycling bins were placed at different places in the air-con canteen and the trash bins were not placed with them.

2. Some bins were not properly labelled.

Residence 5 paper bin

Residence 5 paper bin

Residence 6 paper bin

Residence 6 paper bin

After the visit, two slits were opened on the upper cover to facilitate the easy drop of paper into the bin.


1. Make sure that the trash bins are provided with the recycling bins.

2. Slits can be made in all the existing and future larger blue bins.

3. All the lounges in PGP should have the yellow can recycling bins as per the suggestions of PGP officials and RA.

By March 6th 2010
recycling bins and trash bins are already placed together . Slits have also been made in the blue paper recycling bins.

– The only tasks outstanding are the new bins from OES as well as all labelling work by SAVE

Recycling Collection Centres Walkabout

This is a walkabout to identify the current problems/issues of the recycling collection centres. It was done by OES intern Shriyanka
This is to serve as a resource to continue to check and update the work of the housekeeping stuff.

21 Heng Mui Keng

21 HENG MUI KENG: There are 4 green bulk bins out of which 2 are supposed to be 2 general waste bins and 1 bin each for paper and carton. The signage for paper and carton are not clearly seen hence that might cause the under-utilisation of the paper/carton bins.

Tasks: Replace with proper blue bulk bins and remind housekeeping staff again.





BUSINESS CANTEEN (CARPARK 11): There is an extra organic waste bin and the paper bin has been placed such that it is inaccessible for maximum usage.

Identify if the Organic waste bulk bin is in use?
Is there a need for the paper bulk bin that is currently being hidden? Seems that only carton is collected and paper is still not being collected by the housekeepers. A possibility that paper meant for recycling are not being collected from the recycling points.




ARTS CANTEEN: The general waste bin is not seen here. One of the green bulk bins is being used as a cardboard recycling bin.

Tasks: Replace with proper blue bulk bins for paper/carton recycling bulk bins




CENTRAL LIBRARY: Neatly arranged. Proper signages present on the bulk bins for paper and cardboard bin however, paper and cardboard have been found to be mixed in the bulk bins.

Tasks: Similar, replace with proper blue bulk bins.





ENGINEERING CANTEEN: No excess carton/paper placed around the bins. However, no paper recycling bins were found. Only 3 carton recycling bulk bins were placed.

Tasks: NO PAPER recycling bulk bin!! Add paper recycling bulk bin and replace carton with proper blue bulk bin as well



EW1 Workshop: 4 green bulk bins are being used for the purpose of paper and cardboard collection and there is scope for mingling of both.

Tasks: We should actually consider different shades for blue for carton and paper? Not a pertinent issue but still good to solve



KENT RIDGE HALL: Only the general waste bins were found. Smaller paper recycling bins(capacity = 330 litres) are placed in different parts of the hall. However, the yellow bin was missing.

Tasks: Where is the yellow bulk bin?!




MD11: The photographs clearly show the contamination of different forms of recyclables. The yellow bin is containing paper waste and so does the general waste bin. It has been noticed that this area has a large amount of paper/carton waste and the number of recycling bins may be inadequate.

Tasks: Need more blue bulk bins!!!


PRINCE GEORGE’S PARK RESIDENCES: Inadequate provision for carton recycling bins is apparent. Therefore, cartons have been dumped into paper and aluminium/plastic recycling bins.

Tasks: Again, more blue bulk bin? There was one green bulk bin previously for carton actually.





S4A: Excess general waste has been noticed however not much paper/carton separation is noticed. There were carton recycling bin and the yellow bin for aluminium cans and plastic bottles. However, there was no paper recycling bin.

Tasks: No PAPER recycling bulk bin again. Properly removed to go to Dentistry block. Wasted efforts in previous labelling.

Again, may suggest that paper recycling is not done. Only carton recycling.





SCIENCE CANTEEN: No contamination in organic waste bins is noticed. However, the paper and carton items are found in all other recycling bins, including the yellow bins.  Another observation shows that boxes of all materials are being confused with carton and are dumped into the recycling bins. The last pic shows a plastic box dumped with the cartons.

Tasks: Again, we need proper blue bulk bins to better encourage housekeepers not to throw rubbish into the paper recycling bulk bins



SHAW FOUNDATION ALUMNI HOUSE: 3 green bins are being used for collection of general waste, paper and plastic/aluminium cans, however they are neatly labelled and separated to avoid any confusion. The amount of carton waste has been noticed to be exceeding the bin capacities, therefore some cartons have been dumped into the plastic/aluminium recycling bin.

Tasks: Offer Shaw Foundation Alumni house proper coloured bulk bins and offer them an additional paper/ carton bulk bin?


STAFF CLUB: All 3 types of recycling bins are placed at a distance from the bin centre and the cardboard bin needs to be labelled. These bins appear to be under-utilised.

Tasks: Need to check with housekeeping staff if such bins are used.



TEMASEK LAB: The photograph and feedback from passers-by are clear indication that there is a need for general waste bins. There was a green bin which is being used as general waste bin. No cardboard recycling bin was found. In spite of lack of bins, the cartons or general waste have not been dumped into the recycling bins.

Tasks: Great job by housekeeping staff not to throw waste into the recycling bulk bins!!

OED should consider creating a new trash collection point here. Need to talk to Ishak.



UNIVERSITY HALL: There are 3 green bins out of which 2 have been clearly labelled as paper bins. However, carton waste is more prominent than paper waste and no bin has been labelled as carton bin.

Tasks: Just replace with proper blue bulk bins. Under- utilized.




YUSOF ISHAK HOUSE: All the bins are placed neatly with clear labels and the contamination level was not noticeable.

Tasks: Seemed to have improved drastically since the last highlight to Retail and Dining. YEAH!




YST CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC: 2 general waste bins are placed at the bin centre however another bin was placed at a distance away from there. There was a bin for cardboard but no bin for paper collection.

Tasks: Need to replace with proper blue bulk bin again. Need to check if there is room or space for blue bulk bin for paper.

Recent studies of FoE Recycling bins

 A group of students from GEK1052 Community Service and Social Action did a study on the contamination of recycling bins in FoE and sort to tackle the it.

Here are some of their main findings:

Common contaminants

– For Plastic Bottle recycling bins located near the vending machines, paper cups were the main contaminant found. This could indicate that users may wish to recycle, however paper cup recycling is not accepted hence they throw their used cups into the plastic bottle bins instead.

– Plastic Drink Cups were also commonly found.

After checking with Mr Ismail of our new recycling vendor Veolia, we can recycle both the paper cups as well as the plastic drink cups. However the paper cups should not be thrown in paper recycling bin because it will contaminate the other better grades of paper.

So the next improvement that we will be doing is to have paper cups and plastic drink cups to be collected in plastic recycling bins.


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