Keep Singapore Clean campaign



The Keep Singapore Clean campaign was one of Singapore’s first national campaigns as an independent nation. Launched on 1 October 1968 by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, the month-long campaign aimed to make Singapore the cleanest and greenest city in the region by addressing the problem of inconsiderate littering. The campaign reached out to every stratum of society and sought to instil in Singaporeans the importance of keeping public places clean. It was part of a larger public cleaning plan that included changes in public-health laws, relocation and licensing of itinerant hawkers, development of proper sewage systems, and disease control. The government believed that improved environmental conditions would not only enhance the quality of life for Singaporeans and cultivate national pride, but also attract foreign investors and tourists to Singapore.1

Background
Prior to 1968, Singapore had conducted a number of similar campaigns. One of the earliest was the Keep Your City Clean campaign, an anti-littering initiative organised by the City Council in 1958. The following year, the government launched Gerakkan Pembersehan Bandar Raya Singapura, meaning “movement to clean the city of Singapore” in Malay. In his speech at the campaign’s launch on 23 November 1959, Lee said that he wanted to use the campaign as a starting point for Singapore to become one of the cleanest and healthiest cities in Asia.2

In the subsequent years leading up to the launch of the Keep Singapore Clean campaign, the government continued to conduct campaigns regularly to instil a sense of responsibility in individuals to keep Singapore clean and to encourage them to bin their rubbish.3

Inaugural edition of Keep Singapore Clean campaign
In August 1968, the government announced that a national campaign committee had been formed to run the Keep Singapore Clean campaign to be held in October that year. Headed by then Health Minister Chua Sian Chin, the committee comprised representatives from various government agencies such as the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Culture, Public Works Department and Jurong Town Corporation, as well as non-government organisations like employers’ and employees’ associations.4

The campaign opened at the Singapore Conference Hall with much fanfare. Over 1,500 community leaders attended the event. Explaining the rationale of the campaign in his opening speech on 1 October 1968, Lee stated that cleaner communities would lead to a more pleasant life and keep morale high and sickness rate low, thus creating the necessary social conditions for higher economic growth through industry and tourism. Lee noted that if Singaporeans wanted to keep their communities clean, they had to raise their personal and public standards of hygiene. He urged Singaporeans to be more conscious and thoughtful about their actions, but added that the government would not hesitate to impose penalties on litterbugs if needed.5

Campaign activities
During campaign period, mass media – the press, radio and television – was used extensively for publicity. Posters and banners in Singapore’s four official languages (English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil) were displayed in public places such as shops, restaurants, offices, factories, community centres, bus shelters and public notice boards. Mini-posters, stick-up strips, leaflets, pamphlets and car-bumper stickers were also distributed. Besides having postal items and cinema tickets bearing stamps with the campaign slogan, letters and bills in government correspondence were also rubber-stamped with the slogan “Keep Singapore Clean”.6

In addition to the distribution of collaterals, various public education activities were organised. These included talks and lectures by health officials, inspections and spot checks by government officials, as well as house visits, rallies, exhibitions and estate cleaning exercises by grassroots organisations. Competitions for the cleanest offices, shops, restaurants, markets, factories, government buildings, schools and public vehicles were also conducted. The results of these competitions were announced publicly, highlighting both the cleanest and the dirtiest. Film clips and photographs of dirty premises or people caught in the act of littering were also shown in the mass media.7

Besides the use of social pressure, the Keep Singapore Clean campaign marked the first time that fines were used as a way to control social behaviour. The police, special constabulary and public health inspectorate sent officers on patrol to advise members of the public against littering. Those who were caught littering were warned of the penalties during the campaign; once the campaign ended, first-time litter-bugs were fined up to S$500, while repeat offenders were fined up to S$2,000.8

To ensure that good habits were cultivated from a young age, children were a special target group of the campaign. Teachers and other officials were roped in to remind students not to litter.

Clean campaigns through the years
As the inaugural Keep Singapore Clean campaign had been deemed a success, the programme continued yearly. The government also introduced various environmental campaigns to supplement the main campaign.9 In the 1970s, for instance, there were campaigns such as Tree Planting, Clean Water, Use Your Hands, Keep Singapore Pollution Free and Keep Your Factory Clean. In the following decade, there were others like Keep the Toilets Clean, Please Keep My Park Clean, and Keep Our Buses and Interchanges Clean.10

In 1990, the Keep Singapore Clean campaign was merged with the Garden City campaign to form the Clean and Green Week. The new annual programme adopted a more holistic approach in generating greater community awareness and participation in caring for the environment.11

Selected clean campaigns of the past
1958: Keep Your City Clean12
1959: Gerakkan Pembersehan Bandar Raya Singapura13
1960: Operation Clean-up14
1961: Anti-cholera campaign15
1963: Keep Our State Clean16
1964: Help Keep Our City Clean17
1966: Keep Your Beach Clean18
1967: Big Sweep19
1968: Keep Singapore Clean20
1969: Keep Singapore Clean and Mosquito Free21
1970: Keep Singapore Clean and Pollution Free22
1971: Tree Planting campaign23
1973: Keep Our Water Clean24
1978: Use Your Hands25
1979: Keep Your Factory Clean26
1983: Keep the Toilet Clean27
1984: Please Keep My Park Clean28
1988: Singapore is Our Home – Let’s Keep It Clean and Beautiful29
1988: Keep Our Buses and Interchanges Clean30



Authors

Joshua Chia Yeong Jia & Lim Tin Seng



References
1. Ministry of Environment. (1997). Singapore – My clean & green home. Singapore: Ministry of the Environment, p. 63. (Call no.: RSING 354.3095957 MIN); Ministry of Environment. (1973). Towards a clean and healthy environment. Singapore: Ministry of the Environment, pp. 1, 3, 7, 18. (Call no.: RSING 614.7 SIN); Long, S. (2003, May 25). Welcome to campaign country. The Straits Times, p. 27; The public must co-operate. (1968, October 1). The Straits Times, p. 10; Teo, G. (2003, May 11). Dirty pockets still existThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. 2,000 tour city with anti-litter leaflets. (1958, October 4). The Singapore Free Press, p. 7; Long, S. (2003, May 25). Welcome to campaign country. The Straits Times, p. 27; Premier leads mass drive to clean city. (1959, November 24). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
3. Ministry of Environment. (1973). Towards a clean and healthy environment. Singapore: Ministry of the Environment, p. 58. (Call no.: RSING 614.7 SIN); Singapore launches 3-month clean-up drive. (1963, December 24). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Ministry of Health. (1968, August 23). ‘Keep Singapore Clean’ campaign, 1st to 31st October, 1968 [Press release]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; Ministry of Environment. (1973). Towards a clean and healthy environment. Singapore: Ministry of the Environment, p. 3. (Call no.: RSING 614.7 SIN); The public must co-operate. (1968, October 1). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. The public must co-operate. (1968, October 1). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ministry of Culture. (1968, October 1). Speech by the prime minister inaugurating the ‘Keep Singapore Clean’ campaign on Tuesday, 1st October, 1968. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
6. The public must co-operate. (1968, October 1). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ministry of Environment. (1973). Towards a clean and healthy environment. Singapore: Ministry of the Environment, p. 3. (Call no.: RSING 614.7 SIN); Ministry of Environment. (1997). Singapore – My clean & green home. Singapore: Ministry of the Environment, p. 63. (Call no.: RSING 354.3095957 MIN)
7. Ministry of Environment. (1973). Towards a clean and healthy environment. Singapore: Ministry of the Environment, pp. 5, 15. (Call no.: RSING 614.7 SIN); Ministry of Environment. (1997). Singapore – My clean & green home. Singapore: Ministry of the Environment, p. 63. (Call no.: RSING 354.3095957 MIN); The public must co-operate. (1968, October 1). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Ministry of Environment. (1973). Towards a clean and healthy environment. Singapore: Ministry of the Environment, pp. 5, 15–16, 21. (Call no.: RSING 614.7 SIN); Nathan, D. (1995, July 9). New approach to keep S’pore litter-freeThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Ministry of Environment. (1973). Towards a clean and healthy environment. Singapore: Ministry of the Environment, p. 15. (Call no.: RSING 614.7 SIN); Nathan, D. (1995, July 9). New approach to keep S’pore litter-free. The Straits Times, p. 3; Teo, G. (2003, May 11). Dirty pockets still exist. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ministry of Environment. (1997). Singapore – My clean & green home. Singapore: Ministry of the Environment, p. 63. (Call no.: RSING 354.3095957 MIN)
10. Dr. Goh to launch Tree Plant Day today. (1971, November 7). The Straits Times, p. 7; Prime Minister to open campaign. (1971, October 1). The Straits Times, p. 19; It means more than annual clean-up. (1978, June 12). The Straits Times, p. 8; Manufacturers call for ‘keep clean’ drive at each factory. (1979, March 19). The Straits Times, p. 8; Keep the toilets clean campaign launched. (1983, July 2). The Straits Times, p. 14; ‘Birds’ to keep park clean. (1984, April 16). The Straits Times, p. 10; SBS begins keep-clean drive today. (1988, March 14). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Ministry of Information and the Arts. (1990, November 4). Speech by Mr Goh Chok Tong, first deputy prime minister and minister for defence, at the launching of ‘Clean and Green Week... Green for Life’, at Esplanade Park on Sunday, 4 November 1990 at 10.00pm. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; Greening of S’poreans campaign to start in Nov. (1990, October 25). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. 2,000 tour city with anti-litter leaflets. (1958, October 4). The Singapore Free Press, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Premier leads mass drive to clean city. (1959, November 24). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Minister leads ‘big sweep’ in housing estate. (1960, November 7). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. ‘Keep clean’ call to hawkers. (1961, September 18). The Singapore Free Press, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Singapore launches 3-month clean-up drive. (1963, December 24). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Minister opens big drive to clean up city. (1964, January 2). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Keep beaches clean to impress tourists: Sim. (1966, March 21). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. MPs lead 1,000 in ‘keep clean’ campaign. (1967, July 30). The Sunday Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Ministry of Environment. (1973). Towards a clean and healthy environment. Singapore: Ministry of the Environment, p. 4. (Call no.: RSING 614.7 SIN); Ministry of Environment. (1997). Singapore – My clean & green home. Singapore: Ministry of the Environment, p. 22. (Call no.: RSING 354.3095957 MIN)
21. Next campaign: Keep Singapore free of mosquitoes. (1969, June 15). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ministry of Environment. (1973). Towards a clean and healthy environment. Singapore: Ministry of the Environment, pp. 11, 32. (Call no.: RSING 614.7 SIN)
22. Anti-pollution drive tomorrow. (1970, October 13). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ministry of Environment. (1973). Towards a clean and healthy environment. Singapore: Ministry of the Environment, p. 11. (Call no.: RSING 614.7 SIN); Ministry of Environment. (1997). Singapore – My clean & green home. Singapore: Ministry of the Environment, p. 63. (Call no.: RSING 354.3095957 MIN)
23. Dr. Goh to launch Tree Plant Day today. (1971, November 7). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Minister opens keep water clean campaign. (1973, June 28). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. It means more than annual clean-up. (1978, June 12). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Manufacturers call for ‘keep clean’ drive at each factory. (1979, March 19). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Keep the toilets clean campaign launched. (1983, July 2). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. ‘Birds’ to keep park clean. (1984, April 16). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Nathan, D. (1995, July 9). New approach to keep S’pore litter-free. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ministry of Environment. (1997). Singapore – My clean & green home. Singapore: Ministry of the Environment, p. 65. (Call no.: RSING 354.3095957 MIN)
30. SBS begins keep-clean drive today. (1988, March 14). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2012 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Health and medicine>>Healthy living>>Environmental health
Events>>National Campaigns
Keep Singapore Clean Campaign, 1968-1990
National campaigns
Litter (Trash)--Singapore
Environmental health--Singapore