Keep Public Toilets Clean campaigns



The Keep Public Toilets Clean campaign series was launched by the Ministry of Environment (ENV) in July 1983. Held in the same month as the National Courtesy Campaign (NCC), the public education programme was started with the aim of promoting good public toilet manners among Singaporeans.1

Background
Before the launch of the first Keep Public Toilets Clean campaign, it was reported in the press that one-third of the 10,700 public toilets in Singapore were filthy. In particular, toilets in offices, markets, hawker centres, shopping centres, restaurants and coffee shops were singled out for their poor hygiene conditions.2


Though there were signs placed in public washrooms to remind users to keep toilets clean, many lavatories were still misused by members of the public. Instances of inconsiderate washroom behavior included squatting on toilet seats (which left footprints and cracks on them), strewing of toilet paper, choking wash basins with food and urinating on floors.3 Observers felt that having dirty public toilets was a stain on Singapore’s reputation as one of the cleanest countries in the world.4 Some concerned citizens wrote in to the press suggesting the need for a campaign to help Singaporeans learn proper restroom etiquette.5

The first Keep Public Toilets Clean campaign
In response to such concerns, the ENV embarked on a two-phased approach to promote clean public toilets. In the first phase, which started in November 1982, building managements were asked to renovate, upgrade and provide regular maintenance for their public toilets. The second phase involved the launch of a month-long Keep Public Toilets Clean campaign in July 1983 to encourage Singaporeans to keep the newly refurbished public toilets clean. The campaign was publicised through the mass media as well as educational programmes in schools and community centres. Campaign posters and stickers were also placed in public toilets to remind users to keep the toilets clean.6 In addition, some 2,580 people involved in building management were given written warnings and another 127 were punished for failing to keep public toilets under their care clean.7


Campaigns through the years
In 1988, the ENV launched another campaign to promote clean public toilets. The Straits Times newspaper supported the campaign by publishing a series of articles called “Toilets of Shame”, which featured dirty public toilets throughout Singapore. The move was effective in spurring building managements to put more effort into the upkeep of their toilets.8 Preliminary results of a post-campaign survey conducted by the ministry also revealed greater acceptance by the public, building managements and cleaning contractors of the need to keep public toilets clean.9

In 1991, toilets in government offices were upgraded with sensor-operated automatic flush systems. Attention also fell on the unsatisfactory condition of public toilets that charged entrance fees (typically an amount of 10 cents).10

In 1996, the Clean Public Toilets Education Campaign was held for two months. The campaign sought to raise public awareness on good public toilet habits through activities such as an open poster design competition, as well as talks and skits for students.11

The following year, the ENV and The New Paper organised the People’s Choice Awards competition to encourage toilet owners, operators and the general public to do their part in raising the cleanliness standards of public toilets. Readers were invited to indicate their favourite toilets from a list of 187 public toilets by voting through the Clean Public Toilets hotline. The toilets selected for the competition were located in various places, including food centres, shopping centres, bus and MRT interchanges, parks, beaches and coffee shops. Some 2,000 votes were cast with the following places named as having the cleanest toilets: Market Square Restaurant at Centrepoint, Changi Airport, Clementi MRT station, Paragon Shopping Centre and Singapore Zoological Gardens.12

In 1999, the ENV held seminars on better public toilet design and maintenance for architects, engineers, interior designers and building managers as part of the Clean Public Toilet Campaign. The ministry also conducted a public toilet cleanliness survey. The results showed that some 40 percent of the 728 toilets surveyed were classified as either “excellent” or “good” in terms of cleanliness. This result was an eight percent improvement over the previous year’s findings. However, the survey also showed that toilets in markets and food centres needed more improvement.13

In 2003, the National Environment Agency (NEA) initiated the Singapore’s OK (SOK) campaign in response to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak. The campaign aimed to engage Singaporeans and businesses to maintain hygiene in public places and to practise good toilet habits so as to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.14 Some 6,200 people volunteered to help improve cleanliness and maintain hygiene standards. As a result, almost 80 percent of all public toilets were certified clean and given the “Singapore’s OK” label.15 When Singapore faced the risk of Influenza A (H1N1) in 2009, the SOK campaign was relaunched.16

Other related efforts
Restroom Association Singapore
The Restroom Association Singapore (RAS) is a non-profit organisation founded in 1998 by businessman Jack Sim.17 The RAS founded the World Toilet Organisation18 along with other toilet associations in 2001 and launched the first World Toilet Day on 19 November that same year. In addition, RAS started the Happy Toilet Programme in 2003, which is a three- to five-star rating scheme for public toilets in Singapore.19 Certified eco-assessors are appointed to check if toilets are clean and dry and whether the amenities are working properly. The programme hopes that by the end of 2013, 70 percent of the 30,000 public toilets in Singapore will meet the minimum standard of a three-star rating and be certified as a “Happy Toilet”.20

RAS is also active in schools. The association initiated the Happy Toilet School Education programme in 2005 and has since reached out to more than 200 schools. In 2008, RAS launched the Let’s Observe Ourselves (LOO) campaign, which targeted toilet owners, operators, cleaners and users.21

Public Hygiene Council
The Public Hygiene Council (PHC) was established in 2011 with the objective of encouraging good hygiene practices and improving personal and public hygiene standards in Singapore. One of the four outcomes that the council hopes to achieve is clean public toilets. The council provides a platform for the public to share and discuss hygiene issues.22

In 2012, the RAS introduced the LOO Connect feedback channel for the public to praise operators of clean toilets and criticise those who ran filthy ones. Feedback gathered through the channel indicated that the dirtiest toilets were found in coffee shops, markets, food centres, bus interchanges, food courts and MRT stations. On the other hand, toilets in government offices, hospitals, restaurants, clubs, shopping malls and places of worship were generally clean.23



Author

Joyce Y. Lim



References
1. Keep the toilets clean campaign launched. (1983, July 2). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Law, J. (1983, November 28). Time for a ‘Keep our toilets clean’ campaign. Singapore Monitor, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Keep the toilets clean campaign launched. (1983, July 2). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Law, J. (1983, November 28). Time for a ‘Keep our toilets clean’ campaign. Singapore Monitor, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Law, J. (2001, June 6). Dirty hawker centres: Customers to blame too. The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Law, J. (1983, November 28). Time for a ‘Keep our toilets clean’ campaign. Singapore Monitor, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Low, A. (1988, June 10). Let’s clean up Singapore’s shameful mess in toilets. The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Govers, P. (1978, May 18). Slogans are alright, but do something about the toilets…. The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Need for a ‘Keep Toilets Clean’ campaign. (1982, October 8). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Law, J. (1983, November 28). Time for a ‘Keep our toilets clean’ campaign. Singapore Monitor, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Law, J. (1983, November 30). Hold campaigns to keep toilets clean. The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Lee, G. W. (1983, December 20). Public toilets are cleaner now after ministry drive. Singapore Monitor, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; New code on public toilets aims to reduce damage by vandals. (1988, January 12). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Govt plans ‘clean public toilets’ drive. (1987, March 18). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Straits Times, Shin Min praised for toilet drive. (1989, March 17). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Cleaner toilets now. (1988, March 18). The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. High-tech toilets for govt offices. (1991, March 16). The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Clean-toilet campaign for public, not cleaners. (1996, August 2). The Straits Times, p. 42. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Pillai, P. (1996, October 2). Photos, stickers help keep loos clean. The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. We love these five clean toilets, say callers. (1997, November 19). The Straits Times, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Goh, D. (1999, August 12). For clean loos, have ‘better designs’. The Straits Times, p. 35. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Teo, G. (1998, September 7). Clean toilets ‘likely to remain clean’. The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Lee, H. C. & Gunasingham, A. (2009, May 2). New drive to Clean Up Singapore. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Leong, P. Y. (2003, August 28). Volunteers get coffee shops to keep toilets clean. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Lee, H. C. & Gunasingham, A. (2009, May 2). New drive to Clean Up Singapore. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Vaughan, V. (2009, May 13). Market, hawker centres at Sims Place are OK. The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Teo, G. (1998, September 11). First restroom association planned. The Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Wong-Anan, N. (2010, December 17). Squeaky-clean Singapore in toilet manners campaign. Retrieved from Reuters website: http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/12/17/us-singapore-toilet-idUSTRE6BG3MJ20101217
18. Wong-Anan, N. (2010, December 17). Squeaky-clean Singapore in toilet manners campaign. Retrieved from Reuters website: http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/12/17/us-singapore-toilet-idUSTRE6BG3MJ20101217
19. Restroom Association Singapore. (2013). Milestones. Retrieved from the Restroom Association Singapore website: http://www.toilet.org.sg/aboutus4.html
20. Ang, Y. (2008, November 20). Target: 7 in 10 public loos to be 'Happy Toilets'. The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Wong-Anan, N. (2010, December 17). Squeaky-clean Singapore in toilet manners campaign. Retrieved from Reuters website: http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/12/17/us-singapore-toilet-idUSTRE6BG3MJ20101217
21. Hee, E. (2011, April 7). All have part to play in keeping toilets clean. My Paper. Retrieved from AsiaOne website: http://www.asiaone.com/print/News/AsiaOne%2BNews/Singapore/Story/A1Story20110407-272204.html; Restroom Association Singapore. (2013). Milestones. Retrieved from the Restroom Association Singapore website: http://www.toilet.org.sg/aboutus4.html; Wong-Anan, N. (2010, December 17). Squeaky-clean Singapore in toilet manners campaign. Retrieved from Reuters website: http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/12/17/us-singapore-toilet-idUSTRE6BG3MJ20101217
22. Public Hygiene Council. (2011). About. Retrieved from the Public Hygiene Council website: http://www.publichygienecouncil.sg/about/about-public-hygiene-council
23. Fong, K. (2012, September 19). Where are the dirtiest toilets in Singapore? Retrieved from Yahoo! News Singapore website: http://sg.news.yahoo.com/where-are-the-dirty-toilets-in-singapore--.html



The information in this article is valid as at 27 June 2013 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
Keep Public Toilets Clean Campaign, Singapore, 1983-
Clean Public Toilets Education Programme
Events

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