Living in Asia means different standards. Singapore is definitely the easiest city you can find in the Asian land to arrive and discover this part of the world. Yes Singapore is as clean as the legend says and yes it is true that you cannot buy chewing gum, but no one will bother you if you do chew it, as long as you don’t throw it on the ground!! So please when you come and visit me, bring me a stock of chewing gum.
Anyway! The city is so clean that you instinctively want to participate in keeping it this way. The first few weeks I was trying to figure out what they do with garbage. After three weeks, I had not yet seen a garbage truck or a garbage bag. It became something I needed to uncover, WHERE DO THEY PUT THE GARBAGE? How could I be in a city of 4.8 million peoples and never see a green bag in a back alley, even in the middle of the night? I imagined a major underground system that everyone is connected to, even restaurants. I thought of a sophisticated belt carrier system that brings garbage out of the city without human intervention. It would have not been a surprise since everything in Singapore is the latest high-tech system, that allows the government to give you tickets and to control speed, trouble in the city and any other daily activities that is going on. you give your passport number and your visa number for absolutly everything you hire or purchase. It is a fascinating high-tech city. No need to open doors in most places, the water faucet or the toilet will also run and flush on their own almost everywhere and rarely will you need to physically touch something. This amazing modern city has embraced technology at warp speed when SARS happened and people became freaked about germs. You never see a police car on the streets or highways (I saw one in two months), no need because cameras and scanners monitor absolutely everything. When a cab driver speeds up, he gets a call to be told it is not acceptable!!!
But really, what do they do with those ugly garbage bags that are placed on the streets, in piles, everywhere else on the planet? After all, the city is so clean that they must have a garbage bin somewhere? After 2 months, I saw twice a garbage truck at my condominium complex (which is so clean that I think they repaint it every day). They come early in the morning before most humans get up (they all get up at 7:00am with the sun). Garbage bags are hidden in the basements in containers (everywhere in the city) and they only come out for few minutes to get into the truck (helped by the flashy lime green little workers, usually imported from Malaysia and India). This is the moment where the garbage bags start their journey to a remote mysterious island between Indonesia and Singapore. Their second life will be to serve as ground for the reclaimed land that Singapore keeps on needing to expand. Indonesians and Malaysians feel that Singapore is getting closer and closer to them and they do not really appreciate it. So, no matter where you are in the world, someone loves to hate their neighbours, particularly when they are successful and clean to a point where they manage their garbage to be your backyard!
From my office, on the 36th floor of the Fuji Xerox towers, I see Indonesia like you can see the south shore from the island of Montreal. I see tons of islands and at least 1000 ships a day parked in sea waiting to unload or pick-up their container cargos. I know that one of those islands is a garbage paradise island, where bags tan under the hot sun. Which island serves the purpose is still a mystery to me, but I know for sure that within the next 5 years, Singapore will have grown to reach this island and a beautiful human paradise island will immerge from it! This is the only recycling being done here. The government teaches you how to recycle, but have no programs in place to do it. Probably because people would not support the scenery of the blue bins, full of garbage, on the beautiful streets of Singapore.
As last garbage thought to leave you with, now think for a moment of what ships do when they are parked for a while in the bay! Then ask me if I would swim in the water!