Overall satisfaction with public cleanliness remains high, but keeping Singapore clean will require collective and proactive action from Singaporeans

Increase in satisfaction with food outlets was found alongside higher social responsibility in cleaning tables after meals and consistent tray return being reported by respondents.
By the SMU Corporate Communications team

SMU presents findings from the Public Cleanliness Satisfaction Survey 2023 on Singaporeans’ attitudes towards public cleanliness in Singapore.

The Singapore Management University (SMU) undertook the sixth wave of the Public Cleanliness Satisfaction Survey (PCSS) November 2023 to January 2024, with 2,010 responses collected from Singapore residents. The survey looked at the public’s perception of cleanliness in Singapore, and was led by Professor Paulin Straughan, Professor of Sociology (Practice) and Dean of Students at SMU, and Dr Mathew Mathews, Head of Social Lab, and Principal Research Fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies.

Overall satisfaction with public cleanliness remains high, with Food Outlets showing improvements

94% were satisfied with the cleanliness of public spaces that they had recently visited, which was an increase of 2% from 2022. Across all 6 categories, food outlets (i.e. Coffeeshops, Hawker Centres, Air-conditioned Food Courts and Wet Markets) had the lowest rating, but they also showed improvements compared to the previous wave’s results in 2022. The most significant change was from Coffeeshops (+4.0% to 80%) & Hawker Centres (+4.0% to 82%), while for Air-conditioned Food Courts, it was +2% to 95% and for Wet Markets, it was +3% to 84%. This may be due to the mandatory tray and crockery return policy and enforcement against table littering which commenced in 2021. The policy could have created an environment that cultivated a norm of tray return in members of the public over time, and contributed to the improvements in public cleanliness at food outlets seen this year.

Increase in personal responsibility for the cleanliness of the environment

In this wave, fewer number of respondents think that it is the government’s role to keep Singapore clean (drop from 77% to 72%). Instead, more respondents had the belief that they themselves should be the primary party responsible for the maintenance of cleanliness in their communities. For instance, a majority of respondents (81%) indicated that they would clean up spills/wipe down the tables after their meals, with many citing social responsibility as the top reason why they do so. In turn, this could have had a positive impact on the cleanliness of food outlets in general. Taken together, these findings reinforce the importance of personal responsibility and the power of collective action on public cleanliness.

Increasing dependence on cleaners alongside a reluctance to pay more for cleaning services

Findings show that there was an increase in littering behaviours; whereby there was a decrease in the percentage of respondents who reported that they would never throw litter in public spaces (from 91% to 87%), and a decrease in respondents who disposed of their litter properly (from 76% to 72%). Although the majority of respondents agree that collective personal responsibility is important, these findings suggest that respondents are also still heavily reliant on cleaners and cleaning companies to ensure the cleanliness of their neighbourhoods. This was evidenced when respondents indicated that they felt that cleaners were inefficient, and when 94% of respondents expected cleaners to clear trash throughout the day, which was a 3% increase from 2022. When asked whether they were willing to spend more money on cleaning services however, 55% of respondents were unwilling to pay more for such services.

Collective action from stakeholders, community, individuals is needed to ensure public cleanliness remains high

Given the findings, it is clear that more needs to be done to instil a higher sense of personal responsibility for cleanliness, specifically in litter disposal, among Singaporeans. Down the road, a heavier reliance on cleaners and additional cleaning infrastructure spawns cost trade-offs to consider. Instead, increase in collective action from all stakeholders – industry partners, the community and individuals – is vital to ensuring clean places and reducing downstream cleaning efforts and costs. This should be one of the key focus areas for the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment which had recently announced 2024 as the Year of Public Hygiene, to emphasise active citizenry and strong community ownership over Singapore’s living environment.

By joining forces with various stakeholders in the community and consistently doing their part in keeping Singapore clean, Singaporeans can help maintain high standards of public cleanliness, and ensure that everyone can experience a cleaner, greener Singapore.

You can download a copy of the latest report and previous waves here:

2023 - https://ink.library.smu.edu.sg/soss_research/3940/

2022 - https://ink.library.smu.edu.sg/soss_research/3748/

2021 – https://ink.library.smu.edu.sg/soss_research/3342/

2019 - https://ink.library.smu.edu.sg/soss_research/3231/

2018 – https://ink.library.smu.edu.sg/soss_research/2855/

2017 - https://ink.library.smu.edu.sg/soss_research/2818/