Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Committee of Supply Debate – Waste Management [Speech]
20. Now, I will like to move on to update on our waste management strategies and measures. Singapore has limited land, yet we are producing waste at a significant rate. Last year, we generated about 7.5 million tonnes of waste, which is 50% more than ten years ago. If this trend continues, Semakau Landfill will run out of space in 20 yearsâ€™ time. Many of us would still be around to see that day if this happens.
21. Last year, we announced plans, as part of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprintto work towards becoming a â€˜Zero Waste Nationâ€™. By reducing consumption, and reusing and recycling as much waste as possible, we can conserve resources and free up space that would otherwise have been used for landfills. The Government will work with the community and businesses to make this our way of life.
22. We must also continue to ensure that waste collection, disposal and treatment methods are safe and sanitary.
23. Mr Charles Chong has talked about e-waste. Electronic and electrical products are becoming more and more ubiquitous. As they contain harmful substances, such as heavy metals, the improper disposal of electronic waste can affect public health. (For example, the cadmium which can be found in rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries can accumulate in the human body upon exposure and cause lung and kidney damage in the long term.)
24. To maintain a safe living environment for future generations, we are considering upstream controls by restricting the use of hazardous substances in certain electrical and electronic equipment. Importers and manufacturers will be required to comply with these restrictions. These controls will reduce the amount of hazardous substances getting into our waste stream and eventually entering Semakau Landfill. This will also improve the potential of recycling incineration ash which NEA is exploring.
25. We will make it easier for everyone to safely recycle their e-waste. As you can see in the picture, we have the support of the industry stakeholders such as StarHub, DHL Express and TES-AMM. They are providing e-waste bins across the island for the convenience of members of the public. NEA will form a national voluntary e-waste recycling partnership programme. This will bring together stakeholders from the entire value chain, from producers to retailers to recyclers, to raise awareness and to provide better recycling infrastructure. I welcome companies and organisations joining this new partnership as we work towards its launch later this year.
26. For the longer term, we will be studying options for a regulated system for treating and recycling electrical and electronic waste.
27. Mr Seah Kian Peng and Mr Yeo Guat Kwang mentioned food waste. Food waste has increased by almost 50% over the past 10 years, and currently makes up about 10% of the waste we generate. As with electronic waste, food waste poses resource and environmental health concerns. Reducing food content in our general waste stream will help reduce smell and pest concerns. Upstream food waste segregation will also reduce contamination and enable greater recovery of other recyclable materials like plastic containers and cardboard cartons.
28. One effective way to manage food waste is to avoid creating it in the first place. Consuming only what we need also makes us more resilient against food security risks. In September 2014, NEA and AVA commissioned a survey on consumer attitudes and behaviour regarding food waste. We will study the findings when it is ready, to formulate strategies to cut food waste. NEA and AVA are also working with the industry to develop good practice guides for food manufacturing and retailing.
29. We can also improve our management and recycling of food waste. Companies who wish to invest in technology to improve their food waste management can consider tapping on our existing funding schemes such as NEAâ€™s 3R Fund. Only 13% of all food waste is recycled today. NEA will conduct food waste recycling pilots at two hawker centres to raise recycling rates, and to try out different onsite recycling models. A district-level pilot will also be conducted at Clementi, where food waste collected from multiple premises will be sent to a centralised recycling facility for anaerobic co-digestion.
30. Besides e-waste and food waste, we will also be enhancing one of our long-standing programmes – the voluntary Singapore Packaging Agreement (SPA) to reduce packaging waste. The SPA has been successful, currently having more than 160 signatories which have cumulatively reduced about 20,000 tonnes of packaging waste and saved more than $44 million in material costs of locally-consumed products.
31. We will be extending the SPA to 2020 to continue the good progress we have made. The extended SPA will contain new initiatives, such as a database to allow producers to benchmark and realise the potential of reducing their packaging. We will also be introducing a logo to identify products with reduced packaging so that consumers can make informed choices.
32. Finally, we want to help each of us recycle more at home. The domestic recycling rate in 2013 was around 20%. Much more can be done to reach our goal of 30% in 2030. To achieve this, the â€˜last mile connectionâ€™ for residents will be crucial. All HDB estates now have one recycling bin per block. To make recycling even more convenient, since 2014, all new HDB blocks have been designed with centralised chutes for recyclables on every floor.
33. I am glad that Ms Rita Soh supports this and had suggested during the Budget Debate that we extend centralised chutes for recyclables to private estates and embrace the use of Pneumatic Waste Conveyance Systems. We agree that we should move in this direction, and will consult the industry further on this. In some residential developments such as Parc Emily and One Shenton by City Developments Limited (CDL), such facilities are already voluntarily incorporated. We want more developments to go this way, and do more to encourage their residents to recycle.
34. Mr Pritam Singh suggested replacing single-use plastic bags with biodegradable ones. Indeed, there are some countries such as France and Italy that strongly encourage the use of biodegradable plastic bags because their waste is landfilled and the plastic bags would remain in the landfill for many decades. However, we do not share this concern in Singapore as our plastic bags are incinerated safely and not landfilled. Nonetheless, we still encourage shoppers to reduce excessive use of plastic bags and to use reusable bags as much as possible.