What is Zero Waste?
Zero Waste is a concept that challenges the old way of thinking about waste as something that has no value and to be thrown away.
According to the Zero Waste Alliance:
“Zero Waste: The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.”
Nature is the best Zero Waste model. There is no waste in nature and by-products produced become resources for others or are assimilated harmlessly back to the surroundings.
The Zero Waste Hierarchy
The Zero Waste hierarchy refers to the following options for managing waste:
Why Zero Waste?
Zero Waste helps to conserve, reduce pollution, create jobs in waste management, reduce waste costs, increase the lifespan of our Semakau Landfill and incineration plants, and mitigate climate change.
“Zero Waste is an extraordinary concept that can lead societies, businesses, and cities to innovative breakthroughs that can save the environment, lives, and money. Through the lens of Zero Waste, an entirely new relationship between humans and systems is envisaged, the only one that can create more security and well-being for people while reducing dramatically our impact upon planet earth. The excitement is on two levels: it provides a broad and far-reaching vision, and yet it is practical and applicable today.”
– Paul Hawken, environmentalist and author (from the publication, The End of Waste, by the Zero Waste New Zealand Trust)
Can We Achieve Zero Waste?
Zero is the goal but it is important not to be over-focused on the word ‘zero’. What matters is the concept behind Zero Waste. The road to Zero Waste is a long journey and it requires the efforts of individuals, communities, organisations, businesses and the government, working closely together towards Zero Waste. We invite all Singaporeans to support the vision of a Zero Waste Singapore. Yes We Can.
About the 3Rs
You can take action by practising the 3Rs in your daily lives – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle (in order of sequence). The sequence is important, as source reduction is usually the best way to minimise waste while recycling still has some impact on the environment and should be done last.
1. Reduce by eliminating or minimising the waste in the beginning.
2. Reuse by using the waste several times in its original form or for another purpose.
3. Recycle by sending the waste to be processed as a resource for new products.
For example, let us take a look at a plastic bottle of mineral water. Reduce by not buying the plastic bottle and drink from the tap or use your own reusable bottle instead. But if you really have to buy the bottle of water, then reuse it after drinking the water. Reuse the plastic bottle as your water bottle for refilling, use it as a flower vase, use it for storing other liquids, or use it to make art decorative items.
After reusing the plastic bottle for some time and when it becomes dirty or damaged, do not throw it away in the rubbish bin. Recycle the plastic bottle by depositing it into the recycling bag or bin under the recycling programme. The bottle will be collected and processed into plastic pellets that are used as feedstock for making new plastic bottles and products.
You can take action now towards Zero Waste by Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Just follow our tips and resources found in the Reduce, Reuse and Recycle categories.
Our Waste Challenge
Waste Management in Singapore
The public waste collection in Singapore is divided into 6 sectors managed by four licensed Public Waste Collectors (PWCs) as shown below.
Image credit: www.nea.gov.sg
- Jurong (by ALBA W&H Smart City Pte Ltd)
- City – Punggol; Woodlands – Yishun (by SembWaste Pte Ltd)
- Clementi – Bukit Merah (by Veolia ES Singapore Pte Ltd)
- Pasir Ris – Bedok; Ang Mo Kio – Toa Payoh (by 800 Super Waste Management Pte Ltd)
The PWCs are responsible for the collection of waste from residential and trade premises in Singapore. They are also required to provide recycling services under the National Recycling Programme (NRP). For commercial and industrial premises, waste is collected separately by licensed general waste collectors.
For more information on waste collection system, refer to NEA link here.
The waste collected by the PWCs and general waste collectors are disposed of at the four waste-to-energy plants (Tuas, Tuas South, Senoko, and Keppel Seghers Tuas Waste-To-Energy Plant) and the offshore Semakau Landfill. Waste that are incinerable are sent to the incineration plants while non-incinerable waste and incineration ashes are sent to the landfill.
The upcoming Integrated Waste Management Facility (IWMF) will be Singapore’s first integrated facility to integrate the treatment of incinerable waste, source-segregated food waste and dewatered sludge. The state-of-the-art solid waste treatment facility targets to help Singapore achieve long-term environmental sustainability goal by improving resource and energy recovery from waste, and reduce environmental footprint.
The IWMF will be constructed in phases and the first phase is targeted for completion by 2024.
For information on Singapore’s IWMF, refer to NEA link here.
Waste that are not disposed of are sent for recycling. In 2019, about 4.25 million tonnes of waste was recycled and an overall recycling rate of 59% was achieved. The quantity and recycling rate for each type of waste are shown in the NEA website.