Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Hong Kah North Environment Drive on 14 November 2021
Residents and friends of Hong Kah North
1 A good Sunday morning to all. Thank you for taking the time to join us today.
Growing amount of waste
2 In the past one and a half years, more people have been working from home, and more students engaging in home-based learning. We have observed a growing trend of Singaporeans shopping online and ordering food delivery, thus generating more packaging waste as a result. There is also an increase in demand for gaming and home entertainment, resulting in the purchase of products like information and communications technology (ICT) equipment and televisions. This will eventually lead to more electronic and electrical waste, or e-waste, being generated as these products reach their end-of-life.
3 The increasing amount of waste puts pressure on our finite resources and waste management infrastructure. In 2020, about 5.88 million tonnes of waste was generated in Singapore, of which 3.04 million tonnes was recycled. At our current rate of waste generation, our only landfill, the Semakau Landfill, will be fully filled by 2035.
4 Under Singapore’s inaugural Zero Waste Masterplan launched in 2019, we aim to increase our overall recycling rate to 70 per cent and reduce the waste sent to Semakau Landfill by 30 per cent by 2030. Achieving these goals will not only help to prolong the lifespan of Semakau Landfill beyond 2035, but also reduce our carbon footprint from the production, transportation and incineration processes.
Government efforts to reduce waste and encourage recycling
5 On 1 July this year, the National Environment Agency (NEA) implemented the EPR scheme for e-waste, which makes producers responsible for the collection and proper treatment of regulated products that have reached their end-of-life. NEA, together with its appointed Producer Responsibility Scheme (PRS) operator, ALBA E-waste Smart Recycling (ALBA), worked with premises owners, retailers and town councils to establish e-waste collection avenues islandwide. Currently, there is a network of more than 500 e-waste bins conveniently located at places like electronics retail outlets, HDB estates, community centres and shopping malls. Over 400 large electronics retail outlets are also providing in-store e-waste disposal services.
6 I’m heartened by the encouraging response to the e-waste bins so far. Through the active participation of our stakeholders and members of the public over the past four months, ALBA has collected close to 2,000 tonnes of consumer ICT equipment, large household appliances, electric mobility devices, portable batteries and consumer lamps since the start of the scheme.
Co-creating sustainability solutions with citizens
7 The Government is also partnering Singaporeans to co-create pragmatic and sustainable solutions to our environmental challenges. In 2019, MSE convened the #RecycleRight Citizens’ Workgroup to look at how we can improve the way households recycle.
8 Today, I’m happy to announce that we will be launching two transparent recycling bin pilots right here in Hong Kah North, as a follow-up to the recommendations made by the Workgroup. The eight-week long pilots will test if adding transparent features to the current blue bin design can help to reduce contamination rates since users can now see the contents inside the bins. One of the pilots also allows for segregation of the different types of recyclables as opposed to our current commingled blue bins. This is to test if allowing for segregation will further improve recycling rates. You will be able to catch a first glimpse of these specially designed bins during the live demo later.
9 Our studies have shown that about 40 per cent of the items deposited inside the blue bins cannot be recycled because they are either non-recyclable items or have been contaminated with food and liquid waste. It is thus important for us to recycle right. For example, we should rinse and dry our food and beverage containers to make sure they are free of food and liquid waste, and fold up bulky cardboard boxes before depositing these items into the blue bins.
10 Ground-up initiatives to promote environmental consciousness have made a positive impact over the years. Our annual Hong Kah North Environment event is a good example. At last year’s Environment Day, the Hong Kah North CCC launched a three-month digital recycling competition where over 1,700 residents used ALBA’s STEP UP mobile application to record their recycling efforts. They are running the three-month recycling competition again from November this year until January 2022. I am glad to note that today’s Hong Kah North Environment Drive was organised in support of NEA’s Clean and Green Singapore campaign.
11 While the COVID-19 situation may have disrupted our lives, environmental sustainability remains an important priority. We enjoy a clean and green living environment today because of the efforts of our pioneers. Our collective efforts to conserve our resources will similarly pave the way towards a greener and more sustainable home for our future generations. Let’s start taking action today for a better tomorrow!