Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, at the MoU Signing Ceremony between ITE and ALBA E-waste Smart Recycling on 18 July 2022
Ms Low Khah Gek, Chief Executive Officer of ITE
Mr Jakob Lambsdorff, Chief Executive Officer of ALBA Singapore
Dr Yek Tiew Ming, Principal, ITE College East
Ladies and gentlemen
1 Good afternoon. I am happy to be here today for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and ALBA E-waste Smart Recycling (ALBA) to launch programmes on circular economy and electrical and electronic waste management.
Towards zero waste and a circular economy
2 Unsustainable resource depletion is a critical and urgent issue of our time. As global economies and populations grow, resources around the world are being used up much faster than they are replenished. Our consumption and production patterns are not only depleting the Earth’s finite natural resources but are also generating more waste and contributing to carbon emissions.
3 In Singapore, the amount of waste disposed of has increased seven-fold over the last 40 years. At this rate, Semakau Landfill, our only landfill, is expected to run out of space by 2035. To reduce waste and catalyse a shift towards a circular economy where resources are reused, the Government launched the Zero Waste Masterplan and introduced the landmark Resource Sustainability Act (RSA) in 2019.
4 The Zero Waste Masterplan maps out our key strategies towards zero waste and the RSA mandates an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) approach to our three priority waste streams — e-waste, packaging waste including plastics, and food waste. These are waste streams which are generated in high quantities but of which relatively little gets recycled.
E-waste Extended Producer Responsibility scheme
5 Singapore generates about 60,000 tonnes of e-waste annually. This is equivalent to each person throwing away 70 mobiles phones every year. The amount of e-waste generated is expected to increase in tandem with the prevalence of electrical and electronic equipment.
6 In 2021, the National Environment Agency (NEA) launched the EPR scheme for e-waste management, making producers of regulated electrical and electronic equipment responsible for ensuring the proper collection and treatment of products that they supply to the Singapore market at their end-of-life. Under the EPR scheme, producers are required to finance the Producer Responsibility Scheme (PRS) and pay for the services provided by the PRS Operator.
7 Since the start of the scheme, ALBA, the appointed PRS Operator, has collected around 5,745 tonnes of consumer e-waste, which is close to five times the amount collected under NEA’s previous National Voluntary Partnership programme from 2016 to 2020. This accounts for about 10.4 per cent of the consumer electronic and electrical equipment supplied in Singapore in 2021. E-waste contains heavy metals and toxic substances that can harm the environment and public health if not properly handled. Precious metals can also be recovered from e-waste and turned into new products.
8 Recycling e-waste has become more convenient since the start of the EPR scheme. ALBA has deployed over 600 e-waste collection points island-wide, at shopping malls, large electronic retailers, supermarkets, government buildings and community centres. This is more than ALBA’s original target of 400 collection points. Members of the public can also bring their e-waste to the scheduled quarterly collection drives organised by ALBA and the town councils in their housing estates.
Importance of public education and awareness
9 While the Government has put in place the necessary regulations and infrastructure to enable a circular economy, we will not be able to achieve the transition without the support of our stakeholders, including members of the public.
10 As the PRS operator, ALBA organises regular outreach programmes to raise public awareness on e-waste, such as educational talks in schools and social media campaigns. NEA has also rolled out a series of social and mainstream media advertisements to reach out to consumers and businesses. NEA will continue to work closely with ALBA to strengthen these outreach and engagement programmes.
Partnership between ALBA and ITE
11 I am glad to learn that ALBA has collaborated with ITE to raise the environmental awareness of both ITE students and the general public, with a focus on e-waste. Under this collaboration, ALBA and ITE have jointly developed five Micro-Learning Courses (MLCs), covering topics such as resource sustainability, e-waste regulations in Singapore and the environmental impacts of e-waste. These self-paced online courses will be launched today on ITE’s Udemy platform. The MLCs are free of charge, and each course will take around 30 minutes to complete.
12 Participants who complete the online assessment at the end of the five courses will be certified by ALBA as an Agent of Change for E-Waste (ACE). Through this ACE train-the-trainer programme, ALBA hopes to groom more advocates who can help to raise the awareness of e-waste in their individual spheres of influence. They could be teachers in educational institutions or grassroots leaders heading sustainability committees in their communities. ALBA will provide the Agents with the necessary resources to support their work, for example, providing information kits or loaning e-waste bins.
13 Let me conclude. The Government will continue to partner our stakeholders in co-creating and co-delivering Zero Waste solutions for Singapore. The collective efforts of individuals are an important part of this national effort.
14 For example, we can reduce the amount of e-waste that we generate by carefully considering the need to buy a new electronic gadget when our existing one is still functioning. We can also help by creating conversations on environmental protection and sustainability issues with our friends and family and encouraging them to take climate action.
15 Meanwhile, do sign up for the MLCs and become the Agents of Change for a better and greener tomorrow!