Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Singapore Packaging Star Awards Ceremony 2022, on 2 September 2022
Mr Lennon Tan, President of Singapore Manufacturing Federation
Ms May Yap, Chairperson of Packaging Council of Singapore
Mr Lawrence Pek, Secretary-General of Singapore Manufacturing Federation
Ladies and gentlemen
Good evening. It is my pleasure to join you today for the Singapore Packaging Star Awards Ceremony. I am glad that we are able to attend the ceremony in-person after two years, and see each other without our masks, now that the COVID-19 situation in Singapore is stabilising.
Singapore’s packaging waste problem
2 While the world slowly recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukraine- Russia conflict is causing new global disruptions, making it easy to forget about the problems brought about by climate change. We see the devastating impact of climate change around the world, such as longer and more intense heat waves, and an increasing frequency of droughts and floods. Today’s event is a timely reminder that we need to press on with our efforts towards Zero Waste to minimise the irreversible damage of climate change.
3 As you may be aware, packaging waste, including plastics, is one of the three priority waste streams in Singapore. It is generated in high quantities but has a relatively low recycling rate. In 2021, about 1.58 million tonnes of domestic waste was disposed of in Singapore, and about one-third of this was packaging waste. In the same year, our overall plastic waste recycling rate was only about 6 per cent. There is definitely room for improvement.
4 Increased waste generation exacerbates climate change. The manufacturing of materials, and their subsequent transportation and disposal contribute to carbon emissions. Furthermore, we are depleting our finite resources faster than they are replenished. It is therefore crucial for us to make a paradigm shift in our economic model, from a linear approach of make, use, and throw, to a circular one where our resources are kept in use for as long as possible.
Extended Producer Responsibility approach to waste management
5 To reduce waste and catalyse the shift towards a circular economy, the Government launched the Zero Waste Masterplan in 2019. The landmark Resource Sustainability Act (RSA) was introduced the same year, putting in place a regulatory framework to tackle our three priority waste streams of packaging waste including plastics, electronic and electrical waste, and food waste. Under the Singapore Green Plan 2030, we have also set a target to reduce the amount of waste sent to our landfill by 20 per cent per capita per day, by 2026.
6 To address our packaging waste, the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) have been consulting stakeholders extensively over the past two years on developing a beverage container return scheme for Singapore. Under such a scheme, consumers pay a small deposit when purchasing a beverage, and get a refund of the deposit when returning the empty beverage container to a designated return point, such as a Reverse Vending Machine.
7 The beverage container return scheme is the first phase of an Extended Producer Responsibility (or EPR) framework for packaging waste. It is a crucial step in our journey to become a Zero Waste Nation, as it is expected to significantly increase the recycling rate of beverage containers. About 50 jurisdictions have implemented similar schemes, in countries such as Norway, Lithuania, Sweden, and Germany, and Australian states like New South Wales and Western Australia. Some of these jurisdictions have seen return rates for beverage containers of over 80 per cent post-implementation. Several jurisdictions such as New Zealand and Scotland in the United Kingdom will also be introducing similar schemes in the near future.
8 In Singapore, it is estimated that more than 1 billion pre-packaged beverage containers, such as in plastic bottles or metal cans, are supplied into the market every year. Based on the performance of overseas schemes, up to 4 in 5 empty beverage containers covered under the Scheme could be returned for recycling. Through the scheme, we hope to encourage more Singaporeans to develop recycling habits. The scheme will also aggregate a stream of clean and high-quality recyclables. More certainty on the supply of feedstock will potentially contribute towards the development of our local recycling industry.
Forward Singapore and the role of industry
9 The recently launched Forward Singapore exercise allows us to have deeper conversations on this important issue of the transition to a circular economy and the vision of Zero Waste. How do we see this being part of Singapore’s future? What is the social compact between Government, businesses and people? While Government can lead the change, we need businesses, communities and individuals to also contribute.
10 We will be launching a REACH consultation later this month, to seek further views on the beverage container return scheme’s framework. The public consultation paper will explain the scheme’s mechanism in greater detail, as well as the considerations behind the proposed parameters, including the type of beverage containers to be covered and the amount of refundable deposit to be set. In particular, this deposit amount should be enough to incentivise consumers to return the empty beverage containers, yet not add too much to the upfront amount for the beverage even though the deposit will be refunded upon recycling. We encourage the industry and the public to contribute their views through the REACH platform. Even as we do so, I encourage all of you to think ahead about what we can do together to further reduce packaging waste. At its core, EPR is about businesses taking responsibility for the end-of-life waste created by their products and managing this sustainably.
11 In this regard, I would like to thank the Packaging Council of Singapore, an industry group under the Singapore Manufacturing Federation, for organising the annual Singapore Packaging Star Awards since 2010. The Award not only recognises the contributions of companies and students for their innovative packaging designs and use of material for their products, but also helps to elevate the overall industry standards. These innovative and sustainable designs would contribute towards our goals of reducing packaging waste, which in turn reduces the amount of waste incinerated and the ashes we send to Semakau Landfill, Singapore’s only landfill.
12 As more consumers seek out sustainable yet functional packaging, companies need to constantly innovate their designs to meet these changing lifestyle needs. At the same time, the designs must be cost-effective. I am glad to note that companies like Dow Chemical Pacific (Singapore) Pte Ltd, which will be receiving three awards tonight, have managed to achieve this.
13 Their winning product is a flexible plastic stand-up pouch, lab-produced in Dow Pack Studios Singapore, and made of 100% mono-material. Being produced from mono-materials means that the pouch is easier to recycle than products made of a combination of materials. This stand-up pouch can be used for a broad range of end-use applications in food, home and personal care markets.
14 Meanwhile, for the Student Category, there are eight award winners. I wish to make a special mention of the Lucky Bamboo toothbrush packaging designed by Deanne Goh of Nanyang Polytechnic. The packaging can be upcycled as a toothbrush holder. When used as a toothbrush holder, there is a drainage system which allows water to flow, hence preventing mould. It also comes with personalised designs for every family member.
15 Let me conclude. Packaging is part and parcel of our lives. Adopting sustainable packaging design and use is not only good for the environment; it can also bring about practical economic benefits.
16 Congratulations to all award recipients, and I wish you a pleasant evening ahead.