WELCOME ADDRESS BY MS GRACE FU, MINISTER FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT, AT THE INTERNATIONAL SOLID WASTE ASSOCIATION (ISWA) WORLD CONGRESS IN SINGAPORE ON 21 SEPTEMBER 2022
Mr Carlos Silva, President, International Solid Waste Association (ISWA)
Ms Melissa Tan, Chairman, Waste Management and Recycling Association of Singapore (WMRAS)
Ladies and Gentlemen
1 It is my pleasure to join you today at the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) World Congress. To our overseas participants, a warm welcome to Singapore.
Pressing Need for Sustainable Waste and Resource Management
2 The world is facing the twin challenges of environmental degradation and climate change. We are already experiencing the impacts. Globally, sea level rise is accelerating and is projected to rise by a metre by 2100. Low-lying settlements, including Singapore, are at risk of inundation. Intense heatwaves are also increasing in duration and frequency, causing a surge in mortality rates due to heat stress or associated disruptions to food and water security. These underscore the need for all sectors to decarbonise and ready themselves for a resource and carbon-constrained future.
3 Waste production has surged with increasing global population, rapid urbanisation, and the prevalence of the linear “take-make-dispose” economic model. The World Bank estimates that by 2050, waste production will be 73 per cent higher than in 2020. Rampant disposal of waste has caused serious pollution to land and ocean, loss of biodiversity and destruction of wildlife habitats. Waste streams such as e-waste can contain hazardous substances like mercury and lead that can contaminate soil and groundwater, and enter food supply systems and water sources.
4 Marine litter travels thousands of miles across the oceans, borne by winds and tides, and wash up on shores far away from their source. Each year, up to 1 million sea birds, 100,000 sea mammals, marine turtles and countless fish are killed after ingesting or being entangled in marine plastic debris. By 2050, studies estimate that oceans will carry more plastic than fish by mass. Transboundary marine litter also destroys the livelihoods of coastal and island nations that depend on healthy seas and shorelines for their well-being and survival.
5 We must take action now. We need to embrace sustainable production and consumption and shift decisively towards a low-carbon and circular economy. The global movement for sustainable development has gained momentum, as seen in the growing number of countries and businesses setting targets to reduce carbon emissions and boost recycling. But targets alone will not get us to a circular and low carbon future. Investors, businesses and policy makers must actively pursue concrete, actionable steps to achieve these targets.
Transforming Businesses for a Low Carbon Future
6 I am heartened that many businesses represented here today are blazing the sustainability trail to lower your carbon and resource footprints. In pursuing sustainable business models and optimising material consumption, businesses can also reduce operating costs. This is a win-win for businesses and for our planet.
7 Businesses have influence over supply chains and intimate knowledge of their technical processes. You are thus best placed to determine the most cost-effective manner to reduce carbon emissions, minimise waste generation and optimise resource recovery.
8 Let me share a few examples from Singapore. Hewlett Packard Enterprise Singapore switched the product packaging for its Printed Circuit Board Assembly products from non-recyclable polyurethane cushion material to 100 per cent recyclable corrugated boxes that were smaller and lighter. Insectta, an urban insect farm, extracts and supplies high-value biomaterials such as chitosan and melanin to the pharmaceutical, cosmetics, and bioelectronics industries from pre-consumer food waste via black soldier fly technology. These companies show us that there is huge potential in green business practices.
9 The waste and resource management sector plays a key role in unlocking solutions to decarbonise. In a low-carbon future, waste and resource management will entail innovative solutions to transform trash into treasure. This will enhance resource recovery of energy and useful materials, help reduce carbon emissions from production processes and raise resource resilience.
10 Neste is constructing a facility in Singapore to produce sustainable aviation fuel from waste such as used cooking oil and animal fat. Singapore is also exploring the potential of transforming waste residues into NEWSand, a construction material which may be used in roads and in non-structural concrete. If successful, these efforts could be scaled up to produce a sustainable source of construction material for the building industry.
11 The waste and resource management sector must also decarbonise itself. This will entail investments in research and development, and the pursuit of new technologies and processes.
12 Carbon capture can be a needle-mover in decarbonising waste incineration. Keppel Seghers and our National Environment Agency (NEA) recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to study the feasibility of carbon capture at our waste-to-energy plants. The feasibility study will explore opportunities to close the carbon cycle loop through offtake and sequestration of the carbon captured from the plants. We should also systematically look for opportunities to decarbonise the whole waste value chain. Our three appointed Public Waste Collectors – 800 Super Waste Management Pte Ltd, Alba W&H Smart City Pte Ltd, and Sembwaste Pte Ltd – are leveraging technology and innovative solutions to do so. All three Public Waste Collectors have started to electrify their vehicle fleet. They have also replaced some mobile refuse compactors with stationary ones, which allows the same truck to consolidate waste from multiple locations on a single trip, thereby reducing the overall number of trips to the incineration plant.
Towards a Greener, Circular Economy
13 While businesses relook their operating models to incorporate sustainable practices, governments must also set the stage for a green economy to flourish. Governments can encourage sustainable production, consumption and waste to resource management, through a mix of policies, funding support for research and development, and investments in infrastructure. Let me elaborate.
14 First, we need to get our economic policies right, to signal that there is a high environmental cost to unsustainable practices. Right-pricing carbon, in the form of a carbon tax, is a key measure. This will incentivise investors, businesses and consumers to contribute to efforts to reduce carbon emissions. We will progressively raise our carbon tax, from the current S$5 per tonne of emissions to S$50 to S$80, or roughly US$36 to US$58 per tonne by 2030. The revised carbon tax levels will encourage businesses and individuals to account for the costs of carbon and spur a decisive shift towards decarbonisation.
15 The Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) frameworks embody the “polluter pays” principle and make businesses responsible for sustainable end-of-life treatment of their products. We implemented the EPR scheme for e-waste in July 2021. The scheme collected about 6,000 tonnes of e-waste in its first year, which was five times the yearly amount collected through voluntary schemes prior to its implementation. The e-waste collected by our Producer Responsibility Scheme (PRS) Operator (ALBA E-waste Smart Recycling) are recycled locally, such as at the EWR2 and TES-B recycling facilities. These facilities can recover up to 95 per cent of materials used to make the appliances.
16 We are also developing an EPR scheme for packaging waste, with a beverage container return scheme in the first phase. With over two years of extensive consultations and engagements with the industry and public, a scheme has been developed and public consultation is underway. By encouraging the return of beverage containers for recycling, the scheme will aggregate a steady stream of clean and high-quality plastic and metal recyclables. This can be used to produce new beverage containers thus closing the resource loop
17 Second, governments can play an important role in encouraging research, innovation, and enterprise through appropriate funding support. This year, we launched a new S$80 million Closing the Resource Loop Funding Initiative. This will support research and development collaborations between our Institutes of Higher Learning and industries. It has 2 objectives - to develop sustainable resource recovery solutions for key waste streams such as e-waste, plastics and food, and find useful and safe applications for treated waste residues.
18 Third, municipalities that provide waste and resource management services should refresh policy directions to keep pace with ongoing technological advancements. While our current waste-to-energy facilities are standalone facilities, we are now constructing our first integrated used water and solid waste treatment facility, Tuas Nexus. The co-location of used water and solid waste treatment facilities will enable us to reap synergies from a water-energy-waste nexus, improve resource recovery, optimise land use and achieve carbon savings. NEA and Shell are also jointly studying the feasibility of pyrolysis, to chemically recycle plastic waste into pyrolysis oil, which can be used as feedstock to manufacture plastics and chemicals.
Accelerating Change Through Partnerships
19 Climate action and sustainable development require concerted global efforts. Governments, corporations, civil society and individuals must all work together to achieve sustainable and circular practices. By forming meaningful and effective partnerships, we can strengthen collective capabilities, drive action and promote accountability.
20 There are 190 parties to the Basel Convention, which focuses on the protection of human health and the environment against adverse effects that may arise from the generation, transboundary movements and management of hazardous and other wastes. More than 190 countries have also resolved to tackle climate change under the Paris Agreement. These are just a few examples of ongoing collective efforts to tackle environmental issues. Singapore is actively contributing towards such efforts. Earlier this year, we announced that we will raise our climate ambition to achieve net zero by or around mid-century, in line with the Glasgow Climate Pact. To combat marine litter, another growing area of concern globally, we launched our inaugural National Action Strategy on Marine Litter (NASML) this year. The Strategy outlines our focus areas in addressing marine litter domestically and internationally, and seeks to galvanise efforts from all sectors of society. These include reducing land- and sea-based sources of litter, undertaking research and development, and adopting a circular economy approach. As plastics comprise a major component of marine litter, our efforts to tackle marine litter will also contribute towards global efforts to address plastic pollution.
21 Partnerships are also critical at the industry level, and the international waste management community must work together to drive the sustainability agenda. Organisations such as the ISWA play important roles in facilitating the formation of partnerships across industry players from around the world.
22 On this note, I would like to thank the WMRAS team for their hard work in organising this year’s ISWA World Congress. We are glad for the leadership of the Waste Management and Recycling Association of Singapore (WMRAS) in spearheading industry-wide collaboration. This year’s theme – “Don’t waste our future” – aptly captures the importance of acting now to secure a resilient and sustainable future. I hope that the discussions will seed new ideas on how to bring circularity to the next level.
Acting Now to Seize Opportunity
23 Let me conclude. The future of our planet is in our hands. Policy makers, consumers and businesses all need to play our part to turn our vision of a thriving circular economy into reality. Combating the global environmental and climate crisis will be challenging. However, there is also much untapped potential for innovation and transformation as we seek to build more resilient and greener communities.
24 We must do whatever it takes to ensure our planet remains a liveable one. Thank you.