Keynote Address by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Moving Towards Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging Conference on 7 October 2022
Ms May Yap, Chairperson of the Packaging Council of Singapore
Mr Lawrence Pek, Secretary General of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation
Ms Lee Gee Chyn, Deputy Chairperson of the Packaging Partnership Programme
1 Good morning. It is my pleasure to join you today at the “Moving Towards Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging” conference.
Singapore’s Packaging Waste Problem
2 Just as the world is emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic and Singapore is making progress into the new normal, we have also been presented with many unprecedented new challenges, including geopolitical tensions and global supply chain disruptions. In the face of these challenges, attention to climate change may have taken a back seat in some countries.
3 In fact, this is a serious cause for concern. Climate change remains the existential crisis of our generation. It continues to affect many communities around the world in the form of extreme weather events and its impact has been growing increasingly. Many lives around the world have been lost to droughts and floods, as well as heatwaves that have become longer and more intense.
4 Singapore remains committed in our efforts to combat climate change. We launched our Singapore Green Plan 2030 last year to strengthen our collective efforts in sustainable development with clear, concrete goals. One area of focus is zero waste and the circular economy, with packaging waste being one of the key waste streams we are paying attention to.
5 Packaging is pervasive in our lives. Packaging waste is generated in large quantities, but its recycling rate in Singapore is low. In 2021, about 1.58 million tonnes of domestic waste were disposed of in Singapore, of which a third was packaging waste. 55 per cent of the packaging waste was plastics, but only six per cent was recycled. Adopting sustainable packaging design is not only critical for our environment, it also has practical economic advantages for businesses, such as building brand affinity as consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious.
Extended Producer Responsibility Approach to Waste Management
6 As part of our Zero Waste Masterplan, we are working to implement an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) approach to managing packaging waste. The EPR frameworks aim to make producers, including manufacturers and importers, responsible for the collection and the end-of-life management of the products they put on the market. In fact, the first EPR framework in Singapore was introduced for e-waste in July 2021.
7 A foundational step in the EPR framework is the mandatory packaging reporting scheme, or MPR, that was introduced last year. The MPR scheme aims to draw the attention of companies to packaging waste produced and encourages companies to actively manage and reduce the amount of waste generated.
8 With the introduction of the MPR, the voluntary Packaging Partnership Programme (PPP) was also launched as a partnership between the Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) to support companies in their journey towards sustainable packaging waste management and to fulfil regulatory requirements. To date, the PPP has conducted 15 workshops and training courses on the MPR and sustainable packaging waste management practices. More than 700 companies have benefited from these initiatives.
Beverage Container Return Scheme
9 Having established the foundation, we are now moving to the first phase of EPR for packaging. This is the beverage container return scheme. This is a proven scheme in many other jurisdictions, which has contributed to greater circularity of their material flows. Under this scheme, a small fully refundable deposit is applied to pre-packaged beverages at the point of purchase. The deposit is then refunded when the empty beverage container is returned at designated points. The scheme encourages the return of clean and high-quality recyclables, which reduces waste and extends the use of our resources, contributing to our move towards a circular economy.
10 The beverage container return scheme was first suggested by the 2019 Citizens Workgroup on #RecyclingRight. Since then, my Ministry and NEA have been consulting various stakeholders extensively over the past couple of years to develop the scheme parameters. I thank all stakeholders for your keen participation thus far, and invite further sharing of views through our ongoing public consultation on the REACH platform to help us fine-tune the parameters.
Launch of Technical Reference to Guide Companies on Sustainable Packaging Practices
11 Today, I am pleased to launch the new Technical Reference 109 on “Sustainable Packaging Guiding Framework and Practices”. Overseen by Enterprise Singapore, the Singapore Standards Council has appointed a working group comprising industry players across the packaging value chain, as well as SMF and NEA, to develop the technical reference over the past year.
12 This is an important initiative by the industry, for the industry. The technical reference supports the MPR, which will help spur companies to reduce the amount of packaging used and packaging waste disposed. It provides guidance on the adoption of sustainable packaging-related practices, encompassing the minimal use of materials and resources, such as energy and water, while maximising recycled content. At the same time, the technical reference provides guidelines on labelling and reverse logistics to support a circular economy.
13 Zero waste is an important focus area under our ongoing Forward Singapore exercise in the domain of Environment Sustainability. We must ask ourselves some important questions. What do we want to see in our future? What are we willing to do to get there? How can we steward our environment and resources responsibly for our future generations? I hope the packaging industry can continue contributing towards our goal of being a Zero Waste nation and will come forward with pledges under the Forward Singapore exercise. I invite you to scan the QR code shown on the screen and pledge to champion a green, liveable and climate-resilient Singapore. Do also encourage your business partners to do likewise. Collectively, we can do much more to foster shared ownership and responsibility in stewarding our resources and caring for our environment.
14 In conclusion, I thank the Packaging Partnership Programme and Packaging Council of Singapore for jointly organising this conference. Beyond just an opportunity to connect, I hope this conference will spark new collaborations, and enable learning of best practices about sustainable packaging and packaging waste management from the many local and international experts and thought leaders who are with us. I wish everyone an engaging and fruitful conference.