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Govt mulling over prospect of combined recycling facility

Such a facility will be the first of its kind here, the National Environment Agency says.

SINGAPORE: Faced with the land crunch and a need for a sustainable recycling system able to handle the increasing waste generated in the city state, the Government is considering the construction of a facility that can house various recycling activities under one roof.

In its invitation for tenders to determine the feasibility of such a facility last week, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said the Multi-Storey Recycling Facility (MSRF) will be the first of its kind here and will host different tenants processing different types of waste, while sharing common facilities such as weighbridges, meeting rooms and a vehicle parking depot.

The tender also called for a rethink on how the waste management industry is optimising the use of land in Singapore. Economic and population growth here have increased the output of solid waste from 1,260 tonnes a day in 1970 to a high of 8,289 tonnes a day last year. A whopping 7.85 million tonnes in total waste was generated in 2013.

By 2030, the total waste generated is projected to rise by 57 per cent and hit 12.3 million tonnes a year. “Singapore will require space to cater to additional waste management capacity and sustain the high environmental standards that we have come to enjoy today,” the NEA said. “The MSRF is deemed to be a solution to reduce land-take, while creating more space for essential activities undertaken by the waste management industry.”

Food, plastics, metals, slag and electronic waste are some common items processed by recycling facilities in Singapore, which are owned by private operators, most of which are located in the west. An inter-agency task force, comprising the NEA, Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and JTC Corporation, is looking to bring various recycling firms together at the proposed 5ha MSRF. Housing them in one facility will also lead to land savings from the shared use of space.

So far, the URA has identified a site within the Sarimbun Recycling Park (SRP), which is already host to some recycling facilities, and another site in Lim Chu Kang as possible locations for the facility. The feasibility study should be completed about nine months after the tender is awarded, said the NEA.

Recycling firms TODAY spoke to had mixed feelings about the prospect of locating several recycling operations in one facility. Mr Timothy de Souza, senior executive for marketing at Cimelia Resource Recovery, said his firm recycles about half the electronic waste they receive, before storing and transporting the other half to other firms for further processing.

If the companies were co-located at the MSRF, it will help his firm save on logistics and transport, which make up about 20 per cent of his costs.

However, Mr de Souza had concerns over the lack of privacy in such a set-up. The sharing of facilities, such as the unloading bay and weighbridges, would reveal details of his business, such as type of materials received, to competitors, he said, before suggesting that access cards and security cameras be installed at the facility to protect firms.

Furthermore, Ms Sally Yap, a corporate secretary at LHT Holdings, whose facilities at Sungei Kadut span an area of 4.3 football fields, said existing recycling facilities here take up a huge amount of land space, which means having them in one facility would be a challenge. Firms would also want the recycling facilities located close to their waste management facilities to reduce the need for transporting materials between them, she added.

Last year, about 61 per cent of all waste in Singapore was recycled. However, the recycling rates for households were much lower at 20 per cent. And only 13 and 11 per cent of food and plastic waste, respectively, was recycled.

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