SINGAPORE: Yuhua residents can expect less odour and fewer pests in their vicinity, as the first phase of a new waste collection system is rolled out.
Previously, workers had to collect and transport waste from refuse chutes to the bin centre. With the installation of a pneumatic waste conveyance system in Yuhua, this automated system will be the Housing and Development Board’s (HDB) largest set-up so far.
When residents throw rubbish down their chutes, it goes to a refuse chamber on the ground floor. A sensor will be triggered when the container in the refuse chamber is full. The waste is then transported by air, through underground pipes. It travels at speeds of between 50 and 80 kilometres per hour, to a centralised bin, where the rubbish is stored in sealed containers.
When they are full, trucks will transport them to incineration plants. As for the exhaust air, it is passed through dust and odour filters. The clean air is then discharged into the atmosphere. With the process being automated, overall manpower needs are expected to be reduced by 70 per cent.
Residents in six blocks of flats - Blocks 221A, 222, 223,226,227 and 228 - in Jurong East Street 2 have been using the system since early May. The system will be rolled out to 32 other blocks by the third quarter of this year.
To encourage more to recycle, residents will also be able to put items for recycling at 24 points throughout the estate, called outdoor disposal inlets. These items will be passed through the underground pipes to a separate container in the bin.
HDB's deputy director in technology research, Tan Chek Sim, said: "PWCS (pneumatic waste conveyance system) in Yuhua helps to collect and manage the household waste more effectively and efficiently. It also gives the residents a cleaner and greener environment.
“As Yuhua is a lived-in environment, HDB took great care to minimise the inconvenience to the residents. We also actively engage the residents on the progress of the works. We are glad that the residents have given us their support for our efforts."
Residents Channel NewsAsia spoke with said they have noticed the changes. Jocelyn Ng, 60, who has been living in Jurong East for about 30 years, said: "It looks better because workers are not going round collecting rubbish from the rubbish chutes. There is less smell." She added that it was also cleaner and more hygienic.
Another Jurong East resident, 62-year-old Lim Ah Choo, said: "We realised it is a lot cleaner. In the past, when we met at the void deck, we found it rather smelly. We hope people will come around and explain to us on how to use the system. It will be embarrassing if we use it wrongly."
HDB staff will be visiting residents to explain the dos and don'ts of using the system. For example, bulky items such as bamboo poles and pillows should not be thrown into the chutes because they will choke the system.
If a blockage occurs, one of the ways to clear it is to increase the speed of the exhaust fan. This will create a greater suction force to move the rubbish causing the blockage. Otherwise, staff will have to get to the blockage through manholes to manually remove the item.
These efforts are part of HDB's Greenprint scheme in Yuhua which aims to create more sustainable homes. Yuhua is the first HDB estate to be part of this scheme.
It is expected to cost S$23 million based on preliminary estimates. The final cost will only be known after its completion later this year, with the pneumatic waste collection system taking up more than 50 per cent of the costs due to its large scale and the extensive underground network of pipes that need to be installed.
HDB is test-bedding the system at Yuhua to determine its feasibility for existing buildings. It is also assessing residents' receptiveness, as major retrofitting works are required to install the system in existing estates.
The system will be implemented in the upcoming housing estates of Tampines North, Bidadari and Punggol Northshore.