SINGAPORE: Singapore will relook the waste management cycle for three major streams of trash: Food waste, packing waste and e-waste, under its first Zero Waste Masterplan, Minister for Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said.
The ministry has designated 2019 as Singapore's Year Towards Zero Waste, in a campaign that aims to raise awareness of waste issues and the need to conserve resources.
At 21 per cent, Singapore's household recycling rate is low when compared with other developed countries like Germany and South Korea.
While Singaporeans are practicing better recycling habits, many of them are still doing it wrong, said Mr Masagos in an interview with 938NOW which was broadcast on Friday (Feb 1).
The blue recycling bins placed at Housing and Development Board flats are "gradually becoming a more welcome sight in many estates", but some still treat them as general waste bins, said the minister.
According to the National Environment Agency, about 40 per cent of the load collected from these bins is tainted.
“There’s still a level of abuse there,” Mr Masagos said. “Recyclable materials become useless if you throw food and liquids with them.”
But not all is lost when it comes to using the blue bins. Mr Masagos said more residents are becoming better educated about proper recycling habits and are beginning to use the blue bins the right way.
“We used to have a problem putting them there but people actually want them there now. If we can achieve this simple act of not mixing food waste with other recyclables, our domestic recycling rate will improve significantly,” he said.
BYE BYE SINGLE-USED PLASTIC BOTTLES?
Minister Masagos has also resorted to unusual methods to encourage his Tampines West constituents to adopt a zero-waste attitude. Single-use plastic bottles are now banned from the Community Club (CC).
“I don’t see why we should be carrying around PET or single-use plastic water bottles. We should invest in reusable plastic bottles and fill them with tap water instead.
"So that’s one zero-waste aspect that we’re encouraging in my own constituency, where in our CC we’ve banned PET bottles altogether. It’s something for all of us to get used to,” he said.
Electronic waste or e-waste is one of the waste streams that Mr Masagos is particularly concerned about due to its toxic nature.
"We are producing in excess of 60,000 tonnes (of e-waste) a year," he said.
To bring Singapore closer to its zero-waste goals, S$45 million has been invested in harvesting smart technology, as well as research and development.
Mr Masagos said an example is finding other uses for the country's incinerated bottom ash (IBA), which is usually dumped into the Pulau Semakau landfill.
"We’re exploring the possibility of using R&D and technology to extract potentially toxic metals from the IBA. If we can do that effectively, then we can mix the IBA with construction materials and also use them to construct our roads," he said.
Mr Masagos added that if this comes to fruition, the PUB would not have to worry about toxic metals leaching into Singapore's water system when the IBA is reused.
READ: The long road to ensuring that Singapore's waste doesn't go to waste
"This is all part of an ecological framework. The upcoming Zero Waste Masterplan will therefore take into account the impact and beneficial effects our treated waste can have on our ecology," he said.
Mr Masagos was speaking to 938NOW in its inaugural Question Time interview series which features weekly interviews with thought leaders and newsmakers.
To listen to the interview visit www.facebook.com/938Now/ or Download the MeRadio app.
Editor's note: A quote has been edited for accuracy.