SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) will implement a Deposit Refund Scheme for beverage containers by 2022, announced Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor on Wednesday (Mar 4).
This will be the first phase of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) approach for managing packaging waste, said Dr Khor, speaking in Parliament during the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources’ (MEWR) Committee of Supply debate.
For such schemes, producers usually pay for the system to take back used beverage containers, she added, and consumers get a refund when returning empty containers at designated return points.
Adding that the scheme was an idea proposed by the Citizens’ Workgroup on #RecycleRight, Dr Khor said: “Workgroup members will partner NEA to work through the DRS implementation, such as co-designing surveys to optimise outcomes of the DRS. Together with our industry stakeholders and Singaporeans, we will design a DRS suitable for Singapore.”
In countries such as Norway and Germany, similar schemes have achieved a high recycling rate of beverage containers of more than 80 per cent, she said, adding that NEA is studying international best practices.
NEA will start industry consultations and conduct a request for information for the scheme later this year, she added.
“We have been working closely with our economic agencies to actively engage interested companies to set up mechanical recycling plants for post-consumer plastic waste here,” said Dr Khor.
“PET bottles and the like can then be processed locally into plastic pellets, which can in turn be used to make new products. We will announce details when ready.”
However, Dr Khor also noted that not all plastic waste is suitable for mechanical recycling, including contaminated plastic bags and other single-use plastics.
“To treat these, we are also pursuing chemical recycling solutions. Chemical recycling can potentially convert these plastics into higher-value products, like pyrolysis oil, which is a potential feedstock for Singapore’s petrochemical sector. If successful, this will move us closer to both our goals of being a Zero Waste nation and a low-carbon economy,” she said.
Dr Khor said the Ministry hopes these solutions will become “NEWOil”, similar to NEWater and NEWSand, to strengthen Singapore’s resource resilience.
The Environment and Water Resources Ministry is working with the Economic Development Board (EDB) and industry partners to explore establishing a pilot chemical recycling plant that will contribute to and help anchor the chemical recycling value chain in Singapore within the next few years, she added.
Dr Khor also noted that under the Extended Producer Responsibility framework, producers are responsible for collecting and recycling their product packaging.
The mandatory packaging reporting requirements under the Resource Sustainability Act will commence from Jul 1.
The Bill, passed in September 2019, introduced regulations to reduce food, packaging and electronic waste, as Singapore’s only landfill at Pulau Semakau is expected to run out of space by 2035.
Companies that use packaging, like importers and supermarkets, will be required to submit an annual report on the amount of packaging in their products and their packaging waste reduction plans from 2021.