SINGAPORE: A scheme to encourage people to recycle their beverage containers such as plastic bottles and aluminium cans will be implemented in 2023, with a legislative framework to be introduced by the year before that.
Known internationally as a Deposit Refund Scheme (DRS), it generally involves having producers finance the take-back of used beverage containers with refunds offered to consumers when they return them at designated points.
Speaking in Parliament during her speech during the Committee of Supply debate, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu said the “transition period” between the start of the scheme and the introduction of a legislative framework will give industry time to set up the collection and recycling infrastructure.
“We will continue to engage stakeholders and we welcome all to participate in shaping Singapore’s own DRS framework,” she noted.
In a joint media factsheet, the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) said packaging waste, including plastics, is one of its “priority waste streams” as it accounts for about one-third of the domestic waste being disposed of.
“NEA has been engaging the community and industry to develop the DRS framework such as through surveys and requests-for-information. There was useful feedback provided on various parameters of the DRS framework … We take this feedback into consideration in the development of the DRS framework,” said the authorities.
They added that it will continue to consult stakeholders, including the public and industry in the coming months.
“We welcome stakeholders to share their views and work with us in shaping the DRS framework, as we consider how best to design a system that is cost-effective and suitable for Singapore,” they stated.
NEA noted last year that a DRS has been implemented in several countries such as Norway, Sweden and Germany, achieving a high recycling rate of beverage containers of more than 80 per cent.
STUDY ON CHEMICAL RECYCLING
In her speech, Ms Fu said another important aspect in recycling packaging waste would be building up local recycling capabilities.
“More than half of our domestic packaging waste disposed of is plastics. We are pursuing both mechanical and chemical recycling solutions, the latter which can take in contaminated plastics that are not suitable for mechanical recycling,” she said.
Ms Fu noted that NEA and Shell are jointly studying the feasibility of chemical recycling in Singapore, including the carbon savings potential of diverting plastic waste from incineration to produce pyrolysis oil, or NEWOil, as feedstock for petrochemical plants.
MSE and NEA said preliminary findings from the study indicated that chemical recycling is “technically feasible”, as the composition of polymer types in domestic waste is suitable for pyrolysis technology to be deployed.
The study also showed that carbon savings can be obtained by using waste plastic to produce pyrolysis oil as feedstock for chemical plants, compared to using crude oil-based feedstock, added MSE and NEA.
The carbon savings are primarily derived from the diversion of plastic waste from incineration.
“Chemical recycling can help to close the plastic waste loop in Singapore as it is able to treat contaminated plastic waste, which cannot be mechanically recycled, into higher-value products such as pyrolysis oil which can then be used to manufacture new plastic products,” said the ministry and agency.