On Aug. 17, the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu launched a new association to help improve Singapore's plastic waste recycling capabilities.
Plastic waste is one of Singapore's largest waste streams, with around 868,000 tonnes of plastic waste generated in 2020. However, only four per cent of this amount is recycled.
Fu emphasised that the current business-as-usual mode "cannot continue", and that the impact of plastic on the environment "cannot be ignored".
As countries and businesses seek to transit towards a low carbon future, establishing the Plastic Recycling Association Singapore (PRAS) now is thus a "timely" one, Fu said during her speech.
Plastic Recycling Association Singapore
The PRAS is a non-government and not-for-profit business association which will bring together various stakeholders including waste management companies, Institutes of Higher Learning and government agencies to exchange knowledge and best practices on plastic waste management and recycling.
According to its website, it will also establish communication channels between Singapore, Europe and elsewhere to share knowledge.
In her speech, Fu outlined three areas of opportunities the PRAS can harness.
Building up plastic waste recycling capabilities
The association can help develop and expand Singapore's recycling capabilities for plastic waste.
As part of the first phase of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) framework, producers will be held accountable for the waste they generate.
One example is a beverage container return scheme.
Under this scheme, consumers can get a refund for returning empty bottles at designated points. The proper collection of bottles will ensure a clean source of plastic waste which can then be sent for recycling at a local facility.
Having a PET bottle recycling facility is part of Singapore's efforts to strengthen the local capability to recycle beverage bottles, Fu added.
Not only will it help to reduce plastic waste, it can also create economic value and green jobs locally.
Expertise in areas such as precision engineering, manufacturing of recycling equipment and plastic recycling processes will be needed.
R&D for new solutions
Secondly, the PRAS can help devise new solutions in plastic waste recycling through research and development (R&D).
R&D efforts to address the plastic problem at institutes such as A*STAR and Temasek Polytechnic’s Centre for Urban Sustainability can be test-bedded and subsequently commercialised.
Moving towards a circular economy
Lastly, the PRAS can aid Singapore not just in reaching a circular economy locally, but to bring that about in other countries in Southeast Asia as well.
Fu noted that there is an opportunity for Singapore to "collaborate with regional partners through bodies like the PRAS to accelerate the shift towards plastics circularity in our region."
Singapore is not the only country which has recognised the importance and impact of plastic waste.
Singapore's neighbours, Malaysia and Indonesia, have developed a roadmap towards single-use plastics, and sought to adopt a circular economy approach, respectively.
"The world is urgently in need of sustainable solutions to plastic waste," Fu said.
"Paradigm shift" needed
Plastic waste isn't the only waste stream of concern in Singapore.
The amount of waste generated locally increased sevenfold over the past 40 years, and Singapore's only landfill at Semakau is set to fill up by 2035.
This is despite the fact that most of the country's waste is incinerated.
Singapore thus needs a "paradigm shift" to a circular economy. Fu reiterated in her speech that Singapore has to move away from the linear consumption path and has to do so quickly.
"It is clear we need a paradigm shift — to move from a linear approach of take, make and throw, to a circular one where waste becomes resource and is reused over and over again. And we need to move fast."
Currently, the government has the aim of achieving a 70 per cent overall recycling rate by 2030.
Recently, Singapore's first nationwide e-waste management system was launched, and over 300 e-waste recycling bins were installed around the island.
However, this goal cannot be reached through the government's efforts alone, Fu added, and businesses play a key role.
The circular economy presents new opportunities for businesses, and as more consumers start to take into account the environment when purchasing products, many organisations are currently rethinking their business models.
Top photo from Ashley Tan and Pixabay