The National Environment Agency (NEA) is planning to implement a new container return scheme by mid-2024 to promote recycling.
When it launches, a small deposit of 10 to 20 cents will be applied to all metal and plastic beverage containers for all pre-packaged beverages.
Before then, it is seeking the public's opinion in a public consultation.
10 to 20 cent deposit will be refunded when container is returned
From mid-2024, if you purchase any drink that comes in a plastic bottle or metal can, a flat deposit of 10 to 20 cents will be added to the retail price of the drink.
That means that you can expect to pay between S$1.10 and S$1.20 for a canned drink that usually costs S$1 when the scheme is implemented.
This applies to metal and plastic containers of between 150ml to 3L and for all beverage types, including beer, milk and soft drinks.
The deposit will then be returned to you when you drop off the container at designated return points.
According to NEA, these return points would generally be located at retail outlets and community spaces.
There, consumers can use a Reverse Vending Machine (RVM) or receive the amount over-the-counter via a cashier.
Refund options may include electronic transfer, cash or cash voucher and donations to charity.
To improve recycling rate and reduce waste
The scheme is the first phase of an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) approach to manage packaging waste and aims to ameliorate Singapore's low recycling rate of beverage containers.
Similar return schemes in countries like Norway, Lithuania and Finland have seen a significant increase in return rates. These countries have a 92 per cent return rate.
At the same time, the scheme seeks to improve awareness on the importance of the 3Rs -- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Higher recycling rates would also extend the lifespan of Semakau landfill beyond 2035 and reduce carbon emissions.
For the first phase, the scheme would only include metal cans and plastic bottles. This is because of their high consumption, high material value, ease of collection and compaction, said NEA.
Containers covered under the scheme would be labelled with a deposit mark and a registered barcode for RVMs to identify eligible containers.
Glass bottles and beverage cartons, which are more complex to recycle in terms of collection logistics and infrastructure, might be included in future phases.
Eight in 10 people supportive of scheme
The implementation of the proposed beverage container return scheme scheme was first announced at the 2020 Committee of Supply debates in Parliament.
Since then, NEA has been consulting various stakeholders for this scheme to craft the paper proposing this scheme.
In a survey of 1,000 households conducted in early 2021, the agency found that eight in 10 people are generally supportive of the scheme.
Most felt that a deposit amount of 10 to 20 cents is reasonable to motivate return for recycling.
Supermarkets were most preferred return location.
For now, NEA is considering to mandate supermarkets larger than 200m2 in total floor area to be designated return points, which makes up around 400 supermarkets in Singapore.
Give feedback about the scheme
NEA is inviting the public to share their views about the scheme, particularly on the type of beverage containers to be covered, deposit amount, and return point locations.
If you would like to provide feedback about the scheme, you can go to go.gov.sg/nea-bcrs, where you can read the public consultation paper as well.
The survey is open from now until Oct. 14, 2022.
Top image by Kow Zi Shan.