Written reply by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, to Parliamentary Question on Export of Recyclables, on 5 October 2020
Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song: To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment (a) in each of the last five years, how many tonnes and what percentage of Singapore's recyclable waste has been exported; and (b) how does the Ministry ensure that the exported recyclable waste ultimately gets recycled instead of being incinerated or deposited in landfills overseas.
1. We exported about 1,889,000 tonnes of recyclable waste in 2015, 1,757,000 tonnes in 2016, 1,637,000 tonnes in 2017, 1,579,000 tonnes in 2018 and 1,439,000 tonnes in 2019. This corresponds to 41% of Singapore’s total waste recycled in 2015, 37% in 2016, 35% in 2017, 33% in 2018 and 34% in 2019.
Reference Table: Total amount of recyclables exported, waste recycled, and proportion of recyclables exported
||Total Recyclables Exported (tonnes)
||Total Waste Recycled (tonnes)
||Proportion of Recycables Exported
Note: Figures are rounded to the nearest thousand tonnes.
2. Ferrous and non-ferrous metals, paper and cardboard waste made up about 90% of the total amount of recyclables exported in 2019. These recyclables have commercial value and fetch competitive prices when exported.
3. Recyclables that are contaminated with hazardous or other wastes, are governed by the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal (“Basel Convention”), which is a Multilateral Environmental Agreement that regulates the import, export and transit of hazardous wastes and other wastes.
4. Our companies are regularly reminded about Singapore’s obligations under the Basel Convention, and NEA will investigate and enforce against any violations. While we are aware of the countries where our recyclables are exported to, we do not have information on how the recyclables are processed and treated in the countries of import, or if they are further exported. We are unable to gather data from companies that are outside our jurisdiction.
5. Recyclables have an intrinsic value. The value is a function of the value of the recycled material, the market price of its substitute, and the cost of recycling, including transportation to an export destination. If there is no export market for it, or if the cost of recycling outweighs the value of the recycled product, the waste collector may choose not to collect the recyclables but to treat them as general waste and send them to the incineration plant. Therefore, my Ministry recognises the need to build up our local recycling capabilities. For example, we are working with the private sector to develop mechanical recycling solutions to turn waste plastics into plastic pellets for manufacturing new products. And chemical recycling to process contaminated plastics that cannot be mechanically recycled. For e-waste, we are developing capabilities to recycle Large Household Appliances, ICT products, batteries and lamps to support the upcoming e-waste Extended Producer Responsibility framework. This will allow us to better extract resources from waste and close our waste loops locally through a circular economy approach.