Written Reply by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, to Parliamentary Question on Household Recycling
Mr Murali Pillai: To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment (a) whether she can provide an update on the efficacy of the commingled collection system of recyclable waste from blue recycling bins provided at HDB estates; (b) what is the waste arising from people wrongly depositing rubbish that is not recyclable into these blue recycling bins that are then collected by public waste collectors; and (c) whether any steps will be taken to improve the commingled collection system.
Under the National Recycling Programme, Singapore adopts a commingled system for recyclables. A commingled system makes recycling easier for residents as it relieves residents of the effort and time needed to segregate different types of recyclables. It is also more cost-effective and has a lower carbon footprint, as it reduces the number of trips that the Public Waste Collectors (PWCs) need to make to collect recyclables. All recyclables are sent to Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) where they are further sorted, baled and sent for recycling. These recyclables contributed to an overall 17% domestic recycling rate in 2019.
We can do more to improve the recycling rate by reducing contamination of recyclables in the blue bins. Currently, the contamination rate is about 40%, arising from waste or reusables wrongly disposed of as recyclables. These contaminants include soiled food packaging or tissue paper that should be disposed of as general waste, as well as soft toys, bags and shoes which are reusables that should instead be donated. As such, just by moving from a commingled system for recyclables to a system which separates recyclables at source, may not solve the problem of contamination.
Tackling the high contamination rate of the blue recycling bins requires everyone to play their part. My Ministry and the National Environment Agency (NEA) launched the #RecycleRight movement in 2019 to encourage households to recycle more and to recycle right. Under the #RecycleRight movement, we have worked with the community to redesign the recycling label for our blue recycling bins to help residents identify recyclables more easily. We also organised a #RecycleRight Citizens’ Workgroup to co-create solutions to improve the way households recycle. We are working with partners and members of the Workgroup to pilot projects arising from their recommendations, including new recycling bin designs.
My Ministry and the NEA will continue to work with stakeholders to raise awareness on recycling right. We also encourage all Singaporeans to do their part by recycling more and cleaning the recyclables before placing them in the blue bins.