Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Launch of the Plastics Recycling Association of Singapore on 17 August 2021
Er Edwin Khew, President of Plastics Recycling Association, Singapore
Ladies and Gentlemen
1 A very good afternoon to all. It is my pleasure to join you for the launch of the Plastics Recycling Association of Singapore, or PRAS.
The problem of rising waste
2 With rising consumption and a prevalent throw-away culture, countries are now facing a global waste crisis. A World Bank Report has estimated that global waste generation will grow by 70 per cent to 3.4 billion tonnes by 2050, unless urgent action is taken.
3 One of the drivers of this significant growth in waste generation is the use of single-use plastics. The UN Environment Programme estimated that half of all plastics produced is designed to be used once and then discarded. Much of the plastic waste ends up in landfills, where it may never decompose. It is a significant threat to our planetary and oceanic environment.
4 In Singapore, the amount of waste generated locally has increased sevenfold over the past 40 years. Our only landfill, the Semakau Landfill, will run out of space by 2035, based on the current waste disposal rate, even with incineration.
5 Plastic waste is also one of our largest waste streams. In 2020, we generated 868,000 tonnes of plastic waste, and only 4 per cent is recycled.
Our shift to zero waste and circularity
6 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.
7 The Government has taken major steps to catalyse Singapore’s transition to a circular economy. We launched the Zero Waste Masterplan in 2019 to lay out our vision and strategies.
a. The Masterplan sets out a target to reduce the amount of waste going to our landfill by 30 per cent by 2030. Under the Singapore Green Plan 2030, we will frontload our efforts to achieve a 20 per cent reduction by 2026.
b. We aim to achieve a 70 per cent overall recycling rate by 2030, through various measures to improve both the domestic and non-domestic recycling rate.
8 We introduced the landmark Resource Sustainability Act in 2019 to put in place an Extended Producer Responsibility, or EPR, framework for our three priority waste streams: electrical and electronic waste, or e-waste for short; food waste; and packaging waste, which includes plastics.
a. The EPR mandates producers and suppliers of regulated products to be responsible for the collection and proper treatment of their products at end-of-life. This ensures that products are properly collected for treatment and disposal, with safe handling and extraction of valuable resources.
b. An example of the EPR framework can be seen in Singapore’s first nationwide e-waste management system which started last month. Under this new initiative, regulated consumer e-waste is collected across Singapore for proper treatment and recycling on behalf of the producers.
9 We are investing heavily in sustainable infrastructure to close resource loops and meet Singapore’s long-term waste treatment needs.
10 The Tuas Nexus Integrated Waste Management Facility, or IWMF, will be Singapore’s first integrated facility to treat incinerable waste, source-segregated food waste, and dewatered sludge. Its automated Materials Recovery Facility will consolidate and sort all recyclables collected under the National Recycling Programme, to achieve higher recovery yields and boost our recycling. The co-location of the IWMF with PUB’s Tuas Water Reclamation Plant will derive synergies from the water-energy-waste nexus, resulting in improved energy and resource recovery, land savings, as well as carbon savings of more than 200,000 tonnes annually.
11 I am happy to announce that the IWMF will be the first infrastructure project by a Statutory Board to be financed through green bonds. NEA has established a S$3 billion Multicurrency Medium Term Note Programme and a Green Bond Framework. Proceeds from the issuance of Notes will be used to finance sustainable infrastructure projects, including the IWMF. NEA’s issuance of green bonds will help develop green finance solutions and markets, supporting Singapore’s vision to become a leading centre for green finance. This is a major milestone to catalyse the flow of capital towards sustainable development, and green our economy as part of the Green Plan.
Businesses play a key role
12 Singapore cannot achieve a circular economy by the Government’s efforts alone. We need to forge active and meaningful partnerships with all stakeholders, especially the business community, for which the circular economy presents many new opportunities.
13 As we transit towards a low-carbon future, organisations are beginning to rethink their business models – such as by embracing circularity in product design, recovering resources from products at their end-of-life, or undertaking lifecycle assessments to green supply chains.
14 Consumers are also demanding greener and more sustainable products and services. Many businesses are reviewing plastic packaging and setting targets to scale up the use of recycled plastics in their production processes. For example, German company Henkel has committed to use 100 per cent recyclable or reusable packaging, and at least 30 per cent of recycled plastics in all its plastic packaging, for its consumer products by 2025. Sportswear company Puma has also set targets to increase recycled polyester use for its apparel to 75 per cent, and reduce production waste to landfill by 50 per cent, by 2025.
PRAS – A synergistic partnership to close the plastics loop
15 The setting up of the PRAS in Singapore is timely. The PRAS brings together stakeholders from industry and research – including waste management companies, chemical producers, Institutes of Higher Learning and government agencies – to exchange knowledge and best practices on plastic waste management and recycling. The aim is to deepen Singapore’s capability in plastics recycling.
16 Let me share three areas of opportunities that the PRAS can harness.
17 First, in developing and expanding our recycling capabilities for plastic waste. Singapore will implement a beverage containers return scheme as the first phase of EPR for packaging waste. Producers, such as beverage companies, will be accountable for the collection and recycling of their beverage bottles. Consumers will get a refund when they return the empty beverage containers at designated return points. The scheme will aggregate a relatively clean source of plastic waste, such as PET plastic beverage bottles, to provide a steady stream of feedstock for the local recycling industry.
18 A PET bottle recycling facility in Singapore will be one way for PRAS to strengthen our local capability in recycling PET bottles. Such a facility will create economic value and green jobs locally. It will also bring expertise in areas such as precision engineering, manufacturing of recycling equipment and plastic recycling processes.
19 Second, in collaborating with our research and development (R&D) ecosystem, PRAS can explore new solutions in plastic waste recycling. Our researchers are making progress in minimising plastic waste footprint under our Research, Innovation, and Enterprise (RIE) plans. For example, a team from A*STAR’s Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences is developing a solution to recover PE and PET layers in multi-layered films; while a team from Temasek Polytechnic’s Centre for Urban Sustainability is looking at processing mixed plastic waste into ingredients for building and construction applications. By participating in the translation of our R&D efforts to real world applications through test-bedding and commercialisation, PRAS can gain the knowledge and skills to develop cutting-edge solutions to address global plastic waste challenges.
20 Third, to seek opportunities to bring about circular economy beyond Singapore. The need for plastic recycling solution is rising across the world. Singapore is certainly not alone in recognising the need for a circular approach when using our resources. Malaysia has outlined a roadmap towards zero single-use plastics, and is developing a Circular Economy Roadmap to combat plastic waste. Indonesia also seeks to adopt a circular economy approach towards sustainable growth and development. There is opportunity for us to collaborate with regional partners through bodies like the PRAS to accelerate the shift towards plastics circularity in our region.
21 Let me conclude. Once again, we welcome the formation of PRAS and would like to congratulate PRAS on your successful launch. While plastics is a critical component in our manufacturing and logistical processes, its impact on the environment cannot be ignored. The current Business-As-Usual mode cannot continue. The world is urgently in need of sustainable solutions to plastic waste. I urge all stakeholders to put in serious efforts to look for better solutions for a better world. Thank you.