Written Reply to Parliamentary Question on Biodegradable Plastics by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment
Mr Yip Hon Weng: To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment (a) whether there are on-going assessments on the possible impact to the environment between the use of biodegradable plastics and the conventional types of plastics in Singapore; (b) whether there is a plan to encourage the use of biodegradable plastics as part of our sustainability goals; and (c) If not, what are the underlying reasons for this stance.
1 In 2018, the National Environment Agency released the key findings of a lifecycle assessment study on carrier bags and food packaging in Singapore. The study showed that all materials, including biodegradable ones, imposed some environmental impacts throughout their lifecycles. For instance, more water is consumed over the lifecycle of plant-based biodegradable plastic bags, such as in the growing of their raw materials, than for conventional plastics.
2 Biodegradable plastics may offer some environmental benefit in countries which landfill their waste directly, as biodegradable plastics may break down faster than conventional plastics. However, as all incinerable waste in Singapore, including plastic waste, is not landfilled directly but is either recycled or properly disposed of at waste-to-energy plants, biodegradable packaging does not offer the same incremental benefit in Singapore. Biodegradable plastics could even interfere with the recycling process when mixed with conventional plastic. Therefore, encouraging a switch from conventional plastics to biodegradable materials will not necessarily result in a better environmental outcome overall for Singapore.
3 A more sustainable approach for Singapore is to reduce the use of all disposables regardless of material and encourage the use of reusables. We are doing this through public education and engagement, and regulatory measures.