Enhanced government and corporate accountability, with a commitment of the full execution of the EPR law, and more investment into upcycling innovations are yet to make a more sustainable waste management ecosystem in Singapore.
Singapore is well-known for its efficiency, cleanliness and uncountable innovations made in sustainable building design, energy and water efficiency.
Yet contempt aiming to become a ‘Zero Waste Nation’ and devoting heavily in waste management, the island state fares quite weakly when it comes to accountable resource recovery.
Most of Singapore’s trash is incinerated
Singapore disposes of much of its waste through waste-to-energy initiatives—of the massive 7.23 tonnes of solid waste generated in 2019, more than 40% was incinerated.
According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), incineration reduces waste by up to 90%, saving landfill space, and the heat recovered produces steam used to generate electricity.
In the words of the recently appointed Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, Grace Fu, Singapore is not “in a hurry” to ban plastic bags because it burns waste to produce energy.
Waste-to-energy initiatives are, however, not sustainable in the long run
People are not bound to conserve energy when they are misinformed to believe that their electricity comes from ‘green sources’. Moreover, waste-to-energy only accounts for 3% of Singapore’s total electricity needs.
They provide no encouragements to reduce waste volumes or inspire responsible recycling.
However, Singapore has low recycling rates and generates massive waste volumes for such a small city-state.
Resources are lost and misused, making needless demand for virgin materials.
They could ease innovation in waste management, including upcycling waste into other, higher-value products besides electricity, or delay the transition to more renewable energy sources.
Incineration naturally leads to growing carbon emissions, and air pollution could potentially pose a health hazard. Although, experts from the NEA claims that Singapore’s waste-to-energy technology is ecologically and health-friendly.
Since most trash is incinerated, plastic alternatives often advertised as biodegradable may not be more eco-friendly in Singapore’s context.
They would either need a specialised industry facility to be processed or would need to be left in the landfill to degrade.