NEWS

Parliament Q&A

Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources at MEWR COS 2017 on 8 Mar 2017

A. INTRODUCTION

1. Madam Chair, may I have your permission to display some slides and a video on the LED screens.

2. Madam Chair, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew once said: “After independence, I searched for some dramatic way to distinguish ourselves from other Third World countries. I settled for a clean and green Singapore”. Thus, Mr Lee, together with the pioneer generation of Singaporeans, embarked on an unprecedented journey to transform Singapore from a slum to a Garden City.

3. Today, as we work towards further enhancing Singapore’s liveability, we too need to think and act boldly on matters relating to the environment as Mr Lee did. All the more so, as we face huge challenges such as manpower constraints, an ageing population and acute land scarcity.  

B. BECOMING A ZERO WASTE NATION

4. Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim and Ms Cheng Li Hui raised relevant points on waste management. Let me first outline my Ministry’s overall strategy and priorities in managing waste. There are 3 waste streams of greatest concern to us.

5. The first is electrical and electronic waste, or e-waste for short. As Associate Professor Randolph Tan and Mr Louis Ng have highlighted, about 60,000 tonnes of e-waste are generated annually. Currently, consumers can participate in e-waste recycling programmes which industry stakeholders voluntarily provide. For example, StarHub provides e-waste recycling bins at almost 280 convenient locations, such as shopping malls and community centres, through its RENEW programme. The e-waste collected is sent to recyclers such as Tes-Amm, where resources such as copper, aluminium and gold are extracted for reuse.

6. We are currently consulting industry stakeholders on an enhanced national e-waste management system, which would cover both the collection and disposal of e-waste. Some countries, such as Germany and South Korea, have implemented similar systems. We will take into account our local context, such as product coverage and the physical and financial responsibilities of key stakeholders, when developing the system. More details will be released later this year.

7. Mr Ng spoke about HCFCs. Singapore is a Party to the Montreal Protocol, and will phase out the use of HCFCs by 2030. We have put in place measures to help us achieve this, such as controls on the import of HCFCs for local use. Apart from regulatory control, we encourage the recycling of refrigerants recovered from refrigeration and air-conditioning systems. Local recycling facilities such as Vemac Services Pte Ltd, recover refrigerants from decommissioned industrial and commercial systems. We will monitor developments in this area, and assess the feasibility of implementing a management framework for HCFCs, taking into consideration the risk to human health, technical limitations, and the potential compliance costs which businesses would have to bear.

8. The second concern is packaging waste, which makes up around one-third of our domestic waste. Since the launch of our voluntary Singapore Packaging Agreement in 2007, we have achieved a cumulative reduction of more than 32,000 tonnes of packaging waste, but more can be done. We are exploring possible regulations for businesses, such as mandatory reporting of packaging placed on the local market and the submission of packaging waste reduction plans, over the next 2 to 4 years. We will study the issues and announce the details when ready.

9. The third concern is food waste, which Mr Liang Eng Hwa and Ms Cheng have raised. My Ministry has been pursuing several initiatives on this front.

a. We are encouraging more on-site food waste initiatives in individual entities, such as hotels, shopping malls, educational institutions and hawker centres.

b. Mr Liang asked for an update on the district-level food waste treatment pilot in Clementi. Since the end of last year, source-segregated food waste from 9 sites including schools, army camps and a food court has been transported to a demonstration facility in the Ulu Pandan Water Reclamation Plant. About 3 tonnes of food waste are collected daily, but we aim to increase this to 15 tonnes a day. If successful, this process will allow us to recover energy from food waste more efficiently.

c. Good practices start from young and our schools have always been an enthusiastic partner in our recycling efforts. As part of these efforts, we will be launching food waste digesters in 10 schools in the second quarter this year.

Dual Chutes System and Recycling Efforts

10. Under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint (SSB), we have set an overall recycling target of 70% by 2030. Over the last few years, our overall recycling rate has been around 60%. The non-domestic sector comprising industries and commercial premises have achieved a recycling rate of 77%. However, our domestic recycling rates have stagnated at around 20% in recent years. More needs to be done to put recycling at the heart of our culture.

11. Referring to Associate Professor Faishal and Miss Cheng’s queries, we will be reshaping the infrastructure in our physical environment to make recycling more convenient for households. We hope this will bring us closer to our domestic recycling target of 30% by 2030. Since January 2014, all new HDB Build-to-Order (BTO) flats have installed recycling chutes adjacent to centralised refuse chutes at every level. Studies have shown that households living in apartments with dual chute systems recycle up to three times more than those in apartments which do not have such facilities. We are now ready to widen the adoption of such systems.

12. The provision of recycling chutes will be extended to private residential developments. Buildings taller than four storeys in all new non-landed private residential developments will be required to install dual chutes for refuse and recyclables. This measure will apply to all new non-landed residential development applications submitted from 1 April 2018.

13. Regarding Miss Cheng’s query on plans to reduce contamination rates of recyclables, education remains key. Through continued public education programmes in schools and at grassroots events, we encourage everyone to practice responsible recycling habits - the 3Rs and ensure that only items which are suitable for recycling are deposited in the recycling bins and recycling chutes.

Pneumatic Waste Conveyance System (PWCS)

14. As Dr Chia Shi-Lu and Miss Cheng have observed, our current methods of manual waste collection in the older flats are manpower intensive and unsustainable. Moving forward, we will transform our waste collection system into a more efficient, manpower light one.

15. The Pneumatic Waste Conveyance System (PWCS) is an automated system which transports waste by air suction through a network of pipes to a central collection station. This reduces our reliance on manpower to collect refuse. The whole system will be enclosed, and residents will enjoy a more liveable environment, with a reduction in pest nuisance, odours and exposed waste.

16. There is increasing adoption of PWCS in Singapore. In the public sector, HDB piloted the PWCS at Yuhua estate in Jurong under the HDB Greenprint Programme and will be installing PWCS in new HDB areas such as Tampines North and Bidadari. Private developers, such as City Developments Limited and CapitaLand, have done likewise. To date, more than 100 condominium developments such as the Palette at Pasir Ris and Sky Habitat at Bishan have installed the PWCS.

17. Therefore, to improve the efficiency and hygiene of waste collection, all new non-landed private residential developments with at least 500 dwelling units will need to be installed with PWCS. This measure will apply to all new non-landed residential development applications submitted from 1 April 2018.

18. We have consulted extensively with industry players, including the Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore (REDAS) and have taken their feedback into account in determining the threshold limits and implementation date. We will also work closely with managing agents and community partners to educate residents on the correct use of the PWCS.

19. To reap greater economies of scale, my Ministry is studying the feasibility of implementing PWCS at a district level, where different developments can be connected to the same network. An automated and enclosed network of district-level PWCS would bring us even closer to our vision of a manpower efficient waste collection system in a liveable environment.

C. ENHANCING SOCIAL SPACES FOR A LIVEABLE HOME
Smoking Prohibition

20. Next, I turn to smoking. As Mr Ng highlighted, our long-term goal is to prohibit smoking in all public spaces except at designated areas. Last year, we extended the smoking prohibition to areas around reservoirs and more than 400 parks. With this, more than 32,000 premises are now smoke-free in Singapore. We will look into progressively extending the smoking prohibition to other areas.

21. We recently set up five Designated Smoking Areas (DSAs) in Orchard Road to study the effectiveness of DSAs in reducing smoking in a commercial area. We hope this will encourage smokers to be considerate by smoking only at the DSAs. This study when completed at the end of the year, will inform us on the public’s reception towards DSAs, and give us insight into the location and design considerations of the DSAs. We will take into consideration the results of this study, before we consider extending the implementation of DSAs at other locations.

Public Cleanliness

22. On public cleanliness, we have stepped up enforcement against littering. Last year, NEA issued more than 31,000 tickets to litterbugs. This is almost 18% more than 2015 and the highest since 2009. To Mr Gan Thiam Poh’s question about the effectiveness of CWOs, over the past five years, less than 6% of litterbugs who have undergone CWOs have been caught for littering again.

23. Mr Gan also asked about the effectiveness of cameras against high-rise littering. NEA adopted the use of surveillance cameras in August 2012 and has since made more than 4,100 deployments and taken more than 3,300 enforcement actions against high-rise litterbugs. These cameras create an effective deterrent effect, as only about 1% of high rise litterbugs are caught offending again.

24. But beyond enforcement, the most effective and sustainable way to have a litter-free environment is to inculcate the right social values, so that the responsibility for keeping Singapore clean and caring for our environment is part of everyone’s DNA.

Hawker Centres

25. Madam Speaker, our hawker centres are a unique and integral part of our Singapore identity. Not only do they serve an important function of providing affordable food in a clean environment, they are key social spaces where people from all walks of life can enjoy a meal together.

26. The Government had previously announced that 20 new hawker centres will be ready by 2027. This will add about 800 more cooked food stalls across the island. I am pleased to update that 3 new hawker centres have been completed so far. The most recent one being Our Tampines Hub, which commenced operations in November 2016.

27. As highlighted by Associate Professor Daniel Goh, NEA has been exploring alternative management models by engaging socially-conscious operators such as NTUC Foodfare Co-Operative (NFC), Fei Siong and OTMH as managing agents for our hawker centres. The feedback from both hawkers and patrons of these centres have been largely positive. NFC, in particular, is an established socially-conscious operator and has been managing the existing Bedok Interchange Hawker Centre since 2014. Rentals at this centre have remained unchanged and food prices have been kept stable. Besides monitoring hawker food prices for affordability and ensuring that any price revision is justified, these operators have put in place initiatives like offering bulk purchase of ingredients to help hawkers reduce their cost or putting in place productivity measures such as centralised dishwashing, to help hawkers address their manpower constraints.

28. Given the encouraging outcomes of these initial efforts, we extended this approach to other hawker centres. We have appointed NFC to manage a group of 5 existing centres, with incumbent stall-holders, and 2 new centres. Allowing NFC to manage a bundle of hawker centres will enable them to have the necessary scale to enhance the vibrancy and hygiene standards across more hawker centres, as well as the flexibility to experiment with new ideas and processes, to benefit patrons and hawkers. This is the first expanded pilot and we will need to evaluate the results of this approach before we decide on the next steps.

29. We are calling for tenders for the 2 new centres at Yishun and Jurong West. The tenders are open to all socially-conscious operators who are interested to manage the centres. We will select the best tender proposal to ensure that our hawker centres continue to fulfil the fundamental objective of providing affordable food in a hygienic environment while allowing the hawkers to make a decent livelihood.

30. To Associate Professor Goh’s query on subsidised rents in new centres, the subsidised rents were offered to encourage street hawkers to relocate to hawker centres in the 1970s and early 80s. Some hawkers were also allowed to operate stalls at subsidised rents under the previous hardship scheme which was discontinued in 1990. Since then, all new hawkers are required to pay rental at market rate. Hence, there are no subsidised rents in all our new centres.

Hawker Centre 3.0 Committee Recommendations

31. Last year, I announced the formation of a Hawker Centre 3.0 Committee to review and make recommendations to improve the management of hawker centres and ensure the sustainability of the hawker trade to benefit Singaporeans.

32. Following a year of extensive consultations with many stakeholders, including hawkers, patrons, cleaning service providers and members of the public, the Committee submitted its recommendations to the Minister in February 2017.

33. Mr Liang asked about our response to the HC 3.0 Committee’s recommendations. I am pleased to announce that the Ministry has accepted all the recommendations. We will therefore work together with relevant stakeholders to implement them. Let me highlight a few plans that we will put in place in the coming months.

34. First, one key recommendation is for the Government to provide training opportunities and pathways for aspiring hawkers, young or otherwise. For a start, we are working with the People’s Association to develop a “Hawker Fare” series of culinary classes, starting in May. Members of the public can learn how to cook hawker dishes, like chicken rice, yong tau foo and mee goreng from veteran hawkers themselves. While not all trainees will eventually become hawkers, such courses will also help to generate interest in hawker food and culture among Singaporeans, and contribute to sustaining the hawker trade in the long run.

35. There are a handful of culinary certification courses in the market today. However, these courses are largely not tailored to the hawker trade. Hence, in addition to the Hawker Fare series that focuses on culinary skills, we are working with ITE to develop a separate short course to teach aspiring hawkers relevant business management skills, like basic profit and loss analysis and how to tender for a stall, to help them set up and manage a hawker business. More details will be released later in the year. We welcome other interested parties such as training providers to work with us to provide appropriate training to aspiring hawkers.

36. In the second half of this year, we will set up a one-stop information and service centre, which will provide useful information to both existing and aspiring hawkers, like how to tender for a stall, where to go for courses on food hygiene and the hawker trade, and the range of kitchen automation equipment available.

37. During the second half of the year, we will also be launching an incubation stall programme, where some hawker stalls at several hawker centres will be pre-fitted by NEA to let eligible aspiring hawkers try out being a hawker for a period of say 6 months. This will allow them to decide if they are cut out for the trade without heavy investments.

38. Madam Chair, with your permission, I would like to say a few words in Mandarin.

委员会的第二项建议,着重于提高小贩中心的生产力。委员会建议,政府应该更广泛地推广措施,通过生产力的提升,减轻小贩们的工作量,从而解决人力的短缺所带来的挑战。其实,我们已经规定新建的小贩中心,必须实行提高生产力的措施,如中央洗碗和无现金支付系统等。而不少现有小贩中心,如文礼坊,的摊主们也自愿参与了中央洗碗计划。

[Translated] Second, the Committee recommended that the Government implement productivity measures in the hawker centres to help hawkers reduce their workload and address the manpower challenges that hawkers are facing. Productivity initiatives such as centralised dishwashing and cashless payment are already a requirement in new centres. Some stallholders in existing centres have also voluntarily subscribed to centralised dishwashing services, such as those at Boon Lay Place Market and Food Centre.

为了减轻小贩们的工作量,并辅助他们克服人力短缺所带来的挑战,政府将拨款九千万元,协助小贩中心推行生产力措施.此资金所覆盖的措施,如中央洗碗服务等,将惠及整个小贩中心。政府也会拨款,通过增设厨房自动化设备等方式,帮助各熟食摊主,提升生产力。

[Translated] The Government will set aside about $90 million in funding support to facilitate the adoption of productivity initiatives, which will help lighten the workload of hawkers and address manpower constraints. This will include some funding to increase the adoption of centre-level productivity initiatives, like centralised dish washing and stall-level productivity initiatives like the purchase of kitchen automation equipment.

39. We recognise that hawkers may have concerns about the cost of productivity initiatives. Hence, as noted earlier, to alleviate these cost concerns, the Government will set aside about $90 million to facilitate the adoption of productivity initiatives in hawker centres. The funding will support the progressive re-configuration of up to 25 existing centres over the next few years to facilitate the rolling out of centre-level productivity initiatives, such as centralised dishwashing integrated with tray return and cashless payment solutions similar to those seen at the hawker centre in Our Tampines Hub or Ci Yuan Hawker Centre. We will co-fund up to 70% of the operating costs of such initiatives for hawkers in these centres for a period of time. This will help lower the initial costs of adoption of productivity measures that will help realise manpower and cost savings in the longer term.

40. To promote stall-level productivity, we will set up a Hawkers’ Productivity Grant to co-fund the purchase of suitable kitchen automation equipment for cooked food stall-holders. Each stall-holder can claim 80% of the qualifying cost of the equipment on a reimbursement basis, up to a total of $5,000 within 3 years. Hawkers can start applying for this grant in the third quarter of this year.

41. Some hawkers are already using automation equipment. When I visited Smith Street Food Centre recently, I came across a cooked food stall-holder who sells steamed yam cakes. She uses an automated stirrer to mix ingredients which reduces a lot of manual labour. Through the Hawkers’ Productivity Grant, we hope to encourage greater adoption of such labour-saving equipment.

42. Third, more than just dining spaces, hawker centres are places where Singaporeans of all walks of life can interact. In response to the Committee’s recommendation to encourage regular organised activities at hawker centres in a sustainable manner, I am happy to announce that we will be providing funding support of $2,000 per event to adopters of hawker centres, up to an annual cap of $10,000 for each adopter, to organise events to enhance the vibrancy of hawker centres. Such events can enhance patrons’ dining experience at hawker centres, while increasing footfall and benefitting hawkers.

43. Fourth, on graciousness in hawker centres, people recognise that the act of tray-return is a kind and considerate behaviour to be cultivated. To Mr Png Eng Huat’s question, we introduced tray-return to hawker centres in 2012 and since 2015, tray-return facilities have been implemented in all hawker centres. The tray-return rates vary, with the highest tray-return rates at Tiong Bahru Market, Blk 137 Tampines Street 11 and Our Tampines Hub. We have also been working on making tray-return stations more visible, prominent and accessible, as seen in the newer hawker centres.

44. To study how to further improve tray return rates, we are also currently running a pilot involving the use of specially designed tray decals and working with our cleaning contractor at Zion Riverside Food Centre to train the cleaners to encourage patrons to clear their trays after their meals.

45. These initiatives that we are rolling out are part of our efforts to ensure the sustainability and viability of the hawker trade. They should help to support both existing and aspiring hawkers. This in turn will allow Singaporeans to continue enjoying affordable food in a clean and hygienic environment.

D. CLEANER AND GREENER LIVING ENVIRONMENT
Vector Control

46. Lastly, let me give an update on our dengue cases. Despite earlier concerns that warmer weather would contribute to a spike in dengue cases to beyond 30,000 last year, we managed to bring the situation under control. There were instead 13,000 dengue cases last year. The World Health Organisation has also commended our efforts in managing the Zika outbreak. However, we cannot be complacent, and should remain vigilant by doing the 5-step Mozzie Wipeout. 

47. Mr Gan asked for an update on the small-scale field studies of Wolbachia-Aedes mosquitoes that commenced last year. We have seen encouraging results so far. About half of the Aedes aegypti eggs collected from a trial site were unable to hatch. Our panel of international experts recently affirmed the good progress and expressed their support of NEA’s plan to move to the next phase of the suppression trial later this year.

E. CONCLUSION

48. Madam Chair, in conclusion, everyone must take responsibility for the environment. To achieve the vision of a liveable and sustainable Singapore as laid out in our Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, everyone needs to be part of the solution. The little things that we do, like throwing away our trash properly, recycling our waste responsibly and returning our trays with the crockery, can make a big difference. With the support of this house, Singaporeans can rise up and do this together.

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