Mr John Ng, CEO of YTL PowerSeraya
Mr Veerappan Swaminathan, Founder of Repair Kopitiam
1 Good afternoon to all. I am very happy to be here. I had another event this morning and that is why I have asked the organisers if they could change the timing slightly so that I would be able to attend the official opening of Repair Kopitiam’s third community repair meet-up location. Definitely no regrets to see all of you here as well as the wonderful things that you are doing. Thank you Teck Ghee Zone L RC for the wonderful location as well.
Building a Repair Culture in the Community
2 I understand that Sustainable Living Lab has been running the Repair Kopitiam at two other heartland locations – Jurong and Tampines – since 2014. Indeed, it is a wonderful ground-up initiative and it supports our vision of going towards a Zero Waste Nation. I can think of two good reasons why this is a wonderful initiative.
3 Firstly, just simply getting people to come together in a community space is already an achievement, particularly for the men. It is usually hard to get the men to participate in community events, but for this event, it seemed like the men are more interested in hands-on activities like repairing. It is good to also get the young and the old to share knowledge on how to repair damaged items. I was at a Health Promotion Board event earlier this morning. One of my colleagues told me that her plumbing was choked one day. When her mother opened the pipes, the son was surprised that they could even be removed.
4 Very often, we have a throw-away culture. The second thing is really about changing the throw-away culture and mindset to inculcate a behaviour of “repair instead of replace” among residents. Sometimes, we might end up with many of the same items if we just buy new ones, and it ends up being a wastage of resources. Repair Kopitiam has done a lot since 2014 at two locations and it is a really good achievement. They have repair coaches in their monthly workshops, where these passionate repair coaches will teach people how to repair their various items, whether it is toys, clothing or electrical appliances. Since they started in 2014, they have already conducted 130 workshops, trained more than 600 repair coaches and given more than 3,000 items a second lease of life. Let us give them a big round of applause!
Unsustainable Rate of Waste Generation
5 Why is it important to repair, you may ask. We generate so much waste and resources are limited. Last year, Singapore generated almost 8 million tonnes of waste. This is equivalent to the weight of 530,000 double-decker buses! We need to see how we can reduce this. That is why we designated this year to be the Year Towards Zero Waste. We may never be able to achieve zero waste completely, but we must have this vision. The idea of the zero waste vision is to get people to use the resources for as long as possible, just like in Repair Kopitiam where the life of the products are extended. We want to reuse our resources again, just like the circular economy for water where we reuse every drop of water.
6 One of the waste streams that we are particularly concerned about is electrical and electronic waste — what we call e-waste. Although the total amount of e-waste we generate is less than 1 percent of the total waste generated, it contains small amounts of hazardous substances such as mercury and cadmium, which may be harmful to human health and our environment if not handled properly. We can also harvest precious metals from e-waste and turn trash into treasure.
7 When we reduce, reuse and recycle, it helps us to chase the zero waste vision. Let me highlight three reasons why it is important. Firstly, you use less resources and reduce carbon emissions, which contributes towards mitigating climate change. Secondly, it creates new industries, new jobs and economic opportunities for people. Thirdly, if we continue to generate and send so much waste to our landfill, there will not be a Semakau Landfill by 2035. It will be hard to find another place in Singapore. Thus, we want to extend the lifespan of Pulau Semakau.
8 Let me end by saying that everyone can play a part. The government alone cannot achieve our zero waste vision and fight climate change. There are simple things you can do to play your part such as:
i. Buy only what you need;
ii. Reduce, reuse and recycle; and
iii. Repair instead of replace;
9 It is not difficult to help us tackle climate change, conserve resources and protect the environment for ourselves and our future generation. I want to thank Sustainable Living Lab, Repair Kopitiam and PowerSeraya for working together in order to help us to achieve this vision to build a Sustainable Singapore. Thank you very much and I wish you a wonderful weekend.