NEWS

Parliament Q&A

Opening Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, at the Second Reading of Hazardous Waste (Control of Export, Import And Transit) Amendment Bill, on 3 Feb 2020

1. Mr Speaker, Sir, on behalf of the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, I beg to move, “That the Bill be now read a second time”.

Basel Convention

2. Singapore is a party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. The Basel Convention is an international treaty governing the classification and transboundary movement of hazardous and other waste to protect human health and the environment.

 3. The Basel Convention does not prohibit the transboundary movement of hazardous waste. Instead, it controls the movement of hazardous waste via the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure.This is in recognition of the legitimate transboundary movements of hazardous waste as defined under the Convention, such as for proper recycling or disposal. Besides controlling hazardous waste, the Convention also imposes the PIC procedure on some non-hazardous waste streams, namely household wastes and residues arising from the incineration of household wastes. These waste streams are defined as “other waste” under the Basel Convention. 

4. Under the PIC procedure, exporting states that wish to export any waste stream that is covered by the Convention have to obtain prior consent from the countries receiving the waste, or the states of import, as well as the countries through which the waste transits, or the states of transit.

5. Amidst global concerns about the environmental impact of unregulated trade in plastic waste, Parties to the Basel Convention agreed last year to expand the scope of the Convention to cover certain categories of plastic waste. This extends the PIC procedure to the export of certain non-hazardous plastic waste as well as plastic waste with hazardous characteristics. However, most clean and homogeneous plastic waste which has been sorted prior to export and is destined for recycling will not be subjected to the PIC procedure. These amendments to the Basel Convention will take effect on 1 January 2021.

6. Improper disposal of plastic waste has caused severe environmental pollution, adverse health effects and contributed to climate change. As a responsible global citizen, Singapore joins the international community in supporting the amendments to the Basel Convention which will strengthen control of the transboundary movement of plastic waste.

7. As a Party to the Basel Convention, Singapore is required to implement domestic controls to regulate the transboundary movement of the covered categories of plastic waste. Singapore fulfils our obligations to the Basel Convention through the Hazardous Waste (Control of Export, Import and Transit) Act, or HWA for short. The HWA provides the legislative framework for the National Environment Agency (NEA) to ensure that Singapore complies with our obligations under the Basel Convention. 

8. The Hazardous Waste (Control of Export, Import and Transit) (Amendment) Bill seeks to expand the scope of the HWA to cover the transboundary movement of certain categories of plastic waste. This will enable us to meet our obligations arising from the amendments to the Basel Convention. It also seeks to update NEA’s regulatory powers for more effective administration and enforcement of the HWA.

9. Mr Speaker, Sir, I will now highlight the key provisions of the Bill.

Amendments to introduce controls on plastic waste

10. I will start with the proposed amendments to include plastic waste within the scope of the Act.

11. Section 4 of the HWA defines “hazardous waste” and “other waste” in accordance with the Basel Convention. The definition of “other waste” is currently based on the categories of waste listed under Annex II of the Basel Convention. These are non-hazardous wastes that have to undergo the PIC procedure. The amendments to the Basel Convention will now expand Annex II to include certain categories of plastic waste which could impact the environment if not managed properly, such as mixed plastic waste. Clause 3 accordingly amends Section 4 to define “other waste” as meaning waste belonging to any category under Annex II to the Basel Convention.

12. The Schedule of the HWA reproduces the texts and annexes of the Basel Convention. Clause 7 amends the Schedule to include the categories of plastic waste covered by the amendments to the Basel Convention. 

Amendments to facilitate administration and enforcement

13. I will now highlight the amendments to facilitate the administration and enforcement of the HWA.

14. The HWA is currently administered by the Director of Hazardous Waste, as appointed by the Minister. Clauses 2, 5 and 8 make various amendments to the HWA to make the Director-General of Environmental Protection, appointed under the Environmental Protection and Management Act (EPMA), responsible for the administration of the HWA instead. This is to align with the power of administration of other Acts under NEA, such as the EPMA. Consequential amendments will be made to the Second Schedule of the Insolvency, Restructuring and Dissolution Act 2018.

15. The Basel Convention allows Parties to lodge with its Secretariat, Parties’ national definitions of “hazardous waste” and “other waste” beyond the scope of the Convention. These national definitions are published on the official Basel Convention website. Section 5 of the HWA allows the Minister, through notification in the Gazette, to extend the definition of “hazardous waste” or “other waste” in the Act to include these national definitions.

16. Clause 4 adds a new subsection (1A) to section 5 of the HWA to extend these definitions to include all the latest national definitions lodged by Parties and published on the Basel Convention website.

17. Section 30 of the HWA currently provides NEA with the power to control the movement of vessels or aircrafts if there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that a vessel or aircraft is carrying hazardous or other waste that is to be exported from, imported into or transited through Singapore. Clause 6 amends Section 30 to expand NEA’s enforcement powers to cover vehicles suspected to be carrying hazardous or other waste into or out of Singapore via our land checkpoints.

Conclusion

18. In conclusion, Singapore is committed to uphold our obligations under the Basel Convention, and work with the international community to ensure that the global trade in plastic waste is carried out in an environmentally sustainable manner. The Hazardous Waste (Control of Export, Import and Transit) (Amendment) Bill will allow us to enhance our domestic controls and enforcement powers to comply with the new obligations under the Basel Convention.

19. At the same time, we recognise that the flow of clean and valuable recyclables can be legitimate, and help to support the adoption of a circular economy at the regional and global level. We will continue to work with the international and regional community to strike a balance between facilitating the legitimate flow of such resources, and safeguarding against the unregulated or illegal transboundary movement of waste.

20. Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move.

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