Parliament Q&A

Oral Reply by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, to Parliamentary Question on Single-use Plastics, on 6 Aug 2019


Er Dr Lee Bee Wah: To ask the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (a) whether the Ministry will study the impact of the policy on banning single-use plastics in the UK and Ireland; and (b) what is the Ministry's assessment of the likelihood of adopting a similar ban here.

Reply by Dr Amy Khor:

1. My Ministry and the National Environment Agency (NEA) take a keen interest in how other countries manage their disposables. We will continue to study their policies and implementation outcomes, and how they may fit our local context. Our approach has been to reduce the excessive use of all types of disposables, not just single-use plastics, and to promote the use of reusables. We do not target plastics alone. The NEA conducted a life-cycle assessment of single-use carrier bags and disposables and found that substituting plastics with other types of single-use packaging materials is not necessarily better for the environment. As such, our focus is to promote the use of reusables.

2. The NEA launched the “Say YES to Waste Less” campaign last month as part of the Year Towards Zero Waste movement to drive awareness of the impact of excessive consumption of disposables and the need for reduction. Some 1,600 premises, ranging from retailers, food and beverage establishments, supermarkets, hotels, Community Development Councils, grassroots organisations, schools and non-governmental organisations have come forward to partner the NEA in this nation-wide endeavour. Partners commit to actions such as prompting customers to bring along reusables, encouraging them to decline disposable cutlery with online orders and displaying campaign visuals at cashier points. NEA has also launched the ‘Towards Zero Waste Grant’ to support individuals, interest groups, non-governmental organisations, grassroots organisations and corporations to initiate or scale up waste reduction and recycling initiatives.

3. Moving upstream, starting next year, NEA will require brand owners, manufacturers and importers of packaged goods, as well as supermarkets with an annual turnover exceeding $10 million to report information on the packaging they place on the market, and their plans for reducing, reusing or recycling this packaging annually. This will increase companies’ awareness of the potential for waste reduction in their business operations. Companies should take action to reduce the amount of packaging used, and minimise waste generation at source. This will also lay the foundation of an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) framework for managing packaging including plastic waste, which NEA will put in place no later than 2025.  

4. Besides reducing waste, we are also taking actions to increase our recycling rate. For example, we are working with the industry to tap on the Towards Zero Waste Grant to roll out 50 reverse vending machines this year. Through this initiative, we hope to engage the public to consciously recycle used PET bottles and aluminium cans.

5. At the same time, we are developing the local recycling industry. Where possible, we want to better extract resources from waste and close the waste loop domestically. NEA is currently studying recycling solutions and technologies, and assessing their suitability for adoption in Singapore. This may include mechanical recycling to turn waste plastics into plastic pellets for manufacturing new products, or chemical recycling to turn plastic waste into chemical feedstock or fuel. The Government will work with industry stakeholders to explore how these technologies can be applied to Singapore, such that it is both environmentally and economically sustainable. These are efforts which could help grow local enterprises and create good jobs for Singaporeans.

6. Everyone needs to play our part to reduce packaging waste, including single-use plastics. We can do this in different ways. For example, we can opt out of receiving disposable cutlery when ordering food for takeaway or delivery, or we can bring our own reusable bags and containers and take only the plastic bags we need. The support of the public, businesses and the community is key to successfully reducing our packaging waste.

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