Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, at IKEA's 6th Young Designer Award on 1 July 2019

Ms Soh Bee Lian, Head of Sustainability, IKEA Southeast Asia,

 Ladies and Gentlemen,

1     A very good afternoon to all of you. It is my pleasure to be here for IKEA’s sixth run of the Young Designer Award.

Year Towards Zero Waste

2     I am glad that IKEA has chosen “Zero Waste Challenge” for this year’s theme. It is in support of us designating 2019 as Singapore’s Year Towards Zero Waste. Why did we designate this year as the Year Towards Zero Waste? If you have done your research, you would have understood the context and the background. We did this because we are concerned about how much waste we are generating as a country. Over the last 40 years, the amount of waste disposed in Singapore has jumped seven-fold. We generated almost 8 million tonnes of waste, enough to fill 15,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Singapore is one of the few countries in the world who incinerate our waste. This is because of our land constraints as incineration reduces our total waste volume by 90 per cent. Unlike other countries, we landfill the incineration bottom ash, as direct landfilling has its own set of issues. But Semakau Landfill, our only landfill, will run out of space by 2035 if we continue to dispose of waste at the current rate. Therefore, we need to take urgent action now to reduce, reuse and recycle our resources. We want to turn waste into resource, trash into treasure. 

3     One way to do this is to design products to be more durable, and easily recyclable when they reach their end-of-life. This is important because we have finite resources on our planet. It is why we want to shift towards a circular economy approach, instead of the traditional ‘take-make-waste’ linear model, where resources are kept in use for as long as possible. I always use the way we close our water loop as a very good illustration. In Singapore, our waste water, or sewage water, is recycled into NEWater, so every drop of water can be used many times. This is what we want to do for our waste — to close our waste loop, by turning trash into treasure, and turning waste into resource.

 4    Apart from turning our trash into treasure, we can also produce and consume sustainably. Recently, I attended a #RecycleRight community event jointly organised by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources with National Geographic. One of the highlights of the event was a mini Trashpresso from Miniwiz, which converts clean plastic waste into beautiful products such as coasters, cups, plates, and even building materials, which they have used in construction. This is one way in which we can extend the lifespan of materials, and give them a second lease of life. Adopting this circular economy approach will save costs for businesses in the long run, and create new, exciting jobs and economic opportunities for Singaporeans.

 What Government is doing: Introducing Greater Accountability for Waste

 5     To pave the way for Singapore to become a Zero Waste Nation, my Ministry will be introducing a mandatory reporting framework for packaging waste, including plastics, from 2020. I know many people are seized with the issue of plastics. Originally, the mandatory reporting framework was supposed to be out in 2021, but we have moved it forward by a year. Businesses such as brand owners, importers and large retailers, including supermarkets, will need to start collecting data on the types and amounts of packaging that they place on the market, and submit plans for reduction. In addition, we will implement the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) approach for e-waste by 2021, and for packaging waste by 2025. We have made this public, and informed businesses, stakeholders and retailers to start preparing for this. Under the EPR framework, producers will be responsible for the proper recycling and disposal of their products at the end-of-life. We hope these moves will spur businesses to develop products that can last longer, and also design them such that they can be more easily recycled.

 What you can do: Inspire through Design

 6     As young designers, you have the potential to nudge consumer behaviour through your designs, which help minimise our impact on the environment. I am heartened to note that there was a record-breaking 122 entries from local tertiary institutions for this year’s Young Designer Awards. This shows that waste is an issue which our youth are interested in.

7     Many of you have created innovative solutions in answer to IKEA’s call to inspire or encourage the public to reduce waste at home and as a community. Let me name a few. The first is the augmented reduce, reuse and recycle (ARRR) mobile app from a team of Singapore Polytechnic students. The app ingeniously utilises augmented reality to enable users to experience how furniture or cardboard packaging can be transformed into a variety of new and useful products.

 8    The second solution I want to mention is Nanyang Polytechnic student Muhammad Afiq’s colour-coded clip system, which reminds users to consume leftover food that is often left forgotten at the back of refrigerators. I must confess that I am also guilty of this. This system will help to reduce instances of food going bad and help reduce food waste.

9     The third is Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s “ECOroad”, which cleverly harvests heat from roads and converts it into electrical energy. This is an interesting take on the waste-to-energy paradigm.

10    The range of ideas generated from this competition shows the immense contributions that our young designers like yourselves can potentially bring to our fight against waste and of course, climate change. Your ideas and submissions – and I include those who may not be one of the finalists today – show your passion for design and heart for our environment.


11   Let me conclude. I would like to thank IKEA for providing young designers with this annual platform for them to flex their creative muscles, and empowering them to express their passion for the environment. IKEA has been a steadfast partner to the MEWR Family. Recently, IKEA partnered NEA for the ‘Say Yes to Waste Less’ campaign to reduce the use of disposables in Singapore. IKEA has also pledged to remove all single-use plastics from its home furnishing range by end 2019. IKEA is also preparing to replace disposables in their restaurants and bistros with products made from 100 per cent renewable resources. I hope IKEA’s efforts will inspire other retailers to do the same.

12    To all the designers here, and designers-to-be, I urge you to continue to be bold, to stay the course, and become agents of change. You can make a difference. I think everyone can make a difference. You are all winners and custodians of Singapore’s journey towards a sustainable future. In fact, as young people, you are also custodians of the environment that we have. So let me wish you all the best. 

13    Thank you.

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