Ladies and gentlemen,
1 Good afternoon, everyone. I thank all of you for joining us today, to talk about an environmental issue that is of growing concern, and that is waste.
Need for a Circular Economy Approach to Resource Management
2 The amount of waste disposed in Singapore has increased seven-fold over the last 40 years. Last year, we generated close to 8 million tonnes of waste. That is equivalent to the weight of close to 530,000 double-decker buses. This is a waste of precious resources, and is not sustainable. If we continue at this rate, we will fill up the Semakau landfill, our only landfill, in about 15 years’ time – by 2035. We would also need to build new incineration plants, which will be a challenge for a land-scarce nation like Singapore.
3 This is why we have designated 2019 as our Year Towards Zero Waste. All of us should reflect on how we can reduce, reuse and recycle our resources better, as individuals, households, businesses and organisations. We need to move from a linear approach of make, use and throw, to adopt a circular economy approach of reusing and recycling resources for as long as possible. This will require us to rethink how we live, work and play, and adopt a zero waste mindset.
4 The benefits will be immense. Pursuing circular economy strategies involve turning trash into treasure. This is much like what we have done for water. We turn waste water into ultra clean, potable water. We are also hoping to close the waste loop. We are investing significant resources to do this. For example, we have committed $12.5 million towards a joint research and development centre set up by the Nanyang Technological University and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). The centre, called the “Singapore-CEA Alliance for Research in Circular Economy”, or SCARCE, will develop innovative and environmentally-friendly solutions for recycling e-waste such as lithium-ion batteries and printed circuit boards.
5 By pursuing a circular economy approach, we will conserve our resources, and generate new jobs and business opportunities for our people.
Co-creating Zero Waste Solutions with Stakeholders and Public
6 Last month, I mentioned in my speech at the Committee of Supply debate that realising the ambitions of our Zero Waste Masterplan will require strong partnerships to co-create and implement new solutions. This is why we have been consulting widely. Your views matter.
7 We have been engaging stakeholders including companies, NGOs, research and educational institutions on our zero waste plans. For example, last year, the National Environment Agency consulted more than 250 companies on measures to address our key waste streams. Our online public consultation last month and today’s focus group discussion are part of the final phase of our consultation process.
8 Beyond hearing your views, we want to partner you to co-create and implement zero waste initiatives. Today’s event is a good example. It is the first time my Ministry has teamed up with partners from the 3P sector – Zero Waste SG and LepakInSG – to co-organise a focus group discussion. I am confident that the insights and ideas we gather today will go a long way in helping us to formulate an actionable and sustainable Masterplan.
Strong Support for Zero Waste Initiatives
9 Some of you were among the 1,300 respondents who participated in our online consultation last month. Let me share some of our key findings.
10 Most of the respondents supported initiatives that enhance convenience to practise the 3Rs. For instance, 73 per cent supported making it more convenient for people to donate excess food that is not expired, in order to reduce food waste. And 86 per cent supported making it more convenient to recycle electrical and electronic equipment.
11 Many of the respondents also agreed that changing habits, and proactive steps by the general public are important. Close to 90 per cent of the respondents supported initiatives to encourage people to “Bring Your Own”, or BYO, reusable bags and bottles.
12 To support behaviour change, over 70 per cent of respondents also supported the redesign of labels on the blue recycling bins to provide more information on recycling. Currently, 40 per cent of what goes into our blue bins cannot be recycled because they are either non-recyclables, or because they have been contaminated by food or liquids. This is why “Recycle Right” will be the theme for our next focus group discussion on 29 April.
13 We are grateful to the respondents who took time to share their views with us. More than half made the effort to provide additional suggestions, which was helpful. For example, there were suggestions to encourage composting in the community. There were also suggestions on leveraging technology to optimize waste collection and understand waste habits. There were also suggestions for more public education, especially that which is targeted at the young, on recycling.
14 Another interesting finding from the online consultation is that 85% of the respondents are below 45 years old. To me, this bodes well because it indicates that the young ones are concerned about environmental issues and are keen to take actions. The actions and decisions of our young will have the most impact on the sustainability of our future.
15 I urge all of you to share openly during the discussions later. By bringing different stakeholders together, we hope to get multi-faceted perspectives on how we can collectively chart our path towards a Zero Waste Nation and a sustainable environment for our future generations.
16 Thank you and I wish all of you a fruitful session.