Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, at the ISWA Beacon Conference on 13 Nov 2019 at the Devan Nair Institute


Mr Ho De Leong, Board Member of the International Solid Waste Association and Asia-Pacific Representative of Regional Development Network

Ms Melissa Tan, Chairman of the Waste Management and Recycling Association of Singapore

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen


  Good morning and a warm welcome to the International Solid Waste Association or ISWA Beacon Conference.


2 I am heartened to see so many local and overseas industry professionals gathered here to exchange knowledge and expertise on the circular economy, ranging from technology and infrastructure, to operations and new business models. These topics are trending globally because they offer solutions for countries to overcome numerous challenges on the path to sustainable development. Climate change, growing population, rapid urbanisation, and over-consumption are all global trends that we are grappling with.


3 Singapore faces the same challenges. In addition, we also face land constraints as a city state. Semakau Landfill, our only offshore landfill, is projected to completely fill up by 2035.


4 To overcome these challenges, we have adopted a circular economy approach and have designated 2019 as the Year Towards Zero Waste. We believe that this will bring us closer towards sustainable production and consumption, and allow us to achieve sustainable development in the long run. Let me share with you a few strategies that we have adopted.


5 First, we will close individual resource loops and reuse resources endlessly. Many of you would be familiar with how Singapore has closed our water loop by collecting and treating every drop of used water and turning much of it into “NEWater”. We can apply this approach in many other areas. For example, the National Environment Agency (NEA) is working to turn incineration bottom ash into construction material, or what we call “NEWSand”.  NEA has developed provisional environmental standards for the use of NEWSand, and field trials will start next year. If successful, NEWSand will literally allow us to turn trash into treasure, and extend the useful life of Semakau Landfill beyond 2035.


6 Second, we will put in place a facilitative regulatory environment to support a circular economy. The new Resource Sustainability Act will establish a systems-level approach that mandates key responsibilities to enable nation-wide re-using and recycling of our three priority waste streams –packaging waste including plastics, e-waste and food waste. This approach reinforces our first strategy to close individual resource loops.


7 Under the Resource Sustainability Act, producers of packaged products will need to report data on the packaging used, and submit plans to reduce, reuse or recycle packaging. This will be implemented next year. We will also impose the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) framework on producers of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE) in 2021, and mandate the segregation and treatment of food waste by large food waste generators by 2024.


8 These regulatory measures are expected to drive demand and create a viable industry for resource recovery in Singapore. It also encourages innovation and redesigning of products that require less materials, last longer and are more easily recycled. The regulatory framework will also fund the recovery and aggregation of useful materials such as metals from e-waste, which makes recycling more viable.  It is estimated that the e-waste EPR alone could bring a net benefit of $40 million from re-used or recovered material, including indirect benefits such as helping our companies export overseas and job creation. There is thus great potential for the regulatory framework to create net economic benefit for Singapore and provide an early-mover advantage in the global push towards a circular economy.


9 Third, we will harness synergies across closing different resource loops. We believe taking such a systems approach will yield better results than a sum of each part of the puzzle. A good example is the upcoming Tuas Nexus, which will be the world’s first fully energy self-sufficient greenfield facility that will integrate used water treatment and waste management in a single facility to harness synergies between water, waste and energy. The Tuas Nexus will co-digest food waste with used water sludge to triple biogas yield, as compared to digestion of used water sludge alone. We estimate that this will result in overall carbon savings of more than 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year – equivalent to taking 42,500 cars off the roads.


10 Fourth, we are actively investing in developing solutions, enterprises, and a skilled workforce to support a circular economy. This is why we have launched the Environment Services Industry Transformation Map (ESITM) in 2017 to facilitate the local industry in developing higher-value jobs and new innovative solutions, and in exporting these solutions overseas.


11 I am glad that we are already seeing early milestones. NEA launched a regulatory sandbox last year under the ESITM to provide a safe space for companies to trial new solutions. One of the projects is an onsite gasification system pilot at Gardens by the Bay by Singapore Power Group (SP Group). The system has the potential to close the waste loop by converting waste into solid carbon material which can be used for horticulture at Gardens by the Bay. Waste heat is also recovered to provide hot water for F&B outlets.


12 We are also glad to see our local companies developing successful and innovative solutions that are well-received overseas too. Westcom Solutions collaborated with researchers from the A*STAR Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences to successfully develop microbes to break down food waste at a lower temperature than current food waste conversion processes in the market, making it more energy efficient. The company has since exported the solution overseas, and 70% of its revenue is now generated from overseas sales.


13 In conclusion, the global demand for waste management and recycling solutions will grow, particularly in this region. Singapore’s approach is thus to promote innovative circular business models that will position our companies to seize opportunities in emerging areas like specialised waste treatment, recycling or remanufacturing. I welcome all of you to work together with us to tap on the potential here, in the region, and across the world.


14 I hope the ISWA Beacon Conference will provide a good platform for the exchange of ideas and the forging of new partnerships and collaborations. It also gives me great pleasure to share that Singapore will be hosting the prestigious ISWA World Congress 2021 at the Marina Bay Sands. Singapore had the privilege of hosting it in 2008 and we are glad to do so again. The organising committee, led by Ms Melissa Tan, Chairman of the Waste Management and Recycling Association of Singapore (WMRAS), is working hard to ensure that the Congress will be another great learning platform and exhibition showcase for the global environmental waste management and resource recovery industry.


15 I wish you all a fruitful conference ahead. Thank you.


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