Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, at the MEWR COS Debates on 7 March 2019


     Mr Deputy Chairman, in 2018, which was designated the Year of Climate Action, we rallied individuals and organisations and received more than 340,000 climate action pledges. Collectively, our people, public and private (3P) partners initiated and organised more than 800 climate action events; that is more than 2 events a day! It shows the far-reaching impact of consultation and partnership.

Working Together Towards a Zero Waste Nation

2.   To build on this momentum, we designated 2019 as the Year Towards Zero Waste. We will adopt a circular economy approach to conserve resources for a sustainable Singapore.

3.   We will release the inaugural Zero Waste Masterplan later this year. The Masterplan will cover our three priority waste streams of e-waste, packaging waste including plastics, and food waste. We hope that it will align the 3P sectors and the research and development community towards a common vision of a Zero Waste Nation.

4.   The Masterplan brings together our collective efforts over several years. Last year alone, NEA consulted more than 250 companies on measures to address our priority waste streams. NEA has also approved 2 Environmental Services Regulatory Sandbox applications since it was launched in July 2018. These efforts co-create our regulations with the industry, ensuring we minimise business costs and enhance sustainable economic growth.

5.   To effect our plans, we will be introducing the Resource Sustainability Bill this year to cover management of the three priority waste streams. The Bill also aims to support economic opportunities in innovative circular business models and the rising demand for resource recovery in Singapore and the region.


6.   Mr Chairman, I will speak on e-waste first. It is critical that we manage our e-waste properly. First, to avoid contaminating our landfill and water catchment with toxic substances. Second, to protect the health of workers who handle these discarded products. And third, to extract valuable materials that can be recycled into new products. We will do so through the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) framework, which makes producers financially and physically responsible for the end-of-life collection and treatment of their products.

7.   Mr Louis Ng and Ms Cheng Li Hui asked for details of the framework, which will come into effect in 2021. We have no plans to bring the start date forward. Industry feedback has highlighted that both producers and recyclers need sufficient time to adjust.

8.   The framework will apply to electrical and electronic equipment, or EEE, which are categorised as Information and Communication Technology (ICT) equipment, batteries, lamps, solar panels and large appliances. Large appliances will now include electric mobility devices like e-scooters and power-assisted bicycles. Almost 90 per cent of e-waste in Singapore will be covered.

9.   Arising from industry feedback, NEA will appoint a single Producer Responsibility Organisation, or PRO, to reap economies of scale. Producers of EEE for the consumer market, such as laptops and mobile phones, will be required to finance the PRO. We will exempt small producers from financing the PRO to avoid imposing disproportionately high costs on them.

10.   The PRO will collect and send the e-waste for recycling. NEA will impose collection targets on the PRO. But as a transitional measure, penalties for missing collection targets will not be enforced in the first three years.

11.   All producers of non-consumer EEE will be required to take back all end-of-life products for free upon request. This covers commercial and industrial equipment such as solar panels and data servers. We will not require them to finance a PRO, as they have existing take-back processes.

12.   Retailers must also offer free 1-to-1 takeback services during delivery; for example, to take away the old refrigerator when delivering a new one. Further, retailers with a EEE sales area of more than 300 square metres must provide in-store collection points. This provides consumers with convenient avenues for recycling their e-waste.

13.   Many retailers and partners already provide such collection points voluntarily. For example, NEA partnered StarHub, DHL and TES to bring the RENEW programme to Best Denki, Courts, Gain City and Harvey Norman. They have collected more than 3,200 kg of e-waste across 20 outlets since June 2018. Altogether, there are currently about 500 e-waste recycling bins island-wide, which can be located via myENV app. I encourage everyone to take advantage of these convenient channels to recycle your e-waste, including rechargeable lithium ion batteries from handphones.

14.   Mr Deputy Chairman, with your permission I would like to show some slides. The framework will include new recycling requirements to ensure that all collected e-waste is properly treated to facilitate the recovery of resources, such as gold, and the removal of harmful substances. We note Mr Ng’s suggestion on the recovery of Coltan. We are still consulting the industry on the recycling requirements.

15.   To support this framework, NEA will actively develop the e-waste industry, such as the skills and capabilities of local recyclers. This will create more good jobs for Singaporeans, including opportunities in the PRO, supply chain management, and e-waste recycling.

Packaging Waste Including Plastics

16.   Packaging waste, including plastics, is another priority for my Ministry. Packaging waste comprised one-third of domestic waste disposed of in 2018.

Mandatory Packaging Reporting Requirements

17.   Mr Ng asked for more details on the mandatory packaging reporting framework for businesses, to be introduced in 2020. We will require producers of packaging and packaged products to report to NEA how much packaging they put-to-market annually. They must also submit their plans to reduce, reuse or recycle packaging waste. For a start, we will exempt micro and small enterprises with an annual turnover of $10 million or less.

18.   NEA will monitor the companies’ packaging data and 3R plans over the next few years and explore with them ways to reduce packaging waste. NEA will also engage companies to simplify reporting procedures and minimise compliance costs.

EPR for packaging waste

19.   Mandatory reporting is the first step in our plan to introduce an EPR framework for managing packaging waste, including plastics, by 2025. Similar to e-waste, we are studying how producers can assume responsibility in collecting and treating packaging waste. An EPR framework would incentivise upstream reductions in packaging, an outcome similar to what Mr Ng envisaged through setting mandatory reduction targets.

20.   EPR is a more holistic way of addressing packaging waste, including single-use plastics. For example, by voluntarily changing the packaging design and optimising production practices, Nestlé Singapore has saved 2000 tonnes of packaging used for its MILO® products. This is not only good for the environment; it also reduces business costs.

21.   We will continue to engage the 3P sector as we develop this EPR framework.

22.   Even as we study EPR, we are working with the industry on new initiatives to collect back packaging waste, such as PET bottles and aluminium cans. For instance, we are collaborating with partners to tap on the Towards Zero Waste Grant to roll out 50 reverse vending machines in major malls and the community this year.

23.   Associate Professor Daniel Goh suggested a need to address packaging due to the rise in online shopping and home delivery. Supermarkets, which usually offer online retail services and home deliveries, will be covered under the mandatory packaging reporting requirements.

Food Waste

24.   Mr Liang Eng Hwa asked about the current state of food waste and our measures to manage this. In 2018, we generated 763,000 tonnes of food waste. Of this, only 17 per cent was recycled.

25.   We conducted a food waste segregation pilot at Tampines Greenlace estate in August last year. The residents participated actively, with 1 in 3 households depositing food waste in dedicated bins at least once a week. Over three months, more than 4,000 kg of food waste from Tampines Greenlace was recycled into fertiliser. The residents were delighted to receive packets of the fertiliser, a tangible symbol of their efforts in closing the food waste loop.

26.   The pilot, which was due to end in October last year, has been extended at the request of residents. We are encouraged by their enthusiasm and are working with Zero Waste SG to explore how we can enhance involvement and ownership by the community.

27.   I am also glad that with the support of NEA’s 3R Fund, on-site food waste treatment systems have been installed in 23 premises.

Food waste segregation requirements

28.   We are now ready to expand food waste segregation, starting with larger food waste generators. NEA has started consulting the industry on requirements for food waste segregation for treatment.

29.   From 2024, we will require commercial and industrial premises that generate large amounts of food waste to segregate it for treatment. Premises include hotel and malls, and industrial developments housing food manufacturers, caterers and food storage warehouses. Existing premises can choose the treatment solution that best suits their operations, including off-site treatment at the upcoming Tuas Nexus.

30.   Unlike existing premises, new premises can plan for on-site food waste treatment in their building design. We will require developers of new developments where large amounts of food waste are expected to be generated to cater for on-site food waste treatment to be implemented. These must be included in building plans submitted from 2021.

31.   We will continue to provide support for premises and invite interested parties to implement on-site food waste treatment before the mandatory requirements take effect. Premises can tap on funding support, such as the 3R Fund.

32.   My Ministry will also work with owners of large public sector buildings with food and beverage (F&B) outlets to segregate food waste for treatment from 2021. We are exploring doing so under the Public Sector Taking the Lead in Environmental Sustainability, or PSTLES, initiative.

33.   PSTLES already builds environmental sustainability into Government procurement, which Mr Ng asked about.

Other Waste Streams

Mandatory Waste Reporting

34.   Er Dr Lee Bee Wah asked if we proactively identify companies with greater potential to reduce waste. Since 2014, owners and managers of large hotels and malls have been reporting their general waste data and waste reduction plans to NEA. This focuses attention on waste generation by premises and the potential for reduction and recycling. More than 90 per cent of covered hotels and malls have now adopted recycling programmes.

35.   From 2020, we will extend the mandatory waste reporting scheme to other large waste generators. These are factories, warehouses and convention and exhibition centres above a certain gross floor area.

36.   Er Dr Lee also spoke about the dilemma of replacing disposables with reusables which require washing. NEA’s life-cycle assessment on the environmental impact of carrier bags and food containers showed that reusables had a lower overall environmental impact than disposables. Hence, opting for reusables is better for the environment.

37.   Mr Ng asked about the use of disposables for dining in at hawker centres, which is already disallowed in new hawker centres. Since September last year, disposables are also no longer permitted for dine-in when new cooked food stallholders operate at existing NEA-managed centres. NEA will continue to work with existing stallholders to not use disposables for dine-in.

Construction and demolition waste

38.   Associate Professor Goh asked about promoting the reuse of construction and demolition, or C&D waste. Singapore recycles 99 per cent of our C&D waste. For instance, waste concrete is mostly processed to produce recycled aggregates. This is a good example of the circular economy in action! The Building and Construction Authority has published a Sustainable Construction Guide with useful information on recycled construction materials and their applications.

Medication waste

39.   Ms Irene Quay raised the issue of medication waste. I agree it is important to curb over-prescription of medicine. By not over-buying medication that will be wasted, patients also save money. Some hospitals limit prescriptions to no more than 3 months’ supply of normal medicine and no more than 6 months’ supply for chronic illnesses. Certain pharmacies put additional labelling on drug packaging to inform patients to return unused drugs. Pharmacists also counsel patients and review their medication supply, to ensure that patients do not take more medication than needed.

40.   Generally, household drugs can be safely disposed of together with household waste. All our household waste is collected and safely incinerated before the ash is landfilled at Semakau Landfill.

Building a Liveable and Endearing Home Together

After-death facilities

41.   Some people may not know this, but my Ministry also oversees the planning of after-death facilities and services, which some may view as a morbid endeavour. Nonetheless, someone has to do it. And indeed, it is, pardon the pun, a deadly serious matter that has to be handled sensitively.

42.   Mr Low Thia Kiang asked for an update on the provision of the Inland Ash Scattering (IAS) facilities and the proposed post-death rites facility at Tanah Merah. IAS services are on track to be available at Choa Chu Kang Cemetery by 2020 and Mandai Crematorium and Columbarium Complex by 2021. NEA is working on the designs to incorporate suggestions from consultations with funeral service providers, religious leaders and members of the public. When completed, these secular facilities will be an additional option for bereaved families to lay their loved ones to rest in a dignified and respectful environment.

43.   The Environmental Impact Study commissioned for the proposed post death rites facility at Tanah Merah is in progress. We will consider the results of the study and public feedback, before arriving at a final decision.

44.   Mr Dennis Tan asked about actions taken against the contractor who had provided quartz instead of marble plaques, when relocating niches from Mount Vernon Columbarium Complex. There was no evidence from NEA’s investigation to suggest that the contractor had deliberately provided a different material with the intention to cheat. NEA’s checks also showed that the marble and quartz plaques were comparable in price.

45.   NEA has required the contractor to remedy the breach of contractual requirements. The contractor has undertaken remedial measures to replace the quartz plaques with new marble ones and will be bearing all additional costs incurred. As a further penalty, the contractor will also bear additional manpower costs incurred by NEA to oversee the niche replacement works. NEA will continue to monitor the replacement works closely. So far, there have been no anomalies detected during laboratory tests and visual inspections.

Hawker Centres

46.   I will now move on to hawker centres. Our hawker centres serve important social objectives of providing affordable food in a hygienic environment for patrons, enabling hawkers to earn a decent livelihood and creating vibrant social spaces to bond our communities.

47.   However, hawkers face many challenges today, from changing demographics and customer preferences, to new models of competition such as central kitchens and food delivery services. It can be even more difficult for hawkers in new hawker centres. They face competition from other F&B options in the vicinity and need time to build up their clientele. This is why my Ministry piloted the Socially-conscious Enterprise Hawker Centre, or SEHC, model – to help hawkers compete better as a Centre.

48.   As Mr Liang Eng Hwa said, last year, NEA addressed concerns on contractual terms, such as opening hours and termination notice periods. I visited all seven SEHCs to get feedback from the stallholders on the changes made and am pleased that the majority of stallholders have welcomed them. We will continue to improve the model based on feedback from hawkers and other stakeholders.

Sustaining the hawker trade

49.   One area of concern is attracting and supporting new entrants to the hawker trade. Without new hawkers, future generations would not be able to enjoy hawker food.

50.   It is therefore critical that we imbue new hawkers with key skills to succeed. This is why NEA set up the Incubation Stall Programme (ISP), and worked with PA and ITE to set up hawker training programmes that cover business management and operation, marketing and culinary skills.

51.   Mr Gan Thiam Poh asked for an update on the ISP. I am pleased that six new stallholders will be joining NEA’s ISP, bringing the total number of incubation stallholders in operation to 10. We are also enhancing the ISP based on experience and feedback from incubation stallholders. To provide greater support for them, NEA has extended the six-month tenure at 50% discount off rental rates to nine months. This is to address feedback that more time is needed to establish their business.

52.   We are also piloting the extension of NEA’s ISP to SEHCs who can provide guidance to hawkers under the ISP. This leverages their experience and success in supporting hawkers under their own incubation stall programmes, including the provision of mentors for new hawkers.

53.   One new hawker joining NEA’s ISP is Jim Yeow, who will operate his incubation stall at, Mr Louis Ng will be pleased to know, Yishun Park Hawker Centre, an SEHC, and receive mentorship support from its operator, Timbre. I have tasted his wanton noodles, which are quite exceptional. So please do try it when the stall opens.

54.   Indeed, I have gone around to meet many young aspiring hawkers and am inspired by their entrepreneurship, passion and resilience. Many offer their own brand of tasty hawker food and I urge Members of this House, and all Singaporeans to support them.

55.   Today, I had specially arranged for Cheng Tng from XX Dessert and Min Jiang Kueh (or pancakes) with Thai Milk Tea filling besides the classic peanut filling from Munchi Delights to be served at the Members Room.

56.   Both stalls are located at Yishun Park Hawker Centre. In particular, XX Dessert is run by Yishun Park Hawker Centre’s youngest hawker, 23-year-old Peh Zixuan. He started out under Timbre’s incubation stall programme after completing National Service. So you could say he truly turned from “Ah Boy to Man”. I hope everyone enjoyed these during the tea break. I heard the Min Jiang Kueh literally flew off the trays!

57.   Mr Deputy Chairman, in November last year, I had a dialogue with some members of the Hawker Centre 3.0 Committee and other stakeholders, including hawkers. It was suggested that we set up ground-up workgroups to look at issues related to the hawker trade and culture. We are therefore facilitating the formation of two workgroups – one to explore ideas to attract and support new entrants to the hawker trade and another to look at encouraging graciousness and tray return –issues that were also raised by Mr Gan. The two workgroups will comprise hawkers, food advocates and members from various fields.

Supporting hawkers with operating costs

58.   As part of our productivity efforts, we want to encourage existing hawker centres to adopt measures such as automated tray return stations integrated with centralised dish washing (CDW) services. At Blk 163 Bukit Merah Central, hawkers and cleaners enjoy a reduced workload and 40 per cent reduction in water bills due to the productivity measures.

59.   Currently, stallholders at existing hawker centres receive two years of subsidies under the Productive Hawker Centre Grant to ease the transition to such productivity measures. These will help hawkers realise manpower and cost savings in the longer-term.

60.   Stallholders have raised concerns about the increase to the full costs of CDW at the end of two years. To help them as well as encourage more centres to take up CDW, I am pleased to announce that we will provide an additional two years of subsidies, at a stepped down rate of 50 per cent and 30 per cent in the third and fourth year respectively.

New hawker centre

61.   To ensure Singaporeans have continued access to affordable food at hawker centres, we are building 20 new hawker centres by 2027. So far, we have completed seven.

62.   I am pleased to announce the site of the Bukit Batok hawker centre. It will be co-located with the MND-MOH assisted living residential flats pilot in Bukit Batok Town, bounded by Bukit Batok West Avenues 6 and 9, and Bukit Batok Street 41. When completed, this new hawker centre will provide an affordable food option to residents in the area.

Growing a Vibrant Agri-Food Industry Together

63.   We welcome the newly-minted Singapore Food Agency or SFA to the MEWR Family come April and look forward to working with the agri-food industry to help forge a great future for the industry from farm-to-fork.

64.   Mr Desmond Choo asked what we will do to ensure market-friendly regulations without compromising on food safety. These two objectives are mutually-reinforcing as food safety is key to developing a thriving agri-food industry. The industry has been supportive of the formation of SFA and have given feedback on how SFA can partner them to support both objectives.

65.   One suggestion was the harmonising of licensing standards and streamlining licensing conditions for food businesses along the food value chain. For example, we are looking into how premises carrying out both central kitchen and catering operations can obtain a single licence instead of two.

66.   To further develop our agri-food industry, we need to transform it. We will be reaching out to stakeholders in a visioning exercise in the coming months to co-create the future of the agri-food industry together. A better understanding of the emerging challenges facing it will allow us to identify opportunities for collaboration among stakeholders. There are also opportunities in areas such as digitalisation of food tracing using block chain technologies and innovations in the production of new foods.

Partnering Singaporeans for a Sustainable Singapore

67.   Mr Deputy Chairman, there is an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Realising the ambitions of our Zero Waste Masterplan to build a sustainable Singapore will require strong partnerships to co-create and implement new solutions.

68.   I will conclude with a call to action in two areas for the Year Towards Zero Waste.

69.   First, I urge everyone to participate in the public consultations for the Zero Waste Masterplan, which Mr Ng and Ms Cheng asked about. Waste and resource management are issues which will impact everyone, and your views matter. We will launch online consultations this month. We will jointly organise focus group discussions in April with Zero Waste SG and LepakInSG. These will form the final phase of our ongoing consultations on the Masterplan.

70.   Last month, I also met more than 20 green groups. Many are driven by young and passionate environmentalists, such as those from Ground-Up Initiative and Foodscape Collective, who have been championing for the environment and promoting sustainable living. They see the urgency of changing mindsets and rallying everyone to do his or her part for the environment. Many of these eco-champions are brimming with ideas and keen to work together to achieve our vision of a Zero Waste Nation.

71.   Even what I’m wearing today is a product of our eco-champions’ passion and innovation. This dress is created by The Fashion Pulpit for the Fashion 3R initiative, which promotes sustainable fashion. It is upcycled from two different second-hand dresses to give them a brand new lease of life.

72.   Second, in conjunction with the #RecycleRight Movement, I invite interested individuals and organisations to partner us to better educate Singaporeans and others, including domestic helpers, on recycling properly. This is not merely about consulting or conducting focus group discussions. We want to co-create effective recycling solutions together.

73.   Let’s start our journey of co-creation to reduce the contamination of our recycling bins, including possibly co-creating legislation. Today, 40 per cent of what is placed in our blue bins cannot be recycled or are contaminated with food waste. Let us aim to reduce this to 30 per cent, 20 per cent or even 10 per cent.

74.   Deputy Chairman, as Minister Masagos said earlier, “We are not done building a sustainable Singapore”. We will need everyone to play their part, to conserve our resources, embrace the 3Rs and adopt a circular economy approach so that we can continue to build a sustainable Singapore for Singaporeans.

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