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Parliament Q&A

WRITTEN REPLY BY MR MASAGOS ZUKILFLI, MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES, TO PARLIAMENTARY QUESTION ON MICROBEADS, 10 SEPTEMBER 2018

Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang: To ask the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (a) whether the Ministry monitors the amounts of microbeads in reservoirs, tap water, and discharges into the ocean; (b) what percentage of microbeads is removed during the water treatment process; and (c) whether the Ministry will consider banning cosmetics that contain microbeads.

Answer:

PUB has in place a comprehensive water quality monitoring programme to ensure that our potable water supply complies with regulations and international standards, and is safe for drinking. Microplastics, which include microbeads, are removed at our waterworks that treat water for potable supply. At our NEWater and desalination plants, microplastics are removed using reverse osmosis membranes. Monitoring by PUB shows that our drinking water is free from microplastics.  

2. PUB also ensures that all used water is collected and treated at water reclamation plants to internationally recognised discharge standards. During the treatment process, microplastics in used water will be substantially removed as sludge and incinerated. The bulk of the treated used water is further processed and reclaimed as NEWater. As a result of these processes, only a miniscule amount of microplastics is discharged into the sea. Nevertheless, PUB is looking into incorporating membrane bioreactor technology in our used water treatment process to further improve the microplastics removal rate.

3. We are monitoring international developments on microplastics, including microbeads in cosmetics. The National Environment Agency encourages businesses to reduce the use of microbeads in their products. Multinational corporations, such as Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, L’Oreal Group, Colgate-Palmolive, and Estee Lauder Company, have voluntarily phased out microbeads in their products. Major local retailers such as Guardian Singapore, Watsons and NTUC Fairprice, have also indicated that they have phased out microbeads in their house-brand products.

4. We are committed to keeping our watercourses free from pollution, and will continue to review the effectiveness of our regulatory and monitoring regime in safeguarding our water resources and the environment.

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