Parliament Q&A

Written Reply by Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, to Parliamentary Question on Reducing Single-use Plastics, on 5 Aug 2019


Mr Christopher de Souza: To ask the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (a) what measures will be in put in place to incentivise businesses to rely on sustainable packaging material instead of single-use plastics; and (b) what steps are being taken to deter or reduce the usage of single-use plastic containers or plastic bags in Singapore.

Reply by Mr Masagos Zulkifli: 

Packaging waste, including plastics, is one of the three priority waste streams in Singapore. To tackle this issue, my Ministry and the National Environment Agency (NEA) have adopted a holistic approach to reduce the excessive use of all types of packaging, not just single-use plastics. We do not target plastics alone. The NEA conducted a life-cycle assessment of single-use carrier bags and disposables and found that substituting plastics with other types of single-use packaging materials is not necessarily better for the environment. As such, our focus is to promote the use of reusables.

2        The National Environment Agency (NEA) recently launched the nation-wide “Say YES to Waste Less” campaign to drive awareness of the impact of excessive consumption of disposables and the need for reduction. Some 1,600 premises, ranging from retailers, food and beverage establishments, supermarkets, hotels, Community Development Councils, grassroots organisations, schools and non-governmental organisations, have come forward to partner NEA. Partners commit to actions such as prompting customers to bring along reusables, encouraging them to decline disposable cutlery with online orders and displaying campaign visuals at cashier points. NEA has also launched the ‘Towards Zero Waste Grant’ to support individuals, interest groups, non-governmental organisations, grassroots organisations and corporations to initiate or scale up waste reduction and recycling initiatives.

3        Moving upstream, starting next year, NEA will require brand owners, manufacturers and importers of packaged goods, as well as supermarkets with an annual turnover exceeding $10 million to report information on the packaging they place on the market, and their plans for reducing, reusing or recycling packaging annually. This will increase companies’ awareness of the potential for waste reduction in their business operations. Companies should take action to reduce the amount of packaging used, and minimise waste generation at source. This mandatory reporting framework will also lay the foundation for an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) framework for managing packaging waste including plastics, which NEA will put in place no later than 2025.  

4        Besides reducing waste, we are taking actions to increase our recycling rate.  For example, we are working with the industry to tap on the Towards Zero Waste Grant to roll out 50 reverse vending machines starting this year. Through this initiative, we hope to engage the public to consciously recycle used PET bottles and aluminium cans.

5        At the same time, we are developing the local recycling industry. We want to better extract resources from waste and close the waste loop through a circular economy approach. NEA is currently studying recycling solutions and technologies, and assessing their suitability for adoption in Singapore. This may include mechanical recycling to turn waste plastics into plastic pellets for manufacturing new products, or chemical recycling to turn plastic waste into chemical feedstock or fuel. The Government will work with industry stakeholders to explore how these technologies can be applied to Singapore, such that it is both environmentally and economically sustainable. These are efforts which could help grow local enterprises and create good jobs for Singaporeans.

6        Everyone needs to play our part to reduce packaging waste, including single-use plastics. We can do this in different ways. For example, we can opt out of receiving disposable cutlery when ordering food for takeaway or delivery, or we can bring our own reusable bags and containers and take only the plastic bags we need. The support of the public, businesses and the community is key to successfully reducing our packaging waste.

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