We are extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to speak to representatives of the National Environmental Agency (NEA)!
We have curated 5 of the most relevant questions, catering to different groups of people - youths, educational institutions, businesses and the general public. If you are interested in these topics - Zero Waste Nation, Climate Change, Recycling and E-waste, here's what they have to say!
Question 1: What are some initiatives youths and education institutions can take part to help our environment?
Over the years, the amount of waste disposed of in Singapore has increased by seven folds over a period of 40 years. Hence, in 2019, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources released the Zero Waste Masterplan, setting a new waste reduction target for Singapore - to reduce the waste sent to Semakau Landfill each day by 30% by 2030.
The Zero Waste Masterplan focuses on three of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
As the leaders of tomorrow, change has to start from you! Let’s set new targets towards zero waste today. Under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015, we set the target of increasing our national recycling rate to 70%, domestic recycling rate to 30% and non-domestic recycling rate to 81% by 2030.
With this new Masterplan, we aim to go beyond these targets.
Tip 1: 5 Ways to Reduce Disposables
Here are 5 ways youths like yourself can reduce plastic disposables!
1. Decline single-use plastic bags and carry your purchases with your school bag or reusable carrier bag.
Remember to bring your bags out before you shop! Especially for all the guys out there.
2. Use your own reusable cups or bottles.
This helps you to recognise your drinks from your classmates' as well.
3. Skip the plastic straw.
Bamboo and metal straws are the new in-thing!
4. Ask food vendors to pack takeaway orders in your own reusable containers.
Nowadays, given the COVID-19 situation, using your own container is also the safer option!
5. Opt out of receiving disposable forks and spoons with your food deliveries and use your own reusable cutlery.
Always keep this question in mind when you purchase: “Do you really need it?”.
Tip 2: 3 Ways to Reduce Food Waste
Don’t underestimate what these 3 simple actions can do to help to reduce food waste!
1. Order only what you can finish.
Especially if you know how big are the portions they serve in your school canteens.
2. Ask for less rice or noodles if you cannot finish them.
This is how you can show your appreciation to the farmers and individuals who prepared your food. Don’t take their efforts for granted, if not your future spouse’s face would be marked with pimples!
3. Say “no” to side dishes you will not eat.
There is no harm in asking the food vendors to share what ingredients are added before ordering your meals, especially if you know that there might be dishes you do not particularly enjoy.
Tip 3: If you're an educationa institution
Your role is to encourage and inspire students by implementing regulations or programmes to raise awareness of the importance of responsible consumption and the detrimental side effects if consumed irresponsibly. Clean & Green Singapore has reached out to schools for various programmes and is a positive role model we should learn more.
For instance, you could organise learning journeys to places such as Semakau Landfill, SembWaste Materials Recovery Facility and Tzu-Chi Eco-Awareness Center. From the hands-on activities, students would be able to better appreciate the importance of Singapore’s zero waste goals.
Another initiative organised was the CGS Carnival, where the public could pick up environmentally friendly tips and learn new skills through eco workshops and demonstrations such as composting, upcycling, repairing old or faulty electrical appliances and turning waste into art.
More information can be found at towardszerowaste.gov.sg.
Question 2: How is NEA supporting businesses who are open to sustainable practices but do not know how and where to begin?
We adopt a Circular Economy approach, where we use our resources for as long and as many times as we can. This is similar to what many countries are doing to ensure a sustainable future. We have framed our thinking of the circular economy along sustainable production, sustainable consumption, and managing waste as a resource sustainably. Under Sustainable Waste and Resource Management, we have the new Resource Sustainability Act. It introduces regulatory measures to better manage the three priority waste streams in Singapore - food waste, packaging waste (including plastics) and e-waste. These measures will help increase the recycling rates of these waste streams and reduce the amount of waste sent for incineration and finally landfilled.
For example, for packaging waste specifically, the National Environment Agency (NEA) will be implementing mandatory packaging reporting in 2020 onwards. Under the mandatory packaging reporting framework, businesses that place packaging on the market, such as producers of packaged products and supermarkets, will be required to report annually on the types and amounts of packaging materials (including plastic packaging) they are placing on the market and their plans to reduce, reuse or recycle packaging. This aims to bring greater awareness to companies on the potential for waste reduction within their business operations, and spur them to take action to reduce the amount of packaging used and packaging waste disposed of.
NEA will be implementing a Deposit Refund Scheme (DRS) for beverage containers by 2022 as the first phase of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) approach for packaging waste management. Under a DRS for beverage containers, producers would finance the take-back of the used beverage containers with refunds offered to consumers when they return their empty beverage containers to designated return points. Generally, under the over-arching EPR framework, producers will need to assume responsibility in collecting and treating packaging waste. It will also help to incentivise upstream reductions in packaging, which would be good for the environment as less resources are used in production and less waste is generated.
Question 3: 40% of what goes into recycling bins cannot be recycled. This is because some people throw in items which are unsuitable for recycling. How can we as individuals help to curb this issue?
One of the targets of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint is to make it easier for residents to recycle in order to increase the domestic recycling rate from 22% to 30% by 2030.
All we have to do is to follow two simple steps.
1. We should only put recyclable items into the blue bin - don’t treat it like a trash bin.
Follow the labels on the blue bin on what can be put inside.
More information on what to recycle or what not to recycle can be found here.
2. Make sure recyclables are not contaminated with food or liquids.
When this happens, it will contaminate the rest of the recyclables collected, rendering our collective effort wasted.
Recyclables that are contaminated with food or liquids cannot be recycled, which makes them no different from general waste. They will then have to be disposed of, incinerated and thrown in our sky-high landfill.
Hence, placing appropriate items in the right bin is extremely crucial. Or in fact, more importantly, not placing inappropriate items in our precious blue bins is the key.
Note: There is no need to sort different types of recyclables for the blue bins as they are sorted centrally.
Question 4: Non-domestic recycling holds a large percentage in Singapore. How can businesses take action to recycle right?
There are eight crucial steps for the implementation of a successful 3R programme in your office.
1. Obtain Top Management's Commitment and Support
Management support is crucial as 3R initiatives would require time and capital. It might also entail changes in responsibilities of some employees or in operational procedures. A supportive management is essential to ensure a significant impact and change in the business operations.
2. Appoint a 3R Coordinator and Form a Green Committee or 3R Team
This Green Committee has the responsibility to ensure the success of the 3R programme. Hence, this gives employees greater ownership and accountability, encouraging them to take more initiatives.
3. Conduct a Waste Audit
A waste inspection would help to identify areas of wastage and uncover opportunities to reduce, reuse and recycle in your office.
4. Identify Opportunities to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
Identify opportunities for intervention and develop strategies and procedures for 3R outreach and initiatives to target each waste stream.
5. Engage Recycling Service Providers
Consolidate recyclables and send them for recycling by tapping onto existing recycling services.
6. Develop a 3R Programme
Develop, tailor and document a 3R programme for your office. Ensure that feasible and specific goals are laid out with a timeline planned.
Businesses are encouraged to set up recycling programmes in offices to increase recycling rates.
7. Implement the 3R Programme
Before implementation, the 3R initiatives should be effectively communicated to all staff such that they are familiar with the programme so that it can be implemented smoothly.
8. Monitor, Evaluate and Improve the 3R Programme.
Monitoring and evaluation should be carried out regularly. Feedback from employees and those on the ground should be encouraged and valued highly to improve efficiently.
More information can be found at towardszerowaste.gov.sg.
Question 5: What can an individual do to reduce e-waste?
1. We should only buy what we need.
Learn how to consumer more responsibly by asking questions such as “how often will I use this?” and “can I borrow this from my friend instead of buying it myself?”.
2. We could repair instead of replace old and faulty electrical appliances.
Giving you a sense of accomplishment while saving money and the environment as well.
3. We should donate usable items.
The less fortunate might be dying to get their hands on their first smartphone. Here are some places where you can donate these precious high-tech products.
4. We should recycle e-waste at designated bins.
The blue recycling bins under your blocks are not meant for e-waste! Here are some places where you can kindly drop your e-waste off.
More information on each of the steps can be found at www.towardszerowaste.gov.sg/ewaste.
We hope this Q&A gave you more insights on how you can play your part in protecting the environment and serves as a reminder for you to think twice before you consume!