Status of the Circular Economy in Singapore

February 21, 2015 by  
Filed under News

Integrated waste management in Singapore

In Singapore, there are no clear regulations on mandatory recycling, Extended Producer Responsibility policies, nor mandatory take back programmes for used products and materials. There is no clear focus on the circular economy, and most business models are based on selling more products to consumers. The term “zero waste” is sometimes used by the government, but usually refers to recycling rather than on redesign, reduce and reuse.

There are no government agencies looking at sustainable design of products, only on aesthetics and functional design. There is no emphasis on the redesign of products to reduce or eliminate waste (though the Sustainable Manufacturing Centre looks at green manufacturing).

For technical nutrients, consumers usually dispose items that end up in the waste-to-energy plants. Consumers would usually buy new items instead of repairing spoilt items. Used items are commonly given away (e.g. through Singapore Freecycle, Salvation Army and other non-profits) or sold for reuse locally or exported (e.g. through Cash Converters, karang gunis and secondhand dealers).

The sharing economy, which is a subset of the circular economy, is gaining traction in Singapore with several companies such as Rent Tycoons providing peer-to-peer rental of items, and Waste is not Waste providing business waste exchange.

The Sustainable Manufacturing Centre and the Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre have been working with companies on remanufacturing in Singapore over the past few years.

The waste management and recycling industry is quite vibrant with over 100 companies involved in waste collection and sorting, waste treatment facilities, and recycling technologies and plants. Ferrous metals are usually recycled locally while non-ferrous metals are usually exported overseas for recycling. E-waste are recycled here where precious metals are extracted. Plastics are either recycled here or exported. Wood is recycled into compost or wood composite products, or reuse as wood chips for co-generation plants.

For biological nutrients, there are no anaerobic digestion plants to convert food waste into biogas. Some companies use an aerobic digester to convert food waste into compost or water, but most food waste ends up at the waste-to-energy plants.

Biodegradable items such as plastic bags, containers, utensils and cutlery made from plant-based materials, are usually sent to the waste-to-energy plants and are not sent for composting or allowed to biodegrade.

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