Thursday, 2 August 2018

Singapore uses at least 1.76 billion plastic items a year: Singapore Environment Council

Most are plastic bags from supermarts, under 20% recycled
By Jose Hong, The Straits Times, 1 Aug 2018

Singapore uses at least 1.76 billion plastic items a year, or almost one item per person per day. But fewer than 20 per cent of these are recycled, according to the Singapore Environment Council (SEC).

The bulk of these items are plastic bags taken from supermarkets, according to an online survey it did from last December to May this year.

The non-government organisation yesterday said the poll of more than 1,000 people found that 820 million plastic bags are taken yearly from supermarkets.

Only 2 per cent are recycled by consumers. Two-thirds are used for the disposal of waste.

It also found women are almost twice as likely to take a reusable bag to the supermarket as men, and those aged 41 and older are most likely to take at least six plastic bags from the supermarket on each shopping trip.

The survey, done with the help of global consultancy Deloitte, also found that Singapore used 467 million polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles - like those that hold soft drinks - and 473 million plastic disposable items like takeaway containers a year.

The survey did not include plastic bags given out by establishments other than supermarkets.

SEC executive director Jen Teo said the council's estimate is conservative when compared with previous estimates of each person in Singapore throwing away 13 plastic bags a day.

She explained: "We wanted to focus on the most easily measurable usage."

In March this year, a survey of 2,000 people by the World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore found 80 per cent would support a plastic bag levy.

Its spokesman said yesterday: "There's still a huge dark hole when it comes to the plastic bags given out by other retailers. They aren't only supermarkets, but also bubble tea shops or bakeries that give multiple plastic bags."

Deloitte's sustainability leader in South-east Asia Mohit Grover said: "We will see how we can incorporate this into future studies."

The SEC intends to launch a campaign this month to educate people to use fewer plastic items. It will team up with businesses such as FairPrice and Coca-Cola.

The campaign could involve, among other things, cashiers being trained to pack groceries more efficiently and customers being educated in using fewer plastic bags.

The SEC noted that Singapore's plastic recycling rate lags far behind those of other developed countries.

The country recycled only 6 per cent of its plastic waste last year, said the National Environment Agency (NEA).

In contrast, the rate in Europe is around 30 per cent.

To help improve the situation, SEC urges everyone in Singapore to use one fewer plastic item each day. "We intend to encourage shoppers to use not more than two plastic bags per trip, " Ms Teo said.

An NEA spokesman noted that SEC's surveyrefers to the number of items consumers use while NEA's data is the overall weight of plastic waste generated or disposed of.

But NEA supports SEC's efforts to raise awareness of the trade-offs of plastic use, "and will explore how we can support its campaigns to effect positive change", the spokesman added.

* E-waste a bigger problem than plastic waste, says Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli
Toxicity of e-waste underestimated; solution to plastic use not levy, but reducing demand
By Jose Hong, The Straits Times, 3 Aug 2018

While there is plenty of focus on plastic waste, the more pressing issue facing Singapore is electronic waste, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said yesterday.

"E-waste is very toxic, people underestimate the toxicity of the e-waste that we dispose, and for the longest time, we weren't processing it," he said.

Plastics, on the other hand, were being collected properly and then incinerated, the minister said. "And we scrub all the toxic dioxins when we incinerate," he added, explaining that dioxins, which are highly pollutive chemicals that are released into the air by burning, are removed during the process.

He was responding to chief executive of real estate firm CBRE Pauline Goh during an on-stage discussion at the annual Singapore Green Building Council Leadership Conversations meeting.

This week, the Singapore Environment Council revealed that Singapore used at least 1.76 billion pieces of plastic a year, the majority of which is made up of bags from supermarkets. Referring to this figure, Ms Goh said: "Singapore's recycling efforts have yielded very limited results. For example, only 2 per cent of the 820 million plastic bags taken yearly from supermarkets is recycled by consumers. How do we ensure that our efforts go a longer way?"

Mr Masagos replied: "When you try to do everything, you will end up doing nothing, so do the most important things first - and right now, we are tackling e-waste."

He talked about the extended producer responsibility law, due to take effect by 2021, that would force producers of electrical and electronic equipment here to ensure their products are collected and recycled or disposed of at the end of their lifespans.

He also said that the authorities were focusing on tackling packaging waste. Last month, he announced that companies in Singapore would have to report on the packaging used in their products in 2021, a year earlier than the previous deadline.

Mr Masagos said that the issue with plastic waste here was not about improper disposal, which affects the waterways and seas, but about reducing the demand.

He said imposing a levy and fine for using plastic bags was not the solution, and said that it was everybody's responsibility to deal with the issue of plastic waste. "If you want me to charge for plastic bags, I can. But I don't think that is how we want to be as a society," he said.

He called instead for a revolution in how Singapore society addressed plastic waste, with everyone working together instead of waiting for someone else to take action.

Mr Masagos also recalled that plastic bags solved a problem the Republic used to face in the 1970s.

"Back when we didn't bag our trash, we just threw food into our rubbish chutes and caused pests to come, and at the same time it would corrode the linings of chutes, and we had to repair them so often. This problem got mitigated when we started bagging our trash."

He said: "The issue is to make sure we don't take more bags than we need, don't use more bags than we can, and dispose of them properly. And at the same time, how do we reduce our trash so that we don't have to bag more of it?"

"If we reduce our trash, we reduce our bags," the minister added.

No comments:

Post a Comment