Thursday 4 July 2013

Singapore 'behind others' in managing waste: Waste Management Symposium 2013

Firms yet to adopt new technology that uses space and labour efficiently
By Grace Chua, The Straits Times, 3 Jul 2013

SINGAPORE lags behind other developed countries when it comes to waste management, a symposium on the subject was told yesterday.

Waste Management & Recycling Association of Singapore (WMRAS) chairman Jerome Baco said the industry employs 12,000 staff and occupies 517ha but processes just 1.6 tonnes of waste per worker per day - half of Taiwan's productivity and a third of Japan's. Firms are not using new technologies, which are costly but space- and labour-efficient, he told the second Waste Management Symposium at Singapore Expo.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan also said the Republic can do "so much more" to improve its waste management record.

Speaking as guest of honour, he said the National Environment Agency and the association have been working since last November to develop new standards, training and technology for the sector.

If productivity can be lifted, then fewer workers will be needed and they can be paid more, Dr Balakrishnan said.

The lack of public participation in recycling is also a problem with household waste like plastic and food often being incinerated and going to landfill.

Each year, 803,400 tonnes of plastic waste is generated, making it fourth among the top five waste streams, after ferrous metals, construction debris and paper or cardboard, which all have higher recycling rates. Just 10 per cent of plastic is recycled, a rate that has stayed the same since 2001.

"One-third of the waste we discard at home is packaging waste," Dr Balakrishnan noted. However the 128 companies and groups that have signed the Singapore Packaging Agreement since 2007 have reduced their packaging waste by 14,900 tonnes.

The voluntary agreement aims to get producers to reduce the material used in product packaging and recycle packaging waste.

Dr Balakrishnan also presented the 3R Packaging Awards to 16 firms for outstanding efforts in doing this. Winners included Nestle Singapore, which cut packaging from its Yang Sheng Le herbal soups and Milo powdered drink mixes, and LHT Holdings, which makes pallets, packaging and doors from horticultural and industrial wood waste.

LHT began using recycled material in the late 1990s, after then Environment Minister Yeo Cheow Tong announced that fees for waste incineration would rise. Its managing director Neo Koon Boo said: "Our target is zero waste."

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