Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) has released its 2019 Waste Statistics and Overall Recycling report, which reveals that last year, Singapore sent almost three million tonnes of waste to its only landfill on Semakau Island.

Singapore Waste Statistics: 2019

The report, released annually, outlines the waste generated, recycled and disposed of in Singapore last year, categorised by different waste streams. About 30% of this waste was plastic waste- the top material sent to be incinerated on Pulau Semakau, while 20% was food waste and cardboard and paper waste made up 19%.

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While there was a 6% reduction in the total amount of waste generated last year compared with 2018, overall recycling rates fell to 59% from 61% in 2018; domestic recycling rates decreased to 17% last year from 22% in 2018, while non-domestic recycling rates fell to 73% from 75% in the same period.

The NEA says that this drop in the overall recycling rate is largely due to the recycling rate of paper, which fell from 56% in 2018 to 44% last year. It adds that the market for recycled paper was affected by dwindling export markets. Singapore exports 34% of its recyclables.

Since 2018, China has banned waste imports, including plastics, paper products and textiles, from foreign countries, which according to local environmental group Zero Waste SG, may have resulted in an excess supply of recyclable materials across countries and a drop in the prices. 

The amount of plastic waste generated decreased by 2% to 930 000 tonnes last year from 950 000 tonnes in 2018, while recycling rates remained at 4% for both years.

On the food waste front, Singapore saw a decrease in food waste generation of 2.5% last year compared with 2018, while recycling rates saw an increase to 18% last year from 17% in 2018.

Social enterprise, TreeDots says that the key reason behind the generation of most food waste is consumers’ perception. It says that many businesses and households ‘are still caught up in their so-called knowledge of freshness, or what a product should look like’.

It says, “Given that consumers’ perspective is as such, businesses will be forced to follow through as well. This results in a huge percentage of them throwing away perfectly good food deemed undesirable in the public’s eyes.”

Zero Waste Singapore: A Solution?

In 2019, the government announced its Zero Waste Masterplan to reduce the amount of waste sent to Semakau Landfill by 30% by 2030. The plan tackles packaging, food and electronic waste, and was implemented to extend the landfill’s lifespan beyond the projected 2035. The Republic is also aiming to hit a national recycling rate of 70%, a domestic recycling rate of 30% and a non-domestic recycling rate of 81%.

Featured image by: Alan Levine