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How Singapore’s Private Sector Is Pursuing a Zero Waste Future

Jun. 20, 2019

The country's only landfill site is set to reach capacity in 2035.

Singapore’s Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) has designated 2019 as the "Year towards Zero Waste" to increase awareness around waste reduction and promote the 3 Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle). 

For Singapore, economic growth and environmental sustainability have generally gone hand-in-hand. As a resource-scarce island, the country has been conscious of its constraints in terms of energy, water, and waste management. But the country's resource limits have come into sharp focus in recent years.

According to present projections, the country’s Semakau Landfill, its only waste disposal site, will reach full capacity by 2035. Located approximately 8 kilometres from Singapore, the landfill has been plagued by a rise in the national consumption of disposable goods.

In 2018 alone, over 7.70 million tonnes of solid waste was generated in Singapore and while domestic recycling increased by 1% between 2017 and 2018, there was a drop in recycling by non-domestic parties from 76% to 74%. An estimated 1.76 billion plastic items are used in the country annually and less than 20% of this plastic is recycled.

As trash piles up, citizens are increasingly looking to the private sector to fix the problem.

In 2018, a report released by YouGov found that 88% of Singaporeans believed that businesses had a fundamental responsibility to “do social good” and 53% said that businesses should prevent environmental harm through more responsible supply chains. Moreover, out of every 10 Singaporeans, more than four said that businesses should be charitable and contribute to community upskilling practices.

If Singapore wants to achieve a zero waste future, the business community has to step up to the plate. In addition to increasing the availability of recycling facilities and changing behavioral perceptions around recycling, Singapore can begin incentivizing businesses to improve their approach to waste management.

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