At the heart of Singapore’s rapid development lies an inconvenient question: Is it sustainable?
Resources around the world are being used up far faster than they are replenished, and the burning of fossil fuels has caused the build-up of greenhouse gases and rising global temperatures.
As the global community shifts towards low-carbon
economies to ensure a sustainable
future, Singapore plays our part by following
three key principles:
First, economic development, environmental protection and social inclusion are equally important
Second, everyone must work together to achieve the best outcome
Third, plans and policies should be focused on the long term and cater to the local context, with an integrated approach to achieve better synergies and resource efficiencies
These principles have guided our policies on
waste management, and will continue to do
so as we confront environmental challenges
such as climate change and a growing
worldwide waste problem.
CLIMATE CHANGE – AN EXISTENTIAL THREAT
Climate change has altered weather patterns,
affected food and water supplies and caused
rising sea levels. As a low-lying island citystate,
it is an existential threat for Singapore.
Climate change has made our tropical
country even warmer, and brought about
longer dry spells. And when there is respite
from the scorching heat, the rainfall is more
frequent and intense.
Such erratic weather patterns will only
worsen resource constraints and supply
shocks worldwide, in turn giving rise to crises
like food shortages – a serious concern for
Singapore where 90% of food products are
OUR THROWAWAY CULTURE
Leaving behind a half-eaten plate of rice,
discarding a shirt worn only once, or throwing
away a plastic bottle or two everyday – these
seemingly harmless, and even common
actions, are creating a mounting waste
problem across the globe.
The world’s population continues to swell,
projected to hit almost 10 billion by 2050.
This, along with economic growth, increasing
urbanisation and rising affluence, has placed
pressure on all forms of resources. The “take,
make and dispose” way of consumption –
also known as the linear economy model –
is no longer sustainable.
The global recycling landscape is also facing
challenges. Some countries are introducing
stricter requirements on the import of scrap
materials for recycling. This has left other
countries unprepared to treat their own
At home, Singapore has a waste collection
and disposal system that is efficient at
clearing our waste through incineration.
However, at current waste disposal rates,
we would need to build a new incineration
plant every 7 to 10 years. By 2035, the
ash generated from incineration may have
nowhere to go as Singapore’s only landfill,
Semakau Landfill, is projected to run out of
space by then. This compels us to drastically
cut the amount of waste we throw away to
conserve it for as long as possible.
SEIZING OPPORTUNITIES IN SUSTAINABILITY
Even though climate change and growing
resource constraints are key challenges for
Singapore, we can turn these challenges into
Technological advances have allowed us
to explore solutions to problems that were
previously thought impossible to overcome.
Through chemical recycling, some plastics
can now be upcycled back to their original
building blocks, allowing them to re-enter
the production cycle as if they were virgin
plastic. The treatment of incineration bottom
ash has also opened doors to using it as
an alternative material in construction,
potentially replacing the need for sand.
At the same time, businesses and citizens are developing a growing awareness of the need to do their part for the environment. More citizens are channelling their energies towards driving change from the ground up, while businesses are incorporating sustainability into their business models, in ways that benefit both the environment and the economy. These new business models will create new, good economic opportunities and jobs for the future economy. One such area is in e-waste recycling, where valuable precious metals are recovered from waste, turning trash into treasure.
There has been a shift towards sustainable growth on the global stage as well, with world leaders recognising the need to act. In 2015, world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda) and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 2030 Agenda provides a shared blueprint and acts as an urgent call to action for sustainable development for all countries.
The adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015 also demonstrates the commitment by the international community to address climate change. It is another call to action for every country to take ambitious actions and work together to limit global temperature rise this century to well below 2oC above pre-industrial levels, and strive to limit temperature increase to 1.5oC.
CHARTING THE NEXT STEPS FOR SINGAPORE
We need to act now to ensure that Singapore is prepared to seize these opportunities and overcome our challenges.
To prepare Singapore for the future, we must build 3 “Resiliences”:
|Do our part to mitigate climate change and protect Singapore from its effects
|Ensure our companies can thrive in the future economy in the face of climate change and growing resource constraints
|Secure our critical resources, such as food, water and materials, through optimisation and recovery of treasure from trash
To do so, Singapore will play our part in the
global effort to protect our planet.
We have put forward an ambitious climate
pledge under the Paris Agreement to reduce
our emissions intensity by 36% below 2005
levels by 2030 and stabilise our emissions
with the aim of peaking around 2030.
We are also committed to implementing the
17 SDGs under the Government’s long-term
agenda, with the aim of uplifting our people’s
lives while protecting the environment and
ensuring social inclusion.
Our efforts in this Zero Waste Masterplan
will particularly support:
In a resource- and carbon-constrained
world, we need to adopt a circular economy
approach, where scarce resources are valued
and kept in use for as long as possible.
By conserving resources, we can also
reduce greenhouse gas emissions from
production and the incineration of waste.
These will help mitigate climate change.
A circular economy approach will also
provide new economic opportunities
by creating synergies across the water,
energy, food and waste sectors to enhance
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, presented Singapore’s first Voluntary
National Review of the SDGs at the 2018 United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development
By investing in innovation, Singapore
can become a leader in urban solutions
for sustainable cities, similar to how the
nation paved the way for water treatment
technologies. These solutions can
subsequently be exported to Asia and
Climate change is a clear and present
danger and time is ticking away at our
only landfill. There is a growing affirmation
that sustainability is an issue that requires
everyone to work together to ensure
survival and success. The circular economy
approach is the best, if not the only, way
forward against these challenges. As we do
this, Singapore will move closer towards our
vision of a Zero Waste Nation.