With Singapore’s one and only landfill projected to run out of space by 2035 at the current rate of waste growth, Singapore embarked on the journey towards zero waste last year, working towards becoming a zero-waste nation through myriads of strategies and approaches, in particular, circular economy. Denmark has had a head start in its journey towards a circular economy, and this presents good opportunities for exchanges and collaborations between Singapore and Denmark.
Singapore has over the decades built up an efficient system for waste disposal, where the majority of households would very conveniently throw bags of waste down rubbish chutes that are located inside the apartments or less than 20 steps away from the apartments.
With a domestic recycling rate of only 17% in 2019, valuable material like glass bottles, plastic bottles and containers, paper, boxes, etc., are often found together with the household waste that would be sent for incineration. Food waste and electronic waste are also increasing, particularly with a growing throw-away culture. Non-domestic recycling rate performed better, at 73% in 2019.
Ashes from the incinerated waste are shipped over to Singapore’s only landfill, Pulau Semakau (or Semakau Island). Located just 8 kilometers south of Singapore, Pulau Semakau is unlike any landfill in the world, and it is a very well-planned landfill.
One might even mistake it for a resort island. It is a calm and serene island with palm trees on lush green stretches of grass, beaches, a mini jungle, all teeming with a healthy ecosystem of wildlife. And there is zero hint of foul smell that is typical of a landfill.
Over the past 40 years, the amount of waste in Singapore has increased seven-fold. At the current rate of waste growth, Singapore is now facing a key challenge, as its only landfill is projected to run out of space by 2035. As Singapore is just a small island, there is limited space for landfills.
In 2019, Singapore launched the Zero Waste Masterplan, where a key part of the plan is a holistic strategy for Singapore to adopt a circular economy approach to becoming a Zero Waste Nation. As part of this journey, one of the key targets is to reduce the amount of waste sent to Pulau Semakau by 30% by 2030, thereby extending the lifespan of Semakau Landfill beyond 2035. This is supported by the increase of domestic recycling rate to 30% and non-domestic recycling rate to 81%, taking the national recycling rate to 70% by 2030.
The Zero Waste Masterplan is part of the overall strategy towards sustainable development, and Singapore is preparing for the future through building three “resiliences”, namely:
Singapore recognized that to become a Zero Waste Nation, it has to adopt the circular economy approach across the entire value chain; from production and consumption to waste and resource management. Essentially, keeping resources within a closed loop.
Key measures include better product design to reduce resources needed for production, a transformation from the throw-away culture to one where products are repaired or upgraded instead of replaced with new ones, and the recycling of waste and then to reintroduce them into the value chain.
In Singapore’s journey towards a Zero Waste Nation, it has prioritized the closing of three resource loops: food, electrical and electronic equipment, and packaging.
Denmark is among the most efficient in the world in the area of waste and resource management. Since the 70’s, Denmark has embarked on the green transition and green growth and has over the years put emphasis on creating a circular economy. Denmark’s strategy towards a more circular economy anchors on making growth sustainable, while increasing the competitiveness of Danish economy and enterprises.
Through the journey, growth and a continuous push towards a more circular economy, advanced technologies, holistic solutions, policies, business models and designs have emerged, forming a key part of Denmark’s green economy.
The Access Cities project follows the developments of Singapore’s journey towards a circular economy. The project continuously looks for opportunities for collaboration between Singapore and Denmark.
For more information about the possibilities within the Access Cities project and solutions within circular economy from Denmark, please get in touch with the Access Cities representative in Singapore.