Our Better Nature video series: Tackling Singapore’s waste problem

SINGAPORE – Singapore’s one and only landfill on offshore Semakau Island is filling up at an alarming rate, but plans are afoot to help tackle the growing waste problem.

The country wants to reduce the amount of waste that each person sends to the landfill each day by 20 per cent by 2026, and by 30 per cent by 2030.

These targets, laid out under the Singapore Green Plan 2030 – the blueprint for a more sustainable future – could enable the country to continue using the landfill beyond 2035 when it is expected to fill up.

This is a decade earlier than its original “use by” date in 2045.

Getting people to recycle more could be one way to prolong the lifespan of the landfill but recycling efforts have been hampered by contamination.

Singapore’s domestic recycling rate in 2020 and 2021 was just 13 per cent. During the pre-Covid-19 years between 2017 and 2019, the rate hovered between 17 per cent and 22 per cent.

When food or liquid waste is thrown into the blue recycling bins, they contaminate the rest of the recyclables and make the entire lot unsuitable for recycling.

In the fourth episode of Our Better Nature, a sustainability video series by The Straits Times, environment correspondent Audrey Tan goes behind the scenes at SembWaste’s Materials Recovery Facility to find out the extent of the contamination problem, and how ground-up efforts could help Singapore better deal with its waste.

The six-part series will be screened on ST’s website and social media channels. Each episode is between six and eight minutes long, and will be aired every fortnight.