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‘Landmark’ environmental law starts with seeing waste as a resource – Amy Khor

This Bill will be giving the Government the means to implement initiatives to cut down on waste in three areas—electronic waste (or e-waste) food waste, as well as packaging waste

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Singapore—Fresh on the heels of Prime Minster Lee Hsien Loong’s focus on what the country can do to combat climate change in his National Day Rally speech on August 18, the country is gearing up for Singapore’s most ambitious plan yet to address environmental concerns.

Amy Khor, Singapore’s Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, helped launch the country’s Zero Waste Masterplan on August 30, Friday.

One of the very first steps in this Masterplan is new legislation called the Resource Sustainability Bill.

At the launch, Dr Khor said this “landmark piece of legislation” will be undergoing its second reading in Parliament on September 2, Monday. In all likelihood, it will be passed on the same day.

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This Bill will be giving the Government the means to implement initiatives to cut down on waste in three areas—electronic waste (or e-waste) food waste, as well as packaging waste.

While there is a tremendous amount of both food and packaging waste in the country at present, recycling rates for these types of waste are simply insufficient.

Electronic waste is also an issue that needs to be addressed in Singapore in order to prevent toxic material from leaking into waterways or landfill, and also so that material that may be used again, such as metals, can still be taken from e-waste products.

According to Dr Khor, “We have decided to enact a new Act, rather than amend existing ones, to demonstrate and emphasise the new paradigm to view waste as a resource.”

Singapore is looking to set up local facilities with recycling capacities, in addition to e-waste recycling places where large appliances from pope’s homes, and even batteries, may be brought.

Dr Khor made special mention of plastic, due in part to the recent ban from China on plastic recyclables. “We believe that closing the plastics loop domestically, to extract treasure from trash, is an area where both economic and environmental opportunities lie,” she added.

Some options along these lines are chemical recycling which will convert plastic waste into fuel or chemical feedstock, or mechanical recycling that would convert waste plastic into plastic pellets for new products.

At present, domestic recycling in Singapore is only at 20 percent, partly due to contamination of recyclables, which occurs when food waste is mixed with recycling bins.

Therefore, the implementation of new labels will follow, which show the public how to keep the bins uncontaminated.

This step was lauded by Melissa Tan, Chairman of the Waste Management and Recycling Association, who said “It’s not that the public is unaware about recycling. It’s just that they are confused with what they can recycle.”

In the meantime, Dr Khor encouraged Singapore residents to do their part in ensuring that the environment is preserved and protected.

She told the audience gathered, “Our Pioneer generation worked hard to leave us with the clean and liveable Singapore that we enjoy today. It is now our turn to take action together to ensure our children and grandchildren will inherit the shining jewel that is Singapore.”/ TISG

Read related: 50 Singaporeans from different backgrounds to form citizens’ workgroup to help gov’t tackle environmental issues

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