Recycling: The road to zero waste?

The 3Rs known as “Reduce, reuse, recycle” is the cornerstone of environmentalism, but the value of recycling has come under intense scrutiny in recent years.

China’s ban on waste imports revealed a broken global waste management system and the unsustainable practices of developed countries shipping their waste to developing ones for disposal. Countries are grappling with how to deal with growing waste generation and providing the right infrastructure to manage and dispose this waste, even as climate change and resource scarcity accelerate.

Recent reports state that only 9 per cent of all plastic ever produced has been recycled, with much ending up in the ocean. Singapore’s own domestic recycling rate remains flat at 21 per cent.

But this is set to change—Singapore this year announced a new Resource Sustainability Bill and Zero Waste Masterplan to raise overall recycling rates to 70 per cent and domestic recycling to 30 per cent by 2030.

In Singapore’s Year Towards Zero Waste, there has never been a better time to relook and reimagine how we handle waste, and ask critical questions about the future of recycling:

  • Recycling consumes energy and resources; repurposed material seldom retains the same quality as virgin material—what are some innovative solutions today that will define our future?
  • Will a policy of extended producer responsibility fill the gaps when it comes to material innovation, design for recovery, and collection?
  • What are viable alternatives for decentralised and localised waste recycling, and how can this be implemented, within Singapore and in countries around the region, which are struggling to take on the world’s waste problems?

The Eco Action Day Roundtable gathered experts in manufacturing, waste management and civic society to deep dive into an issue that is coming to define our time, and to come up with concrete solutions and actions to advance Sustainable Development Goal 13, climate action.

For more details, please refer to the post campaign report and summary video.