Tuas plant extracts metal from burnt trash

Factory has reclaimed 14,000 tonnes of metal such as copper and iron since July

Singapore's first metal recovery facility - that extracts metals from incinerated rubbish - was opened officially by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli yesterday.

It is operated by waste-management company Remex Minerals Singapore, which won the tender to build the 1.4ha facility last June.

The facility processes up to 1,800 tonnes of incineration bottom ash (ash from burnt rubbish) daily.

Metals in the ash can make it unsuitable for paving roads or reclaiming land as the metal content is unstable and can break down or react with oxygen and weaken, said Mr Venkat Patnaik, managing director of Remex Minerals Singapore.

The Tuas facility, which began operations in July this year, has salvaged almost 14,000 tonnes of metals such as copper, aluminium and iron as of end October.

SUSTAINABILITY

The recovery of precious resources from our waste is in line with plans under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint's goal of Singapore being a zero-waste nation. While we explore innovative solutions to manage our waste more efficiently, we must all strive to make the practice of the 3Rs - recycle, reduce and reuse - as a way of life.

MR RONNIE TAY, NEA chief executive

The extracted metal can be recycled, and the remaining ash can be further treated for uses such as land reclamation, brick-making, laying road bases or as a substitute for sand and gravel.

This is what is being done in Japan and the Netherlands, said Mr Masagos said in his speech.

Earlier this year, The Straits Times reported that the National Environment Agency (NEA) had embarked on a project to study if incineration bottom ash can be used as land reclamation material.

As part of the study, which began in 2013, the agency is looking at how the ash can affect the marine ecosystem. The NEA has engaged researchers from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to do a risk-assessment study.

This will include the development of guidelines on how to use such ash for land reclamation. NTU is working with the Tropical Marine Science Institute as part of the project, which is expected to end next year.

Extracting metals from such ash will also prolong the lifespan of Semakau Landfill, Singapore's only one. The Tuas facility has reduced the weight of incineration ash by 10 per cent.

Both incineration ash and non-incinerable waste are disposed of at the landfill. With Singapore producing more waste, it could be filled up by as early as 2035, a decade earlier than projected in 1993.

"The recovery of precious resources from our waste is in line with plans under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint's goal of Singapore being a zero-waste nation," said NEA chief executive Ronnie Tay in a statement.

"While we explore innovative solutions to manage our waste more efficiently, we must all strive to make the practice of the 3Rs - recycle, reduce and reuse - as a way of life."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2015, with the headline 'Tuas plant extracts metal from burnt trash'. Print Edition | Subscribe