Persist with recycling to reap benefits

The writer's thesis in the commentary "How recycling is wasteful" (Oct 11) is not entirely applicable to Singapore, which does not have the luxury of abundant open space for landfills.

Being a land-scarce country, Singapore has to be judicious in its land allocation and use. Our landfill sites in Pulau Semakau can last us for only the next 20 to 30 years. 

It may be hard to dispute the writer's seemingly dismal portrayal of recycling from the perspective of cost-benefit analysis. However, there is a gap in his view of the implications of technical development on recycling.

Mankind has, throughout the ages, shown tremendous ingenuity in scientific discovery and technological development to overcome challenges and difficulties.

A virtuous cycle is achieved when the scientific and technological solutions are widely adopted by the masses.

This would, in turn, drive technical efficacy and cost savings, prompting wider application and acceptance of these technological solutions.

A case in point is the drastic decline in the costs of solar panels over the decades.

If the pioneers in solar energy did not have the courage and perseverance to innovate and improve on solar technology, we would not be witnessing the mainstream acceptance of solar energy to fight climate change in many countries today.

Despite the unfavourable economics of waste recycling now - particularly in relation to items which are not paper, cardboard, metal or plastic - we should persist with recycling, as well as the reduction and reuse of unwanted items.

A mindset change in the people will bring about the virtuous cycle that will see recycling gain traction, further innovation in the field and economies of scale in the implementation and adoption of solutions.

Lam Chee On

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 01, 2015, with the headline 'Persist with recycling to reap benefits'. Print Edition | Subscribe