It is significant that over 1,600 premises - food and beverage establishments, hotels, schools and supermarkets, among others - will be encouraging people to cut back on disposables such as plastic bags and takeaway containers over the next three months. They come under 59 organisations that have joined a nationwide National Environment Agency (NEA) campaign to get the public to choose reusable options. The scale of the challenge is immense. Last year, about 164,500 tonnes of domestic waste in Singapore were made up of disposables, a quantity enough to fill about 300 Olympic-size swimming pools.
Much of this is the unsavoury result of growth, which is good in itself. Population and economic growth have contributed to an increase in the amount of solid waste disposed of by about seven-fold - from 1,260 tonnes a day in 1970. The NEA has adopted several strategies to deal with the problem. At source, where the waste is generated, recyclables are sorted out and retrieved for processing. The remaining waste is transported to plants for incineration, which reduces the waste by up to 90 per cent, thereby saving landfill space. The incineration ash and other non-incinerable wastes are then sent to the Tuas Marine Transfer Station, from which they are barged to Semakau Landfill for final disposal. The problem is that, given the volume of waste generated, Singapore's highly urbanised environment, and the convenience of rubbish chutes in flats, if the greening habit does not take root, Semakau is projected to run out of space by 2035.