Debate on ministries' budgets: Environment and Water Resources

After Newater, look out for Newoil, Newsand

Moving on from Newater, Singapore has big plans for Newsand - a promising new construction material culled from incineration waste.

More ambitiously, it wants to create Newoil - using discarded plastic to replace fossil fuels.

The country is looking at developing its chemical recycling industry and establishing a pilot plant for this, said Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor yesterday.

"If successful, this will move us closer to both our goals of being a zero-waste nation and a low-carbon economy," she said.

In 2018, the country generated about 949,300 tonnes of such trash. Only 4 per cent was recycled.

Singapore now plans to invest in new recycling technology, a move that could create opportunities and jobs for Singaporeans.

Dr Khor, who was in a houndstooth blouse with a matching bag made from discarded cassette tapes during the debate on her ministry's budget, outlined schemes to turn waste into useful products.

"That's really turning trash into treasure," she said.

By 2022, the National Environment Agency (NEA) will also implement a deposit refund scheme for beverage containers, such as PET bottles. Under the scheme, consumers get a refund when they return used beverage containers to producers via designated return points.

From July this year, producers of packaged products, as well as retailers such as supermarkets, will be required to record the amount of packaging that they put into the market alongside their products each year, and must submit their first report next year. The firms will also need to develop plans to reduce, reuse and recycle packaging.

The new measures come as Singapore strives to lengthen the lifespan of its only landfill, Semakau, which could be full by 2035.

Later this year, the NEA will test potential Newsand materials - made from incinerated bottom ash and slag - in road construction in Tanah Merah Coast Road.

If successful, Newsand will go some way towards stopping incineration waste from filling up the landfill, while producing a useful construction material.

Meanwhile, come 2024, premises that generate large amounts of food waste will be required by law to segregate the waste for treatment.

Shopping malls with a food and beverage area of more than 3,000 sq m, as well as hotels with F&B and function areas of more than 3,000 sq m, will be affected by the new law.

Vanessa Liu

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2020, with the headline After Newater, look out for Newoil, Newsand. Subscribe