Parliament: Not sure how to recycle your mobile phone? More in-store e-waste collection bins to be set up

A man inspecting a recycling bin for electronic waste at the South West Community Development Council's annual trash-for-groceries recycling drive on Jan 14, 2018.
A man inspecting a recycling bin for electronic waste at the South West Community Development Council's annual trash-for-groceries recycling drive on Jan 14, 2018. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Consumers will find it easier to recycle old mobile phones, washing machines and other electronic items in three years' time, when more shops here provide in-store recycling bins or one-for-one take-back services.

By 2021, producers of electrical and electronic equipment, including manufacturers and importers, will be required to ensure that their products are collected, and properly recycled or disposed of, when they reach the end of their lifespan.

This is called the Extended Producer Responsibility approach, which has been implemented in Sweden and Denmark.

Major electronics retailers here such as Courts, Harvey Norman and Gain City have agreed to voluntarily provide e-waste recycling bins at their stores, said Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor during the debate on her ministry's spending plans on Tuesday (March 6).

She said that with the new approach, producers will be required by law to meet collection targets set by the National Environment Agency (NEA).

The NEA will review the targets periodically before introducing a penalty framework, similar to other jurisdictions, she said.

In the European Union, member states were initially required to collect 4kg per capita of waste, before this was revised upwards over 13 years to 45 per cent of the total weight of electronic goods sold.

 
 
 
 

The electrical and electronic waste management system to be introduced in Singapore will cover information and communications technology equipment, including printers, modems and computers, certain large household appliances, batteries, lamps and solar photovoltaic panels. These make up close to 90 per cent of e-waste by weight in Singapore.

"By aggregating e-waste and enabling more efficient collection and processing, there will be greater value captured from e-waste, which is one of the more valuable waste streams. This will help offset the cost of operating the e-waste system," Dr Khor said.

Producers of these goods will have to engage Producer Responsibility Organisations, which will be licensed by the NEA to oversee the collection, transport, proper treatment, and reporting of e-waste collected. Such organisations are run by non-governmental organisations in countries such as Sweden and Denmark.

The NEA is also in the process of licensing e-waste recycling facilities here, to ensure the safe handling of e-waste, which contains small amounts of hazardous heavy metals such as mercury. The licensing process will be completed by August.

There has been exponential growth of e-waste worldwide. In Singapore alone, 60,000 tonnes is produced each year, half of which comes from households.

There is currently no official data on how much of the e-waste discarded here gets recycled. However, a consumer survey of 1,600 people, conducted in April 2016 to October 2017 by the NEA, found that just 6 per cent of household e-waste, amounting to 1,800 tonnes, is sent for recycling.

Mr Chia Shi-Lu (Tanjong Pagar GRC) had suggested during the debate that rag-and-bone men or karung guni should also be consulted for the new e-waste framework as they have decades of experience and involvement in community recycling.

Dr Khor said: "We will integrate and support smaller industry players so they can benefit from our national system, including karung guni men who provide collection services."