Plans to set up recycling association with international experts here by October

President of SGC Jens Ruebbert (left) and Minister for Sustainability and The Environment Grace Fu with a copy of the Grün Book at the SGC virtual conference on Aug 12, 2020.
President of SGC Jens Ruebbert (left) and Minister for Sustainability and The Environment Grace Fu with a copy of the Grün Book at the SGC virtual conference on Aug 12, 2020. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

SINGAPORE - The Singaporean-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (SGC) announced on Wednesday (Aug 12) plans to establish a Plastics Recycling Association and a Centre of Excellence for recycling here, with the eventual goal of turning Singapore into a regional hub of excellence in plastics recycling.

This will in turn create more business opportunities and boost the economy here, said SGC.

The plan will see European experts and companies working together with local counterparts and government institutions in the plastics recycling arena.

Chairman of the SGC's Sustainability Committee Joachim Ihrcke unveiled this plan at a virtual launch of Grün Book,which gives an overview of Singapore and Germany's recycling and sustainability journeys, and describes the plan for Singapore to become a regional hub in recycling.

The launch was attended by Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu, who also wrote the book's foreword.

She said: "As countries continue to battle the (coronavirus) outbreak and gradually restore economic activity, we must not waver in our efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Neither should we miss the opportunity to build a cleaner, greener and more sustainable post Covid-19 world."

Calling Singapore and Germany "well placed" to help address the waste challenges faced in South-east Asia, Ms Fu said that pursuing sustainability through adopting innovative processes will give businesses a competitive advantage in the future economy, as well as allowing them to resonate with consumers who are increasingly environmentally conscious.

"There is immense potential for greater research and exchanges in recycling, which will generate economic opportunities and green jobs," she said.

Recycling, particularly in the area of plastics, has long been a concern for land-scarce Singapore.

 
 

In November last year, The Straits Times reported that 949,300 tonnes of plastic waste was generated here in 2018, but only 40,700 tonnes - or 4 per cent - was recycled.

Of that amount, only 7 per cent, or just 2,849 tonnes, was processed locally, while the rest was sent overseas.

But such a method is not sustainable in the long term as countries in the region have begun shutting their doors to the world's waste, with China banning plastic imports and South-east Asian nations such as Thailand and Vietnam looking to follow suit.

In Singapore, the authorities have been looking for ways to extend the lifespan of the rapidly-filling Semakau Landfill, which has already been shortened to 2035.

Mr Ihrcke said on Wednesday that the SGC plans to set up the Plastics Recycling Association within two months, and begin discussions on what kind of recycling projects it would like to embark on.

Further details were not disclosed, but he added that the target is to establish the Centre of Excellence for recycling by the second quarter of 2021, and set up a PET Bottle recycling plant here in the second quarter of 2022.

If built, the plant will add to the 14 facilities that currently recycle plastic waste here, and will also help researchers determine how to adjust recycling solutions to meet needs in the region.

 
 

In its book, the SGC noted that the engagement of the local community is essential for the success of the pilot plant.

"Once the solutions are successfully implemented in Singapore, the next phase begins as regionalisation. The city-state can invite other countries to view the solutions, partner with them, and export the products and technologies in the region.

"As the demand in the region for recycling solutions is immense, this will open various opportunities for Singaporean businesses and boost the nation's economy," it said.

Mr Ihrcke said he hopes the PET recycling plant would be the first of many projects to come.

"We are planning to make Singapore or to help to make Singapore the regional hub for plastics recycling knowledge in South-east Asia and beyond," he said.

Ms Fu said: "Europe, Germany, Switzerland and Austria offer us many good learning lessons. And we intend to learn from people that are ahead of us and have applied some of the solutions...

"That's how Singapore has always been - learn broadly, learn widely, pick up what's relevant, and apply (it) effectively."

The Grün Book is available as a free download here.  

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