Public encouraged to join new programme to tackle plastic waste

Singapore is trying to find ways to extract the most value it can from its plastic waste.
Singapore is trying to find ways to extract the most value it can from its plastic waste.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - People in Singapore can now join in the global effort to end plastic waste through a new programme launched Tuesday (April 20).

Clean4Change is a 150-day programme that aims to improve peoples' knowledge on recycling and encourage community clean-up efforts through a combination of clean-up activities, community events, and workshops.

It is an initiative of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, an international non-profit based in Singapore.

Speaking at the launch of Clean4Change at the ArtScience Museum on Tuesday (April 20), Mr Jacob Duer, president and chief executive of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, said the programme is part of his organisation's efforts to support Singapore's Green Plan.

The Green Plan, launched in February, is the nation's blueprint for sustainable development. One of the targets set out under the plan is for the country to send 20 per cent less waste to its one and only landfill on offshore Semakau island by 2026.

Mr Duer added: "We believe that every clean-up is more than just a clean-up. Picking up and binning a piece of plastic litter is the first step to making sure it enters the waste management cycle, so that it can be processed and recycled. It is a universal activity that anyone can take part in."

Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu, who was the guest of honour at the event, said that there are several issues holding Singapore back from improving its recycling rate.

First, as a small country producing a relatively small amount of plastic waste, Singapore lacks the infrastructure and solutions to make plastic recycling economically worthwhile for recycling operators.

Second, the mindset of people here towards recycling and conserving resources needs to change as well.

But Singapore is working on these issues, said Ms Fu, adding that the nation is trying to find ways to extract the most value it can from its waste.

"Increasingly, it's not (about) waste as a problem, but waste as an opportunity," she said.

In addition to workshops and events, participants in Clean4Change will be given access to educational resources on reducing plastic waste, recycling, and organising their own clean-ups.

For instance, during the clean-up sessions, participants can use a mobile app called Litterati to log the location and type of litter they spot.

The data will be used by the Alliance to plan future initiatives. For instance, if certain areas are found to have a higher concentration of waste, the Alliance will try to engage community groups in that area to tackle the issue.

Dr Natalie Hallinger, director of behavioural science at Litterati, the company behind the app, said: "Getting people to relate with a clean-up in their neighbourhood opens the door to helping them understand how to better manage plastic waste."

Mr Duer said the Clean4Change event is meant to translate bigger concepts such as sustainability in the region into relatable community events.

Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu (right) and CEO of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste Jacob Duer at the launch of Clean4Change on April 20, 2021. PHOTO: ALLIANCE TO END PLASTIC WASTE

"I am confident that Singapore will play a leading role and become a "green bridge" for sustainability solutions not only here, but across the region," added Mr Duer.

The Alliance intends to engage at least 100 schools, companies and community groups here.

Those who wish to find out more or join the programme can visit the Clean4Change website here.

The programme comes amid a renewed push for Singapore to become a zero-waste nation. Semakau Landfill, where incinerated ash and non-incinerable waste is deposited, is expected to fill up by 2035, a decade earlier than the original 2045 projection.

Other than the targets set out under the Green Plan, Singapore is also considering charging for disposable bags in supermarkets to reduce its consumption.

Earlier this month, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor said the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) will start public consultations to develop the charging model, on issues such as the mode of charging, whether it is per bag or per transaction.

Last October, the NEA and energy company Shell announced that they would study the feasibility of chemically recycling waste here.

In January this year, the Agency awarded a tender to study and design a pilot plastic recovery facility here.