Singapore shares efforts to turn trash to cash

Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli speaking at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi yesterday. To develop in a sustainable manner, a paradigm shift is needed for people to change their production and consumption p
Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli speaking at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi yesterday. To develop in a sustainable manner, a paradigm shift is needed for people to change their production and consumption patterns, he said.PHOTO: MEWR

Masagos speaks of move towards circular economy at UN event

Singapore will continue to step up efforts to turn trash to cash, with initiatives like the $45 million "Closing the Waste Loop" fund to support research and development and businesses that want to work towards a zero waste future, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said.

Speaking at the fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, yesterday, he said: "We must take urgent action to protect our planet for future generations."

The minister added that to develop in a sustainable manner, a paradigm shift is needed, for people to change their production and consumption patterns from a linear "take-make-throw" approach, to a circular one where resources can be re-used endlessly.

This circular approach, Mr Masagos said, will be supported by three pillars of action.

These are reducing production and consumption; building a strong foundation in science and innovation to turn waste into resources and by doing so, generate new economic spin-offs; and enhancing global and regional cooperation, to shift economic systems in a more sustainable direction.

"The key to achieving sustainable consumption and production, is to reduce what we produce and consume," Mr Masagos said, noting that Singapore has designated 2019 as a Year Towards Zero Waste.

The $45 million Closing the Waste Loop fund is not the only investment that Singapore is making in the area of clean energy.

Mr Masagos cited another large-scale project Singapore is embarking on: the Tuas Nexus.

Construction on the Tuas Nexus, intended to be a "world first integrated facility for used water and solid waste treatment", will start this year.

The facility "leverages circular economy principles to reap synergies from the water-energy-waste nexus", Mr Masagos said.

Though national efforts are critical, they are insufficient to address global environmental challenges, he added.

The minister noted how regional and global platforms like the UN Environment Assembly, and the recent third forum of ministers and the environment authorities of the Asia-Pacific, which was held in Singapore in January, are important forums to galvanise action on a wider scale.

Yesterday, Mr Masagos also delivered a statement on the outcome of the January forum where officials from 41 countries across the Asia-Pacific region gathered in Singapore to discuss environmental matters.

He noted that the meeting saw a record turnout of over 35 high-level representatives, including a head of state, a head of government and ministers.

The meeting met its four key outcomes, Mr Masagos said. This included success in identifying the priority issues on sustainable consumption and production in the Asia-Pacific region, and tracking the positive progress on how the region has implemented the resolutions and decisions made at the last UN Environment Assembly.

Other outcomes were a draft Ministerial Declaration that was "ambitious but practical", and a collective recognition among the countries present of the need to have new forms of economic growth, such as the approach of the circular economy in transforming waste into resources. The forum also resulted in a request to the United Nations Environment Programme to scale up work on marine litter and plastic management, and to raise awareness on air pollution at the national level.

The next ministerial meeting will be hosted by South Korea.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2019, with the headline 'Singapore shares efforts to turn trash to cash'. Print Edition | Subscribe