Few young Singaporeans polled recycle e-waste, or do it right

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli joined four students from four tertiary institutions to pledge to reduce and recycle e-waste on their campuses, at Westgate Mall on March 3, 2019.
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli joined four students from four tertiary institutions to pledge to reduce and recycle e-waste on their campuses, at Westgate Mall on March 3, 2019.PHOTO: RE-WIRED SINGAPORE

Only one in 10 young Singaporeans recycles electronic waste, and of these, 34 per cent do it wrongly, according to latest survey results.

This is a trend that should be reversed to extend the lifespan of Singapore's only landfill on Pulau Semakau, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, at an event yesterday to raise awareness of electronic waste, or e-waste.

He said toxic materials in e-waste, such as heavy metals and mercury, contaminate the incinerated ash that is dumped into the Semakau landfill.

This means it cannot even be reused for construction materials and takes up precious space at Semakau, which was envisaged to last till 2046 when it first opened in 1999 but is now expected to run out of space by 2035.

"We should recycle right, and save and extend the lifespan of Semakau by putting just a little bit into the landfill. Semakau is a very expensive resource, and if we need to build a new Semakau, that will cost us billions of dollars," Mr Masagos said. "We want to have a clean Semakau that we can use for as long as possible."

He joined students from four tertiary institutions yesterday in a pledge to reduce and recycle e-waste on their campuses. They are Nanyang Technological University (NTU), National University of Singapore, Singapore University of Technology and Design and Singapore Institute of Management.

Results of a survey by four NTU students released yesterday found that many young people neither understand the need to recycle e-waste nor are inclined to take proactive action to do so.

 
 
 

Of the 347 young people aged 18 to 25 surveyed in October last year, 63.5 per cent admitted to hoarding old electronic devices such as mobile phones and laptops.

Only 10 per cent said they try to recycle this e-waste, with the rest dealing with the devices in other ways, such as repairing or reselling them. But of those who attempt to recycle, 34.1 per cent do it wrongly, by throwing the e-waste into general recycling bins.

Apart from recycling more, and correctly, Mr Masagos said in his speech that it is important to consider other ways to turn e-waste into treasure, such as giving away one's devices to those who may need them. "We must all take care of our own future and do the right thing, and do more than just what we have been used to all these years," he added.

The pledge was part of RE-WIRED, a campaign by final-year NTU students to encourage young people here to cut e-waste by donating, recycling, reselling, repairing or trading in their unwanted electronics, instead of hoarding them or throwing them away.

In order to encourage students here to reduce and recycle e-waste, student organisations at the four tertiary institutions have pledged to bring in more e-waste recycling bins and also run awareness campaigns of their own.

Mr Jason Fan, 25, a RE-WIRED member, said most people want to recycle but are let down by their own laziness. "If we provide more and easier ways to recycle, like bringing bins closer to people, I believe we will receive an encouraging response," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2019, with the headline 'Few young Singaporeans polled recycle e-waste, or do it right'. Print Edition | Subscribe