Only one in 10 young Singaporeans recycles electronic waste: Survey

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

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

This is a trend that should be reversed to help save and extend the lifespan of Singapore's only landfill on Pulau Semakau, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Sunday (March 3) at an event to raise awareness on 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 they cannot even be reused for construction materials and take 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."

To raise awareness on the need for waste reduction, Mr Masagos joined students from four tertiary institutions on Sunday in a pledge to reduce and recycle e-waste on their campuses.

The four are NTU, the National University of Singapore, the Singapore University of Technology and Design and the Singapore Institute of Management.

Results of a survey by four Nanyang Technological University (NTU) students released on Sunday found that many youth neither understand the need to recycle e-waste nor are inclined to take proactive action to do so.

Of the 347 youths aged 18 to 25 surveyed by the students conducted 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 via 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 the general recycling bins.

Apart from recycling more, and correctly, Mr Masagos said in his speech that it is also important to consider other ways to turn e-waste into treasure.

These include giving away one's devices to those who may need them or repairing the devices.

"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," said Mr Masagos.

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

Said Ms Elyse Yap, 23, the project leader of RE-WIRED: "Although there are more than 500 e-waste recycling points in Singapore, it's still not enough."

In order to encourage local students 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, noted that most people do want to recycle but are let down by their own laziness.

"But if we provide more avenues and ways to recycle easily, like bringing bins closer to people, we will receive an encouraging response," he said.

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