SINGAPORE - Beverage recycling points for consumers to return their empty containers and receive refunds could soon make their way to hawker centres, food courts, void decks and supermarkets.
Under the proposed recycling scheme by the National Environment Agency (NEA), a small deposit of between 10 cents and 20 cents will be added to the price of all pre-packaged drinks in plastic bottles and metal cans between 150ml and 3 litres.
Once these empty containers have been returned at manned counters or reverse vending machines, consumers will receive a refund of their deposit.
Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor told Parliament on Tuesday that more than one billion containers are expected to be collected each year.
The scheme could be rolled out by 2024.
Dr Khor said that about 400 large supermarkets, which is about two-thirds of all supermarkets in Singapore, could be required to set up return points for the beverage containers.
She noted that about a third of all pre-packaged drinks are purchased at supermarkets, adding that locating beverage recycling points at supermarkets will make it convenient for consumers.
Other publicly accessible locations are also being considered, including community centres, voids decks, sports facilities, hawker centres which are well-patronised, and coffee shops.
Dr Khor said food and beverage (F&B) stallholders and operators would have some flexibility.
"For example, stallholders could serve the customer the beverage with its container and charge the deposit, in which case the customers can take away the empty beverage containers and return them at designated return points to claim the refund on their deposit," she said.
This would likely apply in casual settings like coffee shops and hawker centres.
In formal settings, the operator may serve the drink in a glass, which means the deposit charge is not needed.
Dr Khor said NEA will work with the scheme operator to engage F&B premises operators and prepare them for implementation.
She was responding to questions posed by Mr Ang Wei Neng (West Coast GRC),Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (Chua Chu Kang GRC), and Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Bukit Panjang).
They had asked about the projected costs per annum of the proposed scheme, and whether NEA will consider setting up return points at hawker centres, foodcourts and canteens of significant size.
"Some retailers, as was the experience in other countries, do come forward to volunteer to have designated return points because that has shown to increase footfall and spending at the stores," she added.
Similar schemes in countries such as Norway, Sweden and Lithuania have achieved return rates of 80 per cent or higher.
Dr Khor added that NEA will continue to engage stakeholders to develop the scheme, with ongoing public consultations open till Oct 14.