Smart technology key to zero waste economy: Masagos

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli (fourth left on panel), during his first Facebook Live panel discussion yesterday, which was broadcast worldwide. Among other topics, he drew attention to the importance of separating
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli (fourth left on panel), during his first Facebook Live panel discussion yesterday, which was broadcast worldwide. Among other topics, he drew attention to the importance of separating food waste from recycling waste, as contamination complicates recycling.ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

Smart technology will be the key to achieving Singapore's goal of becoming a "zero waste" society by 2030, and create new jobs in the process, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, said yesterday.

In his first Facebook Live panel discussion, which was broadcast worldwide, he emphasised the importance of a "circular economy", in which smart technology helps to extract value from waste.

He believes 30,000 jobs could be created from this environmental revolution. For example, the waste management sector could move towards a system maintained by data technicians or analysts.

"It will transform the waste management industry from a cleaning industry to a clean industry," Mr Masagos said at the event, held at the Environment Building in Scotts Road. "Workers will contribute to innovations as technology solution providers."

The global smart waste technology collection market is expected to be worth $223.6 million in 2025, up from $57.6 million in 2016.

The technologies contributing to a circular economy also serve as an opportunity for building a new start-up culture, said Professor Seeram Ramakrishna, chair of the circular economy taskforce at the National University of Singapore.

"In nurturing a start-up culture, we need to invest in research to develop technology solutions specific to Singapore and countries in the region," he added at the event to promote this year's CleanEnviro Summit Singapore (CESS) in July.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has pumped $10.8 million into the Environmental Robotics Programme, which will encourage innovation in the environmental sector, said Mr Dalson Chung, NEA's director of industry development and promotion.

Mr Chung said enterprising innovators are welcome to pitch their environmental solutions to venture capitalists during this year's CESS, to be held from July 8 to 12.

In encouraging public awareness on recycling, Mr Masagos said campaigns will continue to be mounted. He highlighted the importance of separating food waste from recycling waste, as contamination of recyclables complicates the process. "If we can just achieve this first step by ensuring the recyclables are dry and there's no food in them, it will be a big step forward for recycling."

The fourth biennial summit, organised by NEA, brings together global delegates to discuss new technologies tackling environmental issues. About 20,000 visitors are expected for the event, which will be themed "Transforming Tomorrow’s Cities with Clean Environment Solutions", and held in conjunction with the Singapore International Water Week and the World Cities Summit at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

"This year, there will be more exhibitors showcasing their environmental solutions and conferences where experts and policymakers come together to look for solutions," Mr Masagos said.

"When you solve your pollution problems, you solve your environmental problems, and inevitably, your economic problems."


Correction note: An earlier version of this story stated the event's theme wrongly. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2018, with the headline 'Smart technology key to zero waste economy: Masagos'. Print Edition | Subscribe