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Singapore’s recycling rate declines over the last decade – NEA reports

By George George Idowu

Singapore’s overall recycling rate has significantly declined over the past decade, dropping from 62% in 2013 to 52% in 2023, according to the latest National Environment Agency (NEA) statistics.

The decline, outlined in NEA’s annual waste and recycling report, marks a continued decrease from the previous year’s 57%.

One of the most notable drops is paper recycling, which fell from over 50% in 2013 to 31% in 2023. NEA attributes this decrease to structural factors such as rising freight costs and fluctuating commodity prices.

In 2023, Singapore generated approximately 6.86 million tonnes of solid waste, of which 3.55 million tonnes were recycled.

This falls short of the country’s ambitious Zero Waste Master plan target, which aims to boost the overall recycling rate to 70% by 2030.

The decline in recycling rates is mainly due to a significant reduction in construction and demolition waste, a critical industrial waste stream that is almost entirely recycled.

NEA reported a more than 40% drop in this type of waste in 2023 compared to the previous year, attributing the decrease to fewer demolition projects.

The agency noted that such fluctuations in waste generation contribute to “huge fluctuations” in the overall recycling rates.

Despite the overall decline, some positive trends were highlighted. Domestic waste generation per capita has decreased by over 15% in the last decade, with the daily domestic waste generated per capita dropping from 1.08 kg in 2013 to 0.88 kg in 2023.

Additionally, non-domestic waste per dollar of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) generated at industrial and commercial premises fell by more than 30%, from 40 tonnes in 2013 to 26 in 2023.

These decreases suggest that both households and businesses are making concerted efforts to reduce and reuse waste.

NEA emphasised that it will continue exploring innovative methods to close resource loops, including utilising mixed materials from Semakau Landfill for land reclamation projects.

Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu, echoed these sentiments at the joint opening of the Singapore International Water Week and CleanEnviro Summit.

She stated that the government is investigating new technologies to convert mixed solid waste into higher-value products while minimising carbon emissions. These technologies could be piloted for feasibility before potential expansion to more extensive facilities.

NEA highlighted the critical need for a more robust culture of sustainability, urging everyone to reduce, reuse, and recycle. “By reducing waste and recycling right, we can do our part to combat climate change and ensure that Singapore remains clean, green, and livable,” the agency concluded.


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