Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC, at the Second Reading of the Hazardous Waste (Control of Export, Import and Transit) (Amendment) Bill (Bill No. 6/2020)
Sir, I stand in support of the Bill.
The amendments align our legal framework to the Basel Convention, following recent changes to the convention that will curb large exports of contaminated plastic waste, including electronic waste, to developing countries.
Plastic pollution is a pressing global concern. Countries that bulk-import such waste bear much of the environmental and social costs, especially if they cannot manage the waste. Many of these countries are our close neighbours in Southeast Asia.
Aligning our laws to the changes in the Basel Convention is one way that Singapore can help alleviate plastic pollution. I am encouraged by the amendments, which not only fulfill our international obligations but show our commitment to work with the international community to address pertinent global problems.
I have three clarifications to raise.
Impact on landfill
First, the changes to the Basel Convention that will take effect on 1 January 2021 will make it harder for Singapore to export our plastic waste for recycling.
Under the new rules, countries will have to consent to importing plastic waste from exporters that are contaminated or that are difficult to recycle.
Many countries have already announced plans to ban or limit their import of plastic waste. Such countries include China, which will ban all plastic waste imports by 2020, and other countries that take in our plastic waste, such as Malaysia and Indonesia.
This situation creates a problem. With more plastic waste on our hands, the Semakau landfill could be filled even earlier than 2035, which is the projected end of its lifespan. Already, Singapore incinerates some of our recyclable waste because of our limited recycling capacity.
Can the Minister share if the Ministry has reviewed its projection of Semakau landfill’s lifespan? If so, can the Minister share its updated figure for the lifespan of Semakau landfill? If it has not done so, will the Ministry consider undertaking such a review?
Can the Minister also clarify what percentage of plastic waste sent for recycling in 2019 ends up being recycled, versus that which is incinerated?
Impact on recycling industry
Second, the amendment means that Singapore would need to boost its local plastic recycling capacity even more urgently.
In 2018, only 7% of the plastic waste that Singapore recycled was processed locally. The rest was recycled overseas.
Encouragingly, NEA said last year that it is planning to build up the country’s mechanical recycling capability for used plastics and explore options for chemical recycling.
How much does the Ministry plan to invest into building up Singapore’s plastic recycling capabilities?
Furthermore, with Singapore’s current recycling capacity, up to what percentage of our plastic waste and our overall waste, can be recycled locally respectively?
Can the Minister clarify what percentage of plastic waste we plan to recycle locally by 2035 and include a breakdown of that timeline?
Contamination of plastic waste
Third, under the amended Basel Convention, plastic that is clean, sorted, and uncontaminated can be freely traded.
In Singapore, contamination is a key reason why we recycle only 4% of our plastic waste.
In recent years, MEWR and NEA have attempted to address the problem by fitting houses with a separate recycling chute, and improving the information labels on blue recycling bins.
Can the Ministry share data on the effectiveness of these efforts to combat plastic waste contamination? If the data is not yet available, when will it be and will the Ministry publish it once it is available?
Sir, notwithstanding these clarifications, I stand in support of the Bill.
Watch the speech here
Watch the response by MEWR here