02 February 18 The Business Times by ANDREA SOH
THE Singapore government will be requiring electronic goods producers and possibly even retailers to collect the products they sell and ensure that they are recycled or disposed of properly.
Under such an approach known as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), the government will set collection targets for these companies, which if not met could attract fines, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Thursday.
But there will be a transition period given, he told reporters on the sidelines of a public consultation session on electronic waste (e-waste).
"(The companies) will probably have smaller targets first to get the process in place . . . From the lessons we have learnt from other countries, we have to slowly bring it up. And as the system gets better oiled, we know that they can be very successful," he said.
He added that the EPR concept is already practised in many countries around the world, so most producers are aware of how it can and ought to be done. "Therefore it's not too difficult for them to start doing it in Singapore too."
Singapore is looking at regulation for the sector in order to manage growing amounts of e-waste.
More than 60,000 tonnes of e-waste are generated in Singapore each year, with the industrial and residential sectors contributing evenly. This figure is increasing 5 per cent every year, according to the National Environment Agency (NEA).
A recent study by the United Nations University, a research arm of the United Nations (UN), showed that Singapore produced the second highest volume of e-waste in the region at 19.95 kg per capita in 2015. Hong Kong was the top e-waste dumper at 21.7 kg per capita.
Over 60 countries in the world have implemented legislation for e-waste disposal, said the NEA. Many of them rope in retailers to provide convenient collection options for consumers.
For instance, large retailers in Germany and Sweden are required to provide e-waste collection points in their store as well as a free collection service for larger e-waste when the customer purchases a new product.
At Thursday's consultation session, participants said the regulations will have to define clearly who will be regulated, and how the process will be financed.
The session was attended by 37 participants from recycling companies, electronics producers, non-governmental groups and academics.
Adrian Lim, who heads the managing director's office at electronics firm Ricoh Singapore, expects the new regulations not to affect the firm much as it is already collecting old products from its customers when they buy new printers or photocopiers.
This is common practice for companies which sell to businesses, he said, adding that the regulations will probably affect those who sell to consumers more.
Fuji Xerox Asia Pacific head of corporate sustainability Janet Neo said the regulations will challenge manufacturers to think along the lines of a circular value chain, which includes handling the product at the end of its life, rather than a linear one.
The Japanese-headquartered company, which takes back its old products, has done extensive analysis on the lifecycle of its products and redesigned them for more efficient dismantling. These parts are then either recycled into other uses or remade into new products.
The challenge in an EPR approach is the collection process from the consumers, she said. "We need to work together with the government, residential committees and town councils to spread the touchpoints and build up the logistics system for the whole recycling system to work."