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SINGAPORE ENVIRONMENTAL INDUSTRY DIRECTORY 2020/2021
The recycling of plastic waste is
an area ripe for transformation. With increased demand for recycled plastics from fast-moving consumer goods, companies and impending European Union regulations requiring a minimum amount of recycled content in packaging, Singapore is working on plans to develop the mechanical recycling industry here.
TAN MENG DUI
NEA’S CHIEF EXECUTIVE
the biodegradable food wrap made of cellulose extracted from the mushy residue after soya beans are crushed to make soya bean curd and soya milk.
Though cellulose-based plastic wraps are not new, most are made from food crops like corn or potato. As the NTU wrap is made from a waste product, which does not compete with edible crops for land, it is a more sustainable option. Soya beans waste is freely available as soya beans are a staple in the Asian diet. In Singapore, 30 tonnes of soya bean residue are produced every day.
The team is conducting a feasibility study to assess the commercial viability of soya bean food wrap. Work is also underway to transform the cellulose-rich husks of durians into plastic wrap. With annual consumption of 12 million durians a year, Singapore has an ample supply of discarded husks which can be re-purposed.
RAISING RECYCLING RATE
Greater effort is being made to improve recycling rates from the present dismal level. Unlike other materials like metal, paper or rubber, recycling plastic waste is proving to be trickier. As plastics collected from the community are a mixture of different
polymers that are typically blended with additives such as pigments, stabilisers and sealants during the manufacturing process, recycling them is dif cult and expensive. Until now, plastics which are contaminated with food waste are simply discarded.
In Singapore, only four percent
of the 949,300 tonnes of plastic waste generated in 2018 was recycled, the lowest for any commodity. Only seven percent of the recycling was undertaken locally while the rest was shipped overseas.
This is about to change as the National Environment Agency (NEA) has plans to step up plastic recycling. As NEA’s chief executive Tan Meng Dui wrote in his op-ed column in The Straits Times on 3 December 2019, “The recycling of plastic waste is an area ripe for transformation. With increased demand for recycled plastics from fast-moving consumer goods, companies and impending European Union regulations requiring a minimum amount of recycled content in packaging, Singapore is working on plans to develop the mechanical recycling industry here.”
NEA is also exploring chemical recycling facilities, which can take in “dirtier” plastics of lower recycling value. Wrote Mr Tan, “These efforts will enhance our resilience in plastic waste management, increase our plastic recycling rate, and possibly spawn new economic value in green feedstock for the petrochemical industry.”
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