$2m grant from next month to fund zero-waste initiatives

The Straits Times by CHERYL TEH

People looking to kick-start ground-up initiatives to drive waste reduction and recycling can bid for $2 million worth of funding from next month.

Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor announced yesterday that the funds are for projects specifically targeting zero waste, particularly in the areas of packaging waste, food waste, and electrical and electronic waste (e-waste).

These waste streams are key areas that Singapore can improve a lot on, Dr Khor said at a site visit to a Sembcorp facility in Tuas.

The Republic is the second-largest e-waste producer in the region, according to a study by global think-tank United Nations University, which estimated that Singapore generated about 109,000 tonnes of e-waste - 19.5kg a person - in 2014.

"With this zero-waste grant, we want to encourage people to put forth initiatives and projects that will help us drive recycling forward," said Dr Khor.

She said the grant is one of many initiatives the National Environment Agency (NEA) will be putting in place as Singapore works towards its vision of a zero-waste nation.

"We hope to work towards being zero-waste efficient. We will encourage people to, firstly, reduce their waste up front - and to not only recycle more, but recycle right," said Dr Khor.

She encouraged individuals and groups to come forward with good ideas and projects for reducing waste and recycling.

According to the NEA, the grant will encourage reducing, reusing and recycling to conserve the Republic's resources and extend the lifespan of the Semakau landfill.

The grant will also pave the way for a zero-waste nation by having a circular economy where waste is reused and re-purposed continually through a loop of recycling.

Those on the front lines of waste management say that people need to learn to recycle correctly.

Some 50 to 60 tonnes of waste arrives daily at the Sembcorp materials recovery facility in Tuas, where sorters work six days a week to remove recyclable materials from non-recyclables, said Mr Tan Chee Boon, manager of the facility.

The waste that arrives at Sembcorp's facility then goes through bag splitters and several layers of sorting, where paper is separated from plastic and metal, and recyclables are salvaged from a sea of contaminated material.

Mr Tan estimates that about 40 per cent to 50 per cent of waste at the facility is contaminated or not recyclable, and has to be sent to Sembcorp's commercial and industrial waste plant on Jurong Island.

This, Mr Tan said, is chiefly due to contamination - for example, with people dumping rotting food waste onto clean paper and plastic.

Individuals, interest groups, non-governmental and grassroots organisations, and corporations can apply for the grant from Feb 1.