Singapore’s Waste Problem

Highlights from this Reuters article:

“It is very costly to get rid of our waste,” said Ong Chong Peng, general manger of the island’s only remaining landfill, which cost S$610 million ($447 million) to create on Pulau Semakau eight kilometers south of the mainland.

The landfill “island,” a 350-hectare feat of engineering reclaimed from the sea, opened the day after the last of five mainland landfills closed in 1999.

Every day it takes shipments of over 2,000 tonnes of ash — the charred remnants of 93 percent of Singapore’s rubbish, burnt at its four incinerators.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) predicts a new multimillion dollar incinerator will be needed every five to seven years, and a new landfill like Pulau Semakau every 25 to 30 years.

With nowhere to site another landfill, recycling, though not yet rolled out to the masses in condominiums or state Housing Development Board (HDB) skyscrapers, is no longer just nice to have, but a necessity, said Ong.

With Semakau landfill expected to be full by 2040, even those who have worked for decades in Singapore’s incineration industry agree the old burn-and-bury approach is unsustainable.

“We cannot keep building incinerator plants,” said Poh. “It’s not really the solution.”

Like the NEA, he says Singaporeans must change their mindset. “We need to get people aware of the environmental impact of their actions.”

Convincing people to buy less in a country whose “national pastime” is shopping is a hard win, he said.

This part annoyed me:

Incinerators have met with public resistance in neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia, and have been banned in the Philippines because of perceived health risks.

But the plants are sacred cows in Singapore, which opened its first in 1979, little commented on or questioned.

“Singaporeans understand and accept that because land is scarce, incineration is one of the most cost effective ways of waste disposal, as it can reduce the volume of waste by up to 90 percent,” the NEA said in a statement.

I’m sorry, but I doubt that a substantial proportion of Singaporeans ‘understand and accept’ the incineration situation. Most of them just consume and throw their waste without a thought to how it is being disposed of. Most of them would not have thought abotu the health risks of incineration. This statement is just a way to shift responsibility for a controversial decision that was made unilaterally by the government onto the people.


5 Responses to “Singapore’s Waste Problem”

  1. 1 zn May 23, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    hmm i think it’d also be fair enough to say that it (incinerator building/siting) wasn’t a ‘controversial decision’, not in the way it is in the UK at all anyway. so i agree that the gahmen line claims more democracy than it rightly should, but it’s not covering up either…

  2. 2 Ponder Stibbons May 25, 2008 at 10:57 am

    Yeah but the reason why it wasn’t controversial is probably that the gahmen made sure that any news about new incinerators was reported locally from one angle only.

  3. 3 Ponder Stibbons May 25, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Damn your identicon is much nicer than mine.

  4. 4 Lush Acres Singapore July 22, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    You are so awesome! I don’t believe I have read anything like this before. So wonderful to discover someone with a few original thoughts on this subject matter. Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This website is something that is required on the web, someone with a little originality!

  5. 5 Forestville EC Woodlands July 23, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    What a information of un-ambiguity and preserveness of
    valuable experience concerning unexpected emotions.

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