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How Singapore's plastic waste is recycled

Plastic products are commonly and heavily used in Singapore, but awareness about recycling is lacking. People here use at least 1.76 billion supermarket plastic bags, plastic bottles and plastic disposables yearly, and almost half of 1,003 respondents of a recent Singapore Environment Council survey use three or more plastic bags per trip to the supermarket.

How Singapore's plastic waste is recycled

Recycled plastic pellets at V1 Recycle’s facility in Ulu Tiram, Johor Baru, Malaysia.

Plastic products are commonly and heavily used in Singapore, but awareness about recycling is lacking. People here use at least 1.76 billion supermarket plastic bags, plastic bottles and plastic disposables yearly, and almost half of 1,003 respondents of a recent Singapore Environment Council survey use three or more plastic bags per trip to the supermarket.

Yet, around 70 per cent of people here are not completely sure about the type of plastics that can be recycled, resulting in many plastics being discarded as general waste instead of being recycled.

TODAY takes a closer look at how plastic is recycled at two companies, a process that begins in Singapore and ends in Johor Baru, Malaysia.

Workers sort through waste collected from a client at the facility of recycling company Impetus Conceptus, located in Sungei Kadut in northern Singapore. The company processes 600 to 700 tonnes of plastic waste a month. Company director and co-founder Thomas Wong says that more than half of the plastic waste collected by the company cannot be recycled because of contamination. People and companies need to be more aware about how they dispose plastic, he says.
A bale of plastic at the facility of recycling company Impetus Conceptus. located in Sungei Kadut in northern Singapore. Each bale weighs around 300kg to 400kg. Singapore used to export much of its recyclable plastic to China. This is no longer an option, however, following China’s ban on “foreign garbage” since January 2018.
Due to high land and manpower costs in Singapore, V1 Recycle and Impetus Conceptus transport their recyclable plastic waste to a facility in Ulu Tiram, Johor Baru, Malaysia for further processing.
Bags containing sorted plastic waste are seen at the facility in Ulu Tiram, Johor Baru, Malaysia. After plastic waste is transported from Singapore to the facility in Ulu Tiram, workers sort the plastic by type and colour. The sorting process is one of the most costly parts of the process, V1 Recycle’s managing director Richard Lim says, requiring either expensive machines or skilled workers.
A worker places plastic waste into a crushing machine at V1 Recycle’s facility.
Workers collect crushed plastic waste from a machine. Plastic waste is crushed into granular form or flakes for further processing and easier handling.
A worker removes metal from a magnet used in a plastic-crushing machine. Magnets are installed in the facility’s crushing machines to ensure that the recyclable plastic is free of metal impurities before moving on to the next stage of the recycling process.
Plastic flakes are further blended and mixed with chemicals called impact modifers, in order to improve the quality.
Melted plastic oozes out of a tube. Following the blending and cleaning process, plastic is melted at a temperature of 190°C to 300°C, depending on the type of plastic.
Melted plastic is cooled, and pushed through thin openings to create long strands that can be easily cut into pellets.
Plastic strands are cut into pellet and passed through a vibrating sieve which filters out odd-sized pellets.
Plastic pellets are collected and packed into bags. These recycled plastic pellets are used to manufacture new plastic products.
Packed plastic pellets wait to be shipped out V1 Recycle’s facility in Ulu Tiram, Johor Baru, Malaysia. Singapore should aspire to build up a vibrant recycling infrastructure instead of having to export its recyclable waste overseas, Impetus Conceptus' director and co-founder Thomas Wong says. “Singapore is like a buffet,” he adds, referring to the variety of industries that have set up shop here. “But not having a full-fledged recycling scene here is like having a buffet without a toilet,” he continues, emphasising the long-term importance of waste management and recycling.

Related topics

plastic waste recycle Johor Baru

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