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Singapore generated almost one-fifth less waste in 2020 amid Covid-19 restrictions: NEA

SINGAPORE — The overall volume of waste generated in Singapore fell by 19 per cent in 2020 from 2019 as waste from industry, construction and commerce, among others, fell in tandem with the circuit breaker pause on non-essential economic activity.

Workers sort plastic waste at a recycle plant. The top waste streams in Singapore in 2020 were: Paper and cardboard, ferrous metal, plastics, construction and demolition, and food.

Workers sort plastic waste at a recycle plant. The top waste streams in Singapore in 2020 were: Paper and cardboard, ferrous metal, plastics, construction and demolition, and food.

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  • The slowdown in construction activity last year saw the country’s overall waste generated fall by 19 per cent compared to 2019
  • The top waste streams were: Paper and cardboard, ferrous metal and plastics
  • Overall recycling rates reduced slightly due to lower waste generated and fewer recycling programmes due to Covid-19
  • NEA said the waste generation and recycling patterns of 2020 are unlikely to repeat this year

 

SINGAPORE — The overall volume of waste generated in Singapore fell by 19 per cent in 2020 from 2019 as waste from industry, construction and commerce, among others, fell in tandem with the circuit breaker pause on non-essential economic activity.

However, Singapore’s recycling rates also fell with industrial activity slowing down and the Covid-19 pandemic putting the brakes on recycling programmes here.

Despite the popularity of food takeaways last year during the circuit breaker, plastic waste generated in Singapore also dropped by 7 per cent compared to the year before.

These latest statistics were published by the National Environment Agency (NEA) on its website on Friday (April 23).

DROP IN OVERALL WASTE GENERATED

Overall waste generated in Singapore fell from 7.23 million tonnes in 2019 to 5.88 million tonnes last year — the fourth consecutive year since 2017 that the amount of waste sent to Semakau Landfill has fallen. 

Both domestic and non-domestic sectors saw a drop in the waste generated.

The domestic sector, which includes households, hawker centres and schools, saw the amount of waste generated fall from 1.87 million tonnes in 2019 to 1.76 million tonnes in 2020.

Meanwhile, non-domestic waste collected from industries and commercial premises dropped from 5.37 million tonnes in 2019 to 4.12 million tonnes in 2020.

One key contributor to the drop in waste was the halt in construction activity during the circuit breaker which saw less construction and demolition waste being generated, said NEA. 

At the same time, a slowdown in industrial activity due to the pandemic last year also saw less ferrous metal scrap generated.

TOP WASTE STREAMS FOR 2020

Last year, there was a shake-up to the top five waste streams in Singapore. 

They were (in order from largest to smallest amount of waste generated): Paper and cardboard, ferrous metal, plastics, construction and demolition, and food.

In 2019, they were: Construction and demolition, ferrous metal, paper and cardboard, plastics and food.

Paper and cardboard: Paper waste rose 13 per cent from 1.01 million tonnes in 2019 to 1.14 million tonnes in 2020. This was partly due to more packaging waste from online shopping and home-delivered food being disposed of by households, said NEA.

Plastic waste: Meanwhile, plastic waste fell by about 7 per cent last year compared to the year before.

NEA said that less plastic waste was disposed of by industries due to the slowdown in activities during the circuit breaker. Less plastic was also disposed of at shophouses, places of worship and hawker centres last year.

Food: There was also an 11 per cent drop in the amount of food waste generated, down from 744,000 tonnes in 2019 to 665,000 tonnes last year. 

DROP IN RECYCLING RATE

The overall recycling rate decreased slightly from 59 per cent in 2019, to 52 per cent in 2020.

The recycling rate in the non-domestic sector suffered a slight drop from 73 per cent in 2019 to 68 per cent last year. The drop was comparable to that of the domestic sector, which fell from 17 per cent to 13 per cent. 

Reduced waste from the construction sector and industries contributed to the decrease, along with the lower recycling rate of paper and cardboard waste, which fell from 44 per cent in 2019 to 38 per cent last year.

This was due to a halt in recycling programmes such as school collection drives during the circuit breaker last year which restricted activities.

Low overseas demand for paper recyclables and trade restrictions due to the pandemic also contributed to the low recycling rate for paper, said NEA.

The agency said that while the pandemic has disrupted efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle, environmental sustainability remains important. 

“As the impact of Covid-19 gradually eases, the waste generation and recycling patterns of 2020 are unlikely to be repeated in 2021,” added NEA in a press release on Friday.

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waste environment recycling NEA

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