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Study underway for Singapore’s first plastic bottle recycling plant, which could recycle 150 million bottles a year

SINGAPORE — A study is being done on whether Singapore should have its first recycling facility dedicated to plastic bottles only, a move that its proponents say would greatly boost the recycling rate for these bottles.

In Singapore, there is no facility that recovers contaminated plastics from domestic waste, and domestic waste makes up about 52 per cent of the total waste disposed here.

In Singapore, there is no facility that recovers contaminated plastics from domestic waste, and domestic waste makes up about 52 per cent of the total waste disposed here.

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  • A study is being done by the newly established Plastics Recycling Association of Singapore
  • This is to see if Singapore can have its first recycling facility for plastic bottles
  • It is working alongside the National Environment Agency and a German engineering firm on this
  • It also plans to build a centre of excellence to share research on plastic recycling with the region
  • The aim is to raise the plastic recycling rate to 30 per cent in five years and 70 per cent in the next decade

 

SINGAPORE — A study is being done on whether Singapore should have its first recycling facility dedicated to plastic bottles only, a move that its proponents say would greatly boost the recycling rate for these bottles.

The idea is being mooted by the Plastics Recycling Association of Singapore, a new organisation that was launched on Tuesday (Aug 17).

The association aims to increase the rate of recycling plastic waste here, as well as to support the Singapore Green Plan 2030, a government initiative to advance the sustainability agenda.

The association's vice-president Joachim Ihrcke told TODAY that the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle-to-bottle recycling plant it is hoping to build and run by the end of 2023 will recycle an estimated 150 million plastic bottles a year — or 30 per cent of the 500 million PET plastic bottles discarded in Singapore yearly.

At the moment, the recycling rate is 4 per cent for plastic bottles.

The association said in a press statement that when it comes to the recycling of plastics, the present rate of 4 per cent is the lowest here among other waste streams such as metal and paper.

PET is a plastic that is commonly used to make bottles and food containers. These plastics need to be identified, sorted and segregated. After that, they have to go through mechanical recycling and chemical recycling.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) previously said that there is no facility here that recovers contaminated plastics from domestic waste, and that domestic waste makes up about 52 per cent of the total waste disposed in Singapore.

However, the new generation PET recycling plant that the Plastics Recycling Association of Singapore envisions would require “substantial investments”, it said in its statement.

It is thus working with German engineering firm HTP GmbH & Co KG to conduct a feasibility study to ascertain the cost, design and technology behind the project, among other details.

Mr Ihrcke hopes that the results of the study will attract investors to support the project. He is looking to secure enough funding for it by the middle of next year.

“We are confident that when the results of the feasibility study comes out, it will prove that this is not only a project that is feasible but also will be a project that is profitable,” he said.

“And with that profitability, I think we will find it relatively easy to attract investors.”

Mr Ihrcke added that the cost of the project will still be contingent on the results of the study, but that he expects it to amount to an eight-digit sum.

The location of the facility has not been firmed up either and is also pending the results of the feasibility study.

REGIONAL CENTRE FOR PLASTIC RECYCLING RESEARCH

At its launch on Tuesday, the Plastics Recycling Association of Singapore also announced plans to set up a Plastics Recycling Centre of Excellence, which will develop recycling solutions for the region.

The centre signed several agreements with various partners such as universities and research facilities, including the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Norway and the Centre for Biocomposites and Biomaterials Processing at the University of Toronto in Canada, to tap their expertise and knowledge in plastic recycling.

The association added that the centre will be fully functional only when the planned PET bottle-to-bottle recycling plant is operational.

“Then, we can oblige the participants in the plastic recycling plant to also come into the centre of excellence and be prepared to share their know-how,” Mr Ihrcke said.

Mr Edwin Khew, president of the association, said that through these initiatives, the association will “move the recycling needle” of plastic waste from 4 per cent to 30 per cent in the next five years, and then up to 70 per cent in the next 10 years.

“We hope to achieve (this) with recycling technologies and new plastic technologies that we will be introducing into Singapore,” he said.

‘PARADIGM SHIFT’ NEEDED

Att the launch of the Plastics Recycling Association of Singapore was Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, who noted the challenges of recycling plastics in Singapore.

“It is clear we need a paradigm shift,” she said. “To move from a linear approach of 'take, make and throw', to a circular one where waste becomes a resource and is reused over and over again.”

She said that the PET bottle recycling facility would not only strengthen Singapore’s capability in recycling PET bottles, but also create more jobs here.

In the meantime, she said that the association may tap a new law that will hold producers, such as beverage companies, accountable for the collection and recycling of their beverage bottles.

The law, which will kick in next year, means that consumers will get a refund when they return empty beverage containers at designated return points.

“The scheme will aggregate a relatively clean source of plastic waste, such as PET plastic beverage bottles, to provide a steady stream of feedstock for the local recycling industry,” Ms Fu said.

She also announced that NEA had established a S$3 billion multicurrency medium-term note programme and a green bond framework, and that the proceeds from the issuance of notes will be used to finance sustainable infrastructure projects such as the Tuas Nexus Integrated Waste Management Facility.

Such notes and bonds are financial instruments used to borrow money from investors.

The Tuas Nexus Integrated Waste Management Facility will also be the first infrastructure project by a statutory board to be financed through green bonds.

Related topics

recycling plastic waste Grace Fu environment

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