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Coming Full Circle: Strategies for a zero waste Singapore ParkRoyal on Pickering 26th September, 2016.


Outcome Report

Executive Summary

After decades of producing, consuming and disposing, Singapore is waking up to the social and environmental consequences of a throw-away culture.

espite having no natural resources of its own, the city-state’s growing population and economy have led to a seven-fold increase in solid waste disposed between 1970 and 2015, according to the National Environment Agency (NEA). Last year, Singapore generated 7.67 million tonnes of solid waste in 2015 and is expected to produce 12.3 million tonnes of rubbish by 2030. Its 61 per cent recycling rate recorded last year was largely due to the high industrial recycling rate of 77 per cent, and obscures the low household domestic recycling rate of 19 per cent. The country incinerates most of its trash at its four waste-to-energy plants. But its only landfill for incinerated ash and waste that cannot be incinerated is expected to run out of space by 2035. 2

Against a backdrop of growing global resource scarcity and the need to reduce carbon emissions, there is greater urgency for the country to prioritise waste reduction and to raise national recycling rates. Beyond Singapore’s borders, trash is also becoming a critical global problem. Landfills across the world are filling up with non-biodegradable products, which takes centuries to disintegrate, and our seas and waterways have been increasingly polluted by plastic garbage. The World Economic Forum recently reported that about 80 per cent of the US$3.2 trillion value of the global consumer goods sector is lost annually due to the existing linear “take, make, waste” model of consumption and production that results in goods being thrown away, usually to be burnt or buried.

For these reasons, the concept of the circular economy is finding growing currency among all sectors of society as a sustainable solution. This is an economy in which resources are reused endlessly in a cycle of production, consumption and reuse or recycling, thus generating no waste and contributing to a zero-waste culture. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in a recent study ‘Towards a Circular Economy’, found that the economic gain from material savings alone is estimated at over US$1 trillion a year by 2025 if companies focused on circular supply chains that increase recycling, reuse and remanufacture.


Coming Full Circle: Strategies for a zero waste Singapore

Photo credit: MBS 3


Outcome Report

Strategies for a zero waste Singapore ...despite the considerable amount of influence a government can wield, achieving a zero-waste economy will require the input and participation of all sectors of society. In Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last year unveiled the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, which outlines a S$1.5 billion effort for Singapore to become a smart, eco-friendly city with a zero-waste culture and a flourishing green economy by 2030. The government has since taken a number of steps to address the growing waste problem by focusing on packaging waste, food waste and e-waste. In July this year, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Masagos Zulfkifli, announced that requirements for businesses to use sustainable resources in packaging and to reduce packaging waste would come into effect in the next three to five years. Meanwhile, the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) commissioned and released a new solid waste management roadmap earlier this year calling for new 4

technologies and ideas to deal with the challenge of waste management, including a pay-as-you-throw food waste disposal system. The NEA has also overseen the launch of two-year pilot projects involving teaching hawkers and cleaners at hawker centres to sort and recycle food waste in on-site digesters in January, and is studying the feasibility of a national e-waste recycling scheme. But despite the considerable amount of influence a government can wield, achieving a zero-waste economy will require the input and participation of all sectors of society. This was the consensus that emerged among participants at a recently-held roundtable, “Coming full circle: Strategies for a zero waste Singapore�, hosted by Asia Pacific Breweries Singapore (APB Singapore) and Eco-Business.


Time for consideration In this day and age we need to be mindful of the waste we produce going about our everyday lives.

Held on September 26 at Parkroyal on Pickering hotel in Singapore, the roundtable gathered about 20 thought leaders from civil society, the private sector and the governments of Singapore, Denmark and the Netherlands for an in-depth discussion on the circular economy and its application to the waste industry in Singapore. One participant acknowledged that while the idea of zero waste and the circular economy was an aspirational goal, in reality, it is likely to be a distant one. “The perfection of the circular economy is not going to be within our lifetimes, maybe not even within our children’s or grandchildren’s lifetimes,” he said. Nevertheless, participants agreed that a transition towards more sustainable circular economy practices can only materialise if action is taken now. During the three-hour discussion, participants identified challenges in the waste industry and made specific recommendations on how to address them. 5


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Outcome Report

Challenges and recommendations for Singapore in becoming a zero waste nation

The economics of waste The existing “take, make, dispose� model of production and consumption in society today assumes waste as a given outcome. Participants highlighted the need to challenge this and adopt a circular mindset in which waste is designed out from the production process from the beginning. Officials however shared that the economics behind waste production and generation is complicated and costs often determine the fate of a certain waste stream. In many cases, shared one business leader, the business case for recycling certain materials cannot be justified, especially in

developed markets where the cost of storage and labour is high. It is cheaper in many instances for companies to dump their waste rather than recycle it. Pushing through any recycling programme therefore requires commitment from the leadership. A strong example of a company where the leadership team has expressed its commitment to establishing a zero-waste Singapore is APB Singapore. APB Singapore believes that the first step in truly driving change is for industry itself to ingrain a sustainable mindset within every layer of the organization.

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Outcome Report

As a second step, the sustainability message needs to spread. As an industry leader, APB Singapore advocates actions that enable industry, government and consumers to make a more conscious, sustainable choice. In Singapore, APB Singapore sets the example by retrieving 86 per cent of its glass bottles for its Singapore operations. Even though internal studies have shown that it is 30 per cent cheaper to use new bottles as it costs more to wash and store the used bottles, increasing its utilities and logistics costs, the company decided to go ahead due to its leadership’s commitment to improving the sustainability of its operations. One participant shared that because incineration is so effectively carried out in Singapore, the cost of recycling is therefore comparatively higher and therefore harder to justify in many organisations.

Recommendations • Re-examine existing value chains with circular concepts. Participants said that rather than simply looking at trash as an “end of pipe” matter - dealing with waste as a consequence of production businesses need to go upstream to look at how waste generation can be avoided entirely. • Business and government need to single out specific sectors of the economy and dive deep into them to identify specific solutions to treat or process waste. For example, the Singapore government is focusing on three high-value waste streams, namely electronic waste, food waste, and packaging waste. • Train and educate a new generation of product designers, industrial designers and architects to understand circular economy principles. • Develop a clear business case of circular economy that includes both environmental and economic costs. Companies should take into consideration the added brand value and improved resilience in business operations justifying the investment necessary to adopt circular economy practices. • Encourage greater integration and cooperation with neighbouring countries so that there are more secondary markets where waste streams can be exported and this will help justify the higher cost of recycling.

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Coming Full Circle: Strategies for a zero waste Singapore

The role of government The public sector plays an outsized role in tackling waste, and around the world, governments have had to provide adequate waste management services so that it does not pose a public health risk to citizens. One participant shared how in Denmark in the 1980s, landfills were rapidly filling up and operators were so frustrated they dumped rubbish in front of Parliament to highlight the problem. The country has since introduced a ban on landfills and this has dramatically reduced the amount of waste sent to landfill – down to 6 per cent of total waste generated. Going one step further, governments can similarly use legislation to provide the necessary frameworks to facilitate a circular economy, said participants.

Recommendations • Governments can change laws and regulations to encourage circularity. For instance, procuring green products that have been or can be recycled, or invest and promote knowledge and innovation in the field of circularity. • Governments have to take leadership by setting ambitious national targets, providing the necessary infrastructure, and nurturing collaboration among key players such as research institutes, businesses and municipalities to make it happen. • Because the circular economy has a complex value chain, the government could step in with certain policies such as extended producer responsibility, container deposit legislation or implement a minimum recycling content to facilitate interaction between organisations, suggested another. • Governments can adopt green procurement rules to encourage companies to favour circular economy principles in the design of their products. • The government could provide regulatory “space” – in the form of relaxed regulations for trials – and incentives for companies who want to test innovative waste solutions. • It could mandate that packaging companies join the Singapore Packaging Agreement, which has existed for a decade and whose more than 175 members have collectively saved $75 million in material cost and 32,000 tonnes of packaging. The alliance can set standards, annual targets and raise funds, with government support, for members to adopt new technologies. These standards should be applied consistently across the industry – whether the product is produced in Singapore or imported - so as to level the playing field. • The government can also help by providing funding and incentives to help SMEs conduct research and development to reduce material use in packaging.

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Outcome Report

The elusive piece of the puzzle: Consumer action Consumer involvement - a key component of the circular economy – is crucial in closing the production loop. How can organisations convince consumers to participate more actively in recycling and waste reduction? On its part, the NEA has already been tailoring public messages to target specific audiences through the use of social media, gamification, or consumer surveys to help influence social behaviour. The agency is also focusing its efforts on youth education to help develop the right mindset on waste reduction and recycling from an early age. One key challenge, however, is to translate awareness into action. One participant commented that the act of recycling is a community effort and a visible action. For instance, if more people can be encouraged to sort their waste daily and be aware of what to recycle, it can “help trigger our awareness of the amount and complexity of trash we are creating, and our belief in taking more eco-actions”.

Recommendations • Businesses should create easy-to-use, convenient systems that give customers the incentive to do their part in closing the production cycle. • Case study: One participant, whose company sells coffee capsules, said the firm has successfully implemented a recycling system which provides recycling bins at its retail stores and offers a service to pick up used coffee capsules from its customers when delivering new capsules. The used coffee grounds go to a local organic farm, while the aluminium in the pod gets exported for recycling. Customers who recycle are also given vouchers to purchase organic products from the local farm. This makes the entire recycling process easy and rewarding for customers, observed the participant. • Other ideas included setting up visual signs across the island with educational posters to remind citizens what they can recycle and where. Consumers should also be educated about the costs and benefits of improved waste recycling and adopting circular economy behaviour. • A participant remarked that recycling has to be “made sexy” to create meaningful change. Just as United States-headquartered Tesla Motor’s electric car has revolutionised the automotive industry, companies need to think of how to make a recycling lifestyle “attractive” – and not just about saving the environment. • The media should also play a role in sharing the success stories of the circular economy, and spreading information and awareness of the individual’s responsibility in tackling waste.

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Coming Full Circle: Strategies for a zero waste Singapore

New business models and collaboration Participants said that to achieve a circular economy, businesses must re-look at their business models with circularity in mind. Business consultancy Accenture, for instance, highlights five business models that enable companies to decouple growth from the use of scarce resources. These include circular supplies, resource recovery, product life extension, sharing platforms and product as a service. Participants suggested that in Singapore, repairing and refurbishment should be given more attention. However, there is a stigma attached to buying refurbished goods and high labour costs might also be an obstacle. Participants also lamented the lack of a multi-sectoral approach to waste. One shared how it was cheaper for her company to dispose of costly, new materials used just once for an exhibition due to the lack of storage space and flexibility in regulations in Singapore.

Recommendations • Participants said partnerships among the public and private sectors and civic society is crucial to unlock latent value in the process of waste reduction. • Case study: For instance, one participant shared how an international brand partnered a local telecom company and successfully motivated consumers of detergent sachets in the Philippines to return the plastic wrapping (rather than throwing them in drains as was happening before) by offering free SMS credit. Consumers were happy, the partner company received exposure to new customers, and trash was diverted from the environment. These initiatives also demonstrate the company’s sustainability policy to customers and can help generate awareness and brand loyalty, strengthening the business case. Going one step further, the company should consider how to eliminate the disposable packaging altogether. This requires re-thinking the way the product is delivered to the customer. Some alternatives – such as reusable containers, refillable options or on-demand top-up service – may even further strengthen customer loyalty and be a tool for differentiation, he suggested. • The sharing economy is a business model that harnesses existing capacity on the market, said a participant, though in specific reference to the construction sector. New product and service models are emerging based on such principles, including a company in Europe that rents out washing machines and dryers. • One participant said that companies need to take ownership of their products and collect them for refurbishment or repair; this could also help create jobs in sluggish economies. A pricing mechanism could be used to impact behaviour. • Participants also suggested taking a coordinated, multi-sectoral approach towards responsible waste disposal, such as by facilitating the transfer of waste streams between organisations who generate or have use for them. • Within each sector, companies should come together to map out the weakest links within their value chain (such as identify why certain waste streams are generated) and address them to help close the production loop.

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Outcome Report

Conclusion How do we proceed? Scientists have warned that the Earth’s ecosystems are at critical tipping points; businesses have an opportunity to do things differently in order to prepare for – and lead – a resource-constrained global environment.

ingapore should capitalise on the opportunities that the circular economy offers. It is clear that the existing linear model of production and consumption is unsustainable, especially when considering the rising affluence of consumers amid growing resource scarcity. Scientists have warned that the Earth’s ecosystems are at critical tipping points; businesses have an opportunity to do things differently in order to prepare for – and lead – a resource-constrained global environment. By embracing a zero waste vision, Singapore will also create unparalleled opportunities for its businesses and citizens to create new products and solutions to tackle its waste problem.

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Roundtable participants highlighted that in order to facilitate this, there should not only be lower barriers of entry for emerging technologies, but also for newer ways of thinking about waste management and reduction. One participant questioned the working definition and objective of recycling in Singapore, observing that the current system – collecting, sorting and selling its waste – is a “missed opportunity to embed the principle of value creation in Singapore”. Apart from emphasising waste reduction, how can Singapore move towards generating value out of its trash? “If we succeed in enabling innovation and the adoption of technology or products, then there’s space for industry to thrive. And if indus-

try can thrive, corporates will embrace recycling, and if corporates embrace recycling, the end-consumer will then reap the benefits of a more sustainable production cycle,” he said. The answer to driving this resource efficiency lies in the circular economy. To achieve this, a tri-sector approach involving business, government and society is required. The next step will be to translate these ideas into action now.


Coming Full Circle: Strategies for a zero waste Singapore

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As a final round up to the session, participants shared what they wished for Singapore in order for the country’s zero-waste vision to materialise. Here’s what they said.

“Be brave and enterprising.” “Look at creating value from the waste stream.” “Behavioural change without a crisis.” “Pivot away from waste and focus on value.”

“Move from building awareness to habit-building.”

“Collaboration with different partners.”

“Whose waste is it?”

“You know what it’s for; get started.”

“Flexible regulations and policies to encourage innovation.” “Challenge the conventional mindset, and be brave to take up new innovative solutions.” “The most common type of waste disposed in Singapore is plastics at 25%, so let's focus on plastics.”

“Get consumers to vote with their dollars.”

“Continue the conversation.”

“Leadership, innovation and a healthy disregard for the impossible.”


Outcome Report

Participants (In alphabetical order)

Wilson Ang

Executive Director, Global Compact Network Singapore

Dorte Bech Vizard

Ambassador-designate of Denmark to Singapore

Jessica Cheam Editor, Eco-Business

Choi Shing Kwok

Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Water Resources

Ynse de Boer

Managing director, Accenture Strategy & Sustainability APAC and President, Dutch Chamber of Commerce

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Amita Dholakia Chaudhury

Director, Sustainable Business, Unilever

Jacqueline Loo

Deputy Director (3P Network Division, Corporate, NGOs & Marketing Department), National Environment Agency

Jacques Werner

Ambassador of Netherlands to Singapore

Ron Wong Chak Huat

Country Manager, Singapore, Nestle Nespresso

Deputy Director (Environmental Protection Division, Waste and Resource Management Department), National Environment Agency

Chairperson, Green Committee, NTUC FairPrice

Andrew Purcell

Samson Wong

Lee Hui Mien

Matt Stanelos

Gwyneth Fries

Senior Sustainability Advisor, Forum for the Future

Koh Kok Sin

Head of Sustainability, Ikea Southeast Asia/IKANO

Allan Lim

CEO, Alpha Biofuels

Matthieu Pougin

Operations Manager, Google

General Manager, Solid Waste, Veolia Singapore

Eugene Tay

Executive Director, ZeroWaste SG

Managing Director, Asia Pacific Breweries Singapore

Yuen Sai Kuan

Director, Corporate Affairs at National Climate Change Secretariat, Prime Minister's Office


Coming Full Circle: Strategies for a zero waste Singapore

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For more information about the Roundtable, please contact: Eco-Business 3 Fusionopolis Place #03-54, Galaxis Work Lofts Singapore 138523 By phone: +65 6250 2488 partners@eco-business.com http://www.eco-business.com Š Eco-Business 2016 All Rights Reserved.

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Coming Full Circle: Strategies for a zero waste Singapore Š Eco-Business 2016 All Rights Reserved.

Coming full circle strategies for a zero waste singapore  
Coming full circle strategies for a zero waste singapore  
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