Date Published: 03 Jul 2012
Ladies and gentlemen,
A very good morning to all of you.
Let me first wish all of you – especially our overseas delegates and friends – a warm welcome to today’s WasteMET Asia–ISWA Beacon Conference. I am honoured to be here to open the first Beacon Conference in Singapore jointly organised by the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), Waste Management and Recycling Association of Singapore (WMRAS) and the National Environment Agency (NEA).
Waste Challenges and the Role of Technology
2 According to a recent study by the World Bank, more than half of the 1.3 billion tonnes of waste generated a year by the world today continues to be landfilled or dumped. This has created numerous environmental and human health problems especially for the people living close to these landfills. News of collapse and fire outbreaks at landfill sites further reinforce the need for us to look for better and more sustainable solutions to solve our growing waste problems.
3 Thankfully, there are signs that countries are starting to give priority to waste management issues and invest in suitable technologies. For example, China will be investing S$160 billion within the next 4 years to set up more than 200 waste-to-energy plants, 200 biomass-to-energy plants and leachate treatment for existing landfills. When completed, these facilities will relieve the strain on landfills.
4 Technology alone, however, will not be sufficient to solve our waste management problems. Appropriate formulation and implementation of our public policies are necessary. There is an intricate nexus between policies and technology where the emergence of new technologies will sometimes necessitate new policies to be introduced. Conversely, more stringent policies will spur the development of better technologies. Hence, platforms such as the Beacon Conference present good opportunities for policy-makers to keep abreast of the innovations in the technological space and for discourse on policy framework to take place.
5 Singapore is evolving our waste management solutions and policies to meet our needs and technological advancements. Our inherent land and resource constraints have driven us to look for alternatives to landfilling early in our nationhood. In 1979, we constructed our first waste-to-energy plant with World Bank funding to divert waste from landfill. We built three more waste-to-energy incineration plants by 1999 to cater to all incinerable waste. We stopped using our scarce land for landfilling of waste in 1999 when construction of our first offshore landfill – the Semakau Landfill was completed. This landfill was designed and constructed to minimise impact on the marine environment. In fact it has become a source of pride as an example of a waste management facility co-existing in harmony with nature. Semakau Landfill has even been named the “Garbage of Eden” by the New Scientist and those of you visiting Semakau for the first time tomorrow would be surprised by what you see, or by what you don’t see, or don’t smell.
6 We have also moved from treating waste downstream to reducing waste generated at source through our 3R (Reduce, Reuse, Recycling) programmes. For example, through the Singapore Packaging Agreement (SPA) launched in 2007, we have managed to avoid some 10,000 tonnes of packaging waste, with savings of more than S$20 million over the last 5 years. With recycling programmes targeting specific industrial and commercial sectors such as construction, hotels, and electronics, as well as residential premises, we have improved our recycling rate from 40% in 2000 to 59% in 2011.
Need for Waste Management Technologies
7 Notwithstanding our 3R efforts, we expect waste to continue to grow in terms of volumes and complexity and hence, our waste management technologies will have to develop in tandem. Investment in waste management technologies is thus crucial. Over the years, Singapore has nurtured and built a vibrant research eco-system anchored by world-class institutions. Several of them like the Singapore-ETH Centre for Global Environmental Sustainability (SEC) established as collaboration between the National Research Foundation of Singapore and ETH Zurich in 2010, have identified urban sustainability as a research focus. Singapore’s universities have also been building capacity for R&D in environmental technologies. For example, the National University of Singapore is researching into a new method of recovering precious and heavy metals from e-waste using hydrometallurgical leaching and electro-active polymers. This project has already attracted interest from the private sector in commercialising the technology if successful. This R&D project, along with others that NEA has funded over the years, will be showcased at the NEA booth.
CleanEnviro Summit & WasteMET Asia – Valued Platform for All Stakeholders
8 The challenges faced by Singapore are not unique. Hence, by sharing our challenges, experience and best practices, we will be able to tackle the growing waste problem confronting our cities more effectively. This is the motivation for Singapore hosting the CleanEnviro Summit Singapore and WasteMET Asia, to start this important discourse amongst stakeholders, comprising decision makers and policy designers to solutions providers and researchers.
9 We are privileged to have a diverse group of experts from Europe, America, Africa and Asia for today’s conference themed “Globalisation, Urban Metabolism and Waste Management”. They bring with them insights on the strategies used by different cities to manage the waste challenges they faced. Besides waste-to-energy, landfill, resource recovery solutions, other promising solutions such as tracking systems for electronic waste, underground collection systems for waste and storage solutions for special waste and residues will also be discussed.
10 Some of these solutions can be found at the WasteMET Asia Expo where more than 90 exhibitors including leading local and international environmental companies (such as Veolia, DOWA and Keppel) and national pavilions are gathered. This offers a one-stop venue to seek out waste management solutions across the entire value-chain covering collection, sorting, treatment, recycling and disposal. I would like to encourage you to visit this trade exhibition and further network with fellow practitioners and industry experts.
11 I would like to wrap up my remarks by wishing everyone a fruitful conference and to our foreign guests, an enjoyable stay in Singapore. I hope that you can find some time amidst the tight programme to visit our beautiful island and enjoy the warm hospitality of Singaporeans.
12 It gives me great pleasure to declare the WasteMET Asia – ISWA Beacon Conference 2012 open.