How Singapore fixed its big trash problem | CNBC Reports (2023)


More than 2 billion tonnes of global waste is generated yearly. By 2050, it’s expected to increase to 3.4 billion tonnes. CNBC’s Nessa Anwar traces the journey of a piece of discarded trash in Singapore to the nation’s only landfill, exploring solutions and the future of the world’s garbage dilemma.


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Every year, the world generates more than 2 billion tonnes of trash.

That’s enough to fill over 800,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.


A third of the world's waste is being openly.

Dumped or burned.

This is a challenge.

We’ve seen over and over, where users are unable to pay for use where users are unable to pay for use of the system, where there’s an affordability gap.

And by the year 2050, the amount of rubbish generated annually is expected to increase to 3.4 billion tonnes.

As, the rubbish piles up, no number of landfills and recycling programs can keep pace with this growing problem., So what's, the solution? The waste management process, comprises the collection, treatment and disposal of waste.

Solid waste can come from several sources, mainly from residential and commercial properties, and industrial facilities, such as medical, electronic and construction waste., With, COVID, overall.

We’ve seen medical waste increase about 40%.

It's, often the poor that are the most affected by lack of waste management, services, whether it's because they're not receiving waste management services due to where they're living or waste is being dumped by the communities.

Even as medical waste piles.


It’s a tiny fraction of municipal solid waste.


The 2 billion tonnes of waste generated.

Globally, 12% is plastic waste, but it’s dwarfed by food and organic matter, and paper.

&, cardboard, scraps., Once.

All that trash is collected.

There are 3 main ways it is treated and disposed of: by burning the trash in an incinerator, using a landfill or dumping it openly without any processing whatsoever., While, 33% of global waste end up directly at open dumps.

Governments are increasingly recognizing that these sites are bad for the environment and can be vectors for diseases.


They are opting for more sustainable ways to manage their waste, such as incinerators and recycling.


Nowhere is this more pronounced than in densely populated Singapore, which has nearly 8,000 people per km², more than 17 times that of India and 200 times that of the U.S.

Between 1970 and 2016.

The amount of solid waste disposed in Singapore increased about 7-fold as its population and economy.


Of, the 7 million tonnes of waste generated in the country in 2019, more than half were recycled.

The journey of a single piece of trash brings us to Tuas South, Incineration Plant, the largest waste incineration facility in Singapore to date.


Kok Wah is the general manager of the plant, one of four such facilities in the country, which can convert waste into energy.

Waste is collected from industrial, commercial premises and household.


An average of about 600 trucks are coming to Tuas.

South, Incineration, Plant.

They will discharge the waste into the bunker.

Cranes will then grab and feed the waste into the incinerator.

The temperature in the furnace is about 850 –.

1,000 degrees.

You will achieve a 90% reduction in terms of volume.

This will then help to conserve the space required for landfill.

Singapore is a very small, country., It’s, land-scarce., So.

The need to conserve land is very critical for Singapore.


The way, we have magnetic separator.

Ferrous and non-ferrous metal will be recovered from the ash.

Ash will then be transported from the ash pit to another facility.

Pollutants produced during incineration are treated before being released into the atmosphere.

Ensuring clean air is being discharged.

Water will be converted into steam from the energy recovered from the combustion of waste.

This water will be then converted into high temperature, high pressure, steam to run turbine.


This is to produce electricity.


20% is being consumed internally, with the rest being exported to the national grid.

The, total power generated by the four waste-to-energy incineration plants in Singapore, including Tuas South, contributes about 2–3% to the national electricity demand in the country.

An upcoming, waste-to-energy plant built by Mitsubishi Heavy, Industries and water treatment company Hyflux will be able to incinerate 3,600 tonnes of waste per day while generating electricity to be self-sufficient and providing excess power to the national grid.

How much waste is collected and managed in TSIP? In 2019, about 1.08 million tonnes of waste is collected.

That’s equivalent to about 3,000 tonnes of waste daily.


The incineration process.

My journey takes me on a ferry to the country’s only landfill located along the Singapore Strait.

One of the busiest waterways in the world.

Semakau Landfill is an off-shore landfill.

Enclosed by a 4.3-mile perimeter rock embankment, which creates a sea space to fill with incinerated rubbish.

In operation since 1999 and costing nearly half a billion dollars.

The island is more than just a landfill.


We are made up of two big islands called Pulau Semakau and Pulau Sakeng.

And these two are joined together to what we see here.

350 hectares of Pulau, Semakau, Landfill., A, barge, ferries, more than 2,000 tonnes of waste between mainland Singapore and Semakau Landfill daily, says, Desmond Lee, general manager of the landfill.

We have big equipment, such as the dump truck, excavators, etc.

These are equipment that we use daily.

And you can hear- What’s going on there? This barge actually comes from the Tuas Marine Transfer Station from Tuas, travels, 33 kilometres journey.

All the way here.

Tell me about how the ash is going to get transferred.


There is what is called the long-arm excavator.

This excavator will grab the ash and as well as non-incinerable waste, and drop into what we call the dump truck.

The trucks will then unload the ash into specific cells within the lagoon.

To prevent leaks and contamination of the sea water outside the rock bunds.

The perimeter is lined with impermeable membrane and a layer of marine clay.

As, the water level within the lagoon increases with rainfall and the dumping of the ash.

The overflow is discharged into the open sea after being treated at a wastewater treatment plant.


You travel around Semakau, you'll, see there's a lot of mangroves around.

And there are also beautiful corals.

This is a testimony to the absence of adverse impact from our operational landfill.

We also want to ensure the marine life and nature in this area continue to strive.


Filled is Semakau Landfill, right? Now? Based on the current waste generation.

Semakau Landfill will be completely filled by 2035.


There are current plans to work together with the different government agencies, businesses as well as communities to look into how we can extend the life of Semakau Landfill.

What lessons, can we learn from Singapore’s other previous landfills? One.

Key lesson that we learned is that it takes a long time to remediate the landfill.

And, then there's also resources needed to commit to them before the land can be remediated for other uses.


Other strategy.

We are also taking is looking at the possibilities of recycling.

The incineration bottom ash, which is now known as NEWSand, and could be used for non-structural concrete, for example.

To date, NEWSand has been used to create footpaths and benches.

While tests are ongoing for its application in road construction.


Landfills are a short-term solution to a long-term problem., In, land-scarce Singapore, which is slightly smaller than New.



Space is a luxury, and it's.

A matter of time before Semakau.

Landfill is full.

Singapore aims to reduce the waste going into Semakau Landfill by 30% by 2030, as part of its Zero, Waste Masterplan., The country, also intends to develop new waste management, facilities, to meet the treatment needs of wastewater, sludge and even food waste.

Ultimately, improving the recycling rate in Singapore.

Despite, the high rates of recycling among developed nations, high-income countries, which account for 16% of the world’s population, generate 34% of global waste.

Conversely, about 5% of the world’s waste come from low-income countries, even though they make up 9% of the world’s population.

Notably, the U.S., Canada and Bermuda, all high-income nations in North America, generate one of the highest average amount of waste per capita.


The trend is expected to reverse in the next few decades as low-income countries experience economic growth.

And a population boom.

For over two decades, China was the dumping ground for nearly half of the world’s scrap, with much of it originating from developed countries, such as the U.S., U.K.

and Australia.

All that changed in 2018.

When China imposed a blanket ban on 24 types of imported waste, citing, the need to protect its environment and public health.

The magnitude of the problem was laid bare.

When other countries in Southeast Asia also started rejecting plastic waste from the rich, industrialized, countries., In 2019, the Philippines sent back containers of waste to Canada and South Korea, while waste from Spain and Australia that were sent to Malaysia were.

Similarly rejected.

Waste management is very expensive.


It should not be looked at as being an economic activity to generate revenue.

But as a public service that requires financing., Not just financing that is affordable for the population and for the country as such, but also in terms of legislative environment and regulation, and monitoring and enforcement.

All of these pieces of the puzzle should be in place.

Because at the end of the day as we have seen many times, there is always an easy way out.

And that is to pollute the environment.

It takes years and concerted effort to switch the way we as a society behave.

So that we increase the recyclability of our waste.

More companies are also applying environmental, social and corporate governance standards to their operations.


This is the latest trend in town.

It remains to be seen if businesses can be both ethical and profitable, benefitting stakeholders, society.

And the planet.

Citizens are key to changing the waste management system, moving forward.

So, whether it's the day-to-day behaviour of reducing waste, being willing to be educated and participate in recycling and recovery, being willing to pay for the services.

So that the city can offer more management of waste in a proper way.

Each person generates nearly 2 pounds of trash, daily, so changing the throwaway culture will have a direct impact on how the world looks like for future.


The journey to reduce, reuse and recycle, then, begins with us..


How Singapore fixed its big trash problem | CNBC Reports? ›

Nearly, all of the trash is burned, but a bit of ash remains. Then, this ash is transported to a water body that does not touch the ocean water, making it safe. Using this process, the country was able to make an actual "trash island" made from repeating deposits of ash. Surprisingly, the island is charming and clean.

How did Singapore fix its trash problem? ›

Nearly, all of the trash is burned, but a bit of ash remains. Then, this ash is transported to a water body that does not touch the ocean water, making it safe. Using this process, the country was able to make an actual "trash island" made from repeating deposits of ash. Surprisingly, the island is charming and clean.

How does Singapore manage their waste? ›

Solid waste management in Singapore begins at homes and businesses. Waste that is not segregated at source is then collected and sent to the waste-to-energy plants for incineration. Incineration reduces the volume of solid waste by about 90% and energy is recovered to generate electricity.

What is the history of waste management in Singapore? ›

From 1970 to 1974, waste disposal was not strictly controlled. As a result, a significant amount of municipal waste would eventually decompose and putrefy. After 1974, the landfill will implement stricter management of the municipal waste. By 1982, Lorong Halus was storing almost half of Singapore's rubbish output.

How does Singapore stop littering? ›

Fines & CWO

NEA has been efficiently catching litter-bugs and fines are given to them as a result to ensure that they bear the consequences of their actions. First-time offenders are fined at $2,000, $4,000 for second-time offenders and $10,000 for third and subsequent convictions.

What did Singapore do to reduce plastic waste? ›

Zero Waste SG started the Bring-Your-Own Singapore Movement in 2017 to rally retailers to offer incentives to customers who bring their own reusable bags, bottles or containers. The campaign involved 430 retail outlets and reduced over 2.5 million pieces of plastic disposables.

How does Singapore keep their environment clean? ›

Singapore is known for being a clean and attractive city. NEA plays a key role in ensuring Singapore lives up to its reputation, by ensuring its streets and pavements are litter-free. This is achieved in three key ways: the cleaning of public areas, public education, and enforcement.

How does Singapore reduce pollution? ›

The reduction of industrial and shipping activities is likely to be one of the reasons for the reduction of air pollution in Singapore. Do you know the majority of Singaporeans commute via public transport such as buses and trains? Only a few commutes via their vehicles.

What is Singapore doing to reduce food waste? ›

What is the government doing? Ongoing food waste reduction publicity and outreach programme to increase awareness of the food waste situation in Singapore, as well as to encourage consumers to adopt smart food purchase, storage and preparation habits that can help them to minimise food wastage.

What is the main problem of garbage? ›

Garbage is hazardous to marine life and other users of our waterways. Marine animals and sea birds can mistake plastic material for food, and often end up dying a slow and painful death from starvation or strangulation.

How can we reduce garbage collection? ›

Reduce memory allocations

If you don't allocate any objects then the garbage collector doesn't run unless there is a low memory condition in the system. Reducing the amount of memory you allocate directly translates to less frequent garbage collections.

What is the cause of garbage problem? ›

There are many reasons for the production of garbage. One reason for this is growing urbanization and prosperity. The more financially strong is the country or the city, the more garbage it will produce. It can also be seen by linking poverty and prosperity, competence and inefficiency.

Does Singapore recycle waste? ›

SINGAPORE – The domestic recycling rate in 2022 fell to 12 per cent – the lowest in more than a decade – because less paper, cardboard, textile and leather were exported for recycling, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Wednesday.

How much is waste management in Singapore? ›

Singapore, 30 November 2021 - The National Environment Agency (NEA) will be revising the refuse collection fees for households to $9.63 per month (incl. GST) for HDB/private apartments and $32.07 per month (incl. GST) for landed homes from 1 January 2022.

What is the aim of Singapore zero waste? ›

Zero Waste helps to conserve, reduce pollution, create jobs in waste management, reduce waste costs, increase the lifespan of our Semakau Landfill and incineration plants, and mitigate climate change.

Does Singapore recycle trash? ›

The Recycling Collection Process

Recyclables are collected by a dedicated recycling truck and sent to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). At the MRF, the recyclables will be sorted out into paper, glass, metal and plastic. After sorting each type of waste is packed into bundles.

Has littering decreased in Singapore? ›

As measured by official complaints and littering offenses, the act of littering is increasing in Singapore yet in Yokohama, littering offenses (and the production of waste and trash) have dropped precipitously.

Does Singapore burn plastic waste? ›

Plastic bags are often only used once or twice, and then used as trash bags for rubbish disposal. However, the disposal of plastic bags requires a lot more energy and resources too. In Singapore, our waste is mainly incinerated in one of our four waste-to-energy plants.

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