Plan for technology road map to tackle rubbish till 2050

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 28 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE is embarking on an ambitious project to develop a technology road map that can help it deal with its rubbish, all the way till 2050.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) recently called for proposals to review how the country collects, sorts, separates, recycles and treats its waste.

The consultancy firm that is selected must also look to other countries to see how those processes can be improved.

The study is expected to produce "a clear and realistic 2030 vision and an ambitious 2050 vision of a sustainable waste management system, given Singapore's constraints and challenges", said the NEA in tender documents.

The NEA received submissions from eight firms by its July 18 deadline and is reviewing them.

The project is expected to start by September and last eight months.

A comprehensive plan will be critical in dealing with Singapore's ballooning waste matter. With the population and economy growing, the country is expected to produce 12.3 million tonnes of rubbish in 2030, up 57 per cent from last year.

The agency noted several areas which can be improved, including in the sorting of waste.

"Most of the local materials recovery facilities are small-scale operations where sorting processes are performed manually," it said in the document, adding that this is both expensive and time-consuming.

It wants the consultant to look for and assess state-of-the-art technologies, including auto-sorting machines, that can dramatically boost the plants' manpower productivity.

There should also be recommendations to help people separate their dry and wet waste more easily, to meet the 2030 target that 70 per cent of all rubbish should be recycled.

The NEA noted that most of the current waste collection equipment and facilities, such as the single steam chute system in most high-rise flats, do not allow different types of waste to be stored and collected separately.

Ms Melissa Tan, chairman of the Waste Management and Recycling Association of Singapore, said its members had been consulted on the targets.

She added that the targets can be met if the Government is prepared to help by investing in technology.

"There are very mature waste sorting and separating technologies in Europe," she said.

"It would be easy to transfer the technology and knowledge to Singapore, but the machines are very costly. Firms here may not have the deep pockets to get them."

One way to solve this, she suggested, would be for the Government to invest in an advanced, centralised sorting facility and charge firms to use it.

"Singapore's waste management has already improved a lot since the 1970s and 1980s and, with technology, it can improve further," she added.