Best of our wild blogs: 13 Mar 15

What do our farmed fishes eat?
from wild shores of singapore

Read more!

Less waste generated, but less recycling too

SIAU MING EN Today Online 12 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE — Singapore generated less waste last year than in the year before, but the rate of recycling also fell marginally, figures released by the National Environment Agency (NEA) today (March 12) showed.

The total amount of waste generated last year fell by 4.3 per cent to 7.51 million tonnes of waste, reversing a general upward trend in recent years. Singapore generated 6.9 million tonnes of waste in 2011 and 7.27 million tonnes of waste in 2012.

The amount of construction debris waste generated recorded the biggest fall of about 25 per cent, as the construction sector saw a slowdown in projects. 1.27 million tonnes of construction debris waste was generated last year, down from 1.70 million tonnes in 2013.

Overall recycling rates fell by 1 percentage point to 60 per cent last year, with 4.47 million tonnes of waste recycled. Even though more plastic waste was generated, less of it was recycled, with recycling rates falling to 9 per cent last year from 11 per cent in 2013. The recycling rate of paper and cardboard waste also fell by 2 percentage points 52 per cent.

The amount of food waste generated fell slightly from 796,000 tonnes in 2013 to 788,600 tonnes last year. Food waste recycling rate remained at 13 per cent, but the figure is still lower than the 16 per cent in 2010. This comes as the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources announced plans for two food waste recycling pilots yesterday.

Director of sustainability consultancy Green Future Solutions Eugene Tay said the drop in both the overall recycling rate and waste generated could be due to the fall in amount of construction debris waste recycled and generated. Construction debris waste, ferrous metal waste and paper and cardboard waste are the top three contributors to the waste generated in Singapore.

The NEA noted that excluding construction and demolition waste, the overall recycling rate actually increased marginally from 51.1 per cent in 2013 to 51.4 per cent in 2014.

Singapore has set an overall recycling target of 70 per cent by 2030. Mr Tay felt the slight dip in recycling rates — which based on data on his website is the first decrease in 15 years — is “not very serious”, given how other waste types have also made improvements in their recycling rates. For instance, 59 per cent of the horticultural waste was recycled last year, up from the 48 per cent in 2013.

But he was concerned about the dip in the recycling rate of paper and cardboard, even as more homes are now equipped with recycling bins.

More also needs to be done to improve the situation for plastics waste, noted Mr Tay, adding that Singapore needs to reduce its consumption of plastics, while the authorities should also find a way to improve its recycling rates.

Singapore's recycling rates drop for first time in 15 years
Monica Kotwani, Channel NewsAsia 12 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE: Statistics published online by the National Environment Agency shows overall recycling rates in Singapore dropped to 60 per cent in 2014, down from 61 per cent the year before.

Channel NewsAsia understands it is the first time in 15 years that the national recycling rate has declined.

According to figures from online publication 'Zero Waste Singapore', recycling rates have increased steadily over the years.

In 2012, the recycling rate reached 60 per cent, meeting the Government's overall recycling target set out in 2002. Singapore is taregeting a 70 per cent recycling rate by 2030.

NEA says the large drop in construction waste generated - by about 425,000 tonnes - brought down the overall recycling figure. That is because construction waste is the second largest source of Singapore's waste.

Director of Green Future Solutions, Eugene Tay, says he is not too concerned about the slight dip in recycling rate. In fact, Singapore has reduced the rate of increase in the amount waste disposed.

He said figures show that the increase in the amount of waste disposed compared to 2013 is 0.6 per cent. In contrast, the rate of increase was 3 per cent for the 2012-2013 period. The amount of food waste disposed last year also dropped by more than 8,000 tonnes.

But Mr Tay pointed out that more needs to be done to reduce the consumption of plastics, and up plastic recycling rates. This includes identifying ways to help companies recycle their plastic waste.

- CNA/ly

Read more!

Diesel vehicle green scheme extended to 2017

Lim Yan Liang The Straits Times AsiaOne 13 Mar 15;

A scheme to encourage owners of higher-emission diesel vehicles to scrap their vehicles will be extended to 2017, starting this August.

The move will make vehicles with Euro II and Euro III ratings eligible for the Early Turnover Scheme (ETS), which will give their owners a discount on the certificate of entitlement (COE) for a more environmentally friendly vehicle.

Currently, the scheme encourages the early replacement of older and more pollutive Pre-Euro and Euro I vehicles.

The European emission standards, which have been progressively implemented in Singapore, set the acceptable exhaust emission limits for new vehicles sold in European Union member states.

The extension of the scheme will benefit businesses, including small and medium-sized enterprises, Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo said in Parliament yesterday when she announced the change.

It will run from Aug 1 this year to July 31, 2017 and is expected to affect about 59,000 Euro II and Euro III diesel vehicles under the COE Category C, which is for goods vehicles and buses.

Under the scheme, the replacement has to be a Euro IV or Euro V vehicle, for which owners will pay a pro-rated COE premium instead of bidding for a COE.

On average, they get a discount of more than $20,000 on the COE, as they can transfer the remaining COE period of their existing vehicle to the new vehicle.

They also receive a bonus COE period proportionate to the existing vehicle's remaining lifespan. It varies with different vehicles.

This bonus COE period will be raised for those who opt for an even greener Euro VI vehicle.

"With more vehicles eligible for the ETS, there would likely be more Category C vehicles which will be replaced directly, without needing to bid for a new COE," Mrs Teo said.
"Both the demand for and the supply of Category C COEs are thus likely to decrease correspondingly," she added.

Read more!

Paving the way for a car-lite, low-waste future

Lydia Lim The Straits Times AsiaOne 13 Mar 15;

One day in the future, the mobility dreams of young Singaporeans may well centre not on costly, pollutive cars but lightweight, eco- friendly devices like electric scooters on which to zip from home to bus or train and then on to work or leisure.

A peek into that future was provided by several MPs who joined the scrutiny of the Ministry of Transport's (MOT's) budget. Their questions and the responses of two office holders suggest that despite recent headline-grabbing rail service disruptions and persistent complaints about peak-hour congestion, the shift towards a more sustainable, less car-reliant future is gaining momentum.

Dr Janil Puthucheary (Pasir Ris- Punggol GRC) and Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam urged regulators to stay ahead of innovations such as personal mobility devices (PMDs), which include electric scooters, as these can tilt the balance in favour of public transport by making the "last mile" to home or office that much easier for commuters.

But not everyone was as welcoming of PMDs and other alternative modes of transport, including cycling.

Mr Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC) and Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) said their proliferation could pose a danger to pedestrians.

In response, Parliamentary Secretary (Transport) Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said the ministry is working to establish clear and consistent rules and norms which will balance the interests of PMD users and pedestrians.

A pleasant surprise was his assurance that there would be room for flexibility, including "a slightly different set for towns that are ready to embrace more progressive rules and norms, for example in allowing cyclists and users of non-motorised PMDs to also use footpaths". The solution need not be "one size fits all", he added.

To be sure, most of the MPs who spoke were more concerned about longstanding transport issues of taxi fares, cost and supply of COEs as well as bus and train reliability and capacity.

Observing that the share of peak-hour trips on public transport rose to 66 per cent last year from 59 per cent in 2008, Mr Cedric Foo (Pioneer) said this was good news as extensive use of public transport is "the only sustainable way forward for a small city state like Singapore".

But he added: "We want to achieve this high mode-share because public transport is cost-effective, reliable and comfortable ... it would be disconcerting if the mode-share increased only because commuters have no other choices but a below-par public transport (system)."

That was also the sentiment of Parliamentary Secretary Low Yen Ling (Chua Chu Kang GRC). She described in detail her constituents' transport woes due to over-crowded buses and a lack of feeder bus services connecting them from home to shops and the nearest MRT station.

Among the MPs who spoke on cars was Mr Hri Kumar Nair (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC). He critiqued the way COEs are now categorised, and called for a more effective way to ensure affordability of COEs for small cars.

In defence of the COE system, Senior Minister of State (Transport) Josephine Teo said it exists to control the vehicle population size. She also pointed towards a future where the growth rate for the car population may have to be further cut from the current 0.25 per cent a year to 0 per cent.

By then, attitudes towards private car ownership may have shifted, if Mrs Teo's reading of present trends is accurate.

She said: "With the emergence of the sharing economy, many people, especially the younger generation, see the wisdom of renting or purchasing services when needed, rather than tying down funds for things they do not use all the time. They think it is smarter to be free of a car loan, and rely instead on a mix of transport options including buses, trains, walking, cycling, taxis or car-sharing services. The shift is taking place even in the United States, which is as car-loving a society as one can find."

Technology and shifting global norms - including the rise of the green movement - are working in MOT's favour for they not only enable people to choose lifestyles in line with a more sustainable future but also make these choices desirable.

Other ministries with sustainability on the agenda, such as the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), can also tap into this shift to address key challenges of waste reduction and water conservation.

MEWR is beefing up Singapore's water production capacity by building a third desalination plant - a crucial addition in the light of recent dry spells - as well as seeking to change water consumption habits.

Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said the goal is to cut water use from the current 150 litres per person per day to 140 litres per person per day by 2030.

What might help push this campaign along is a water-saving device that doubles as an object of desire - one as cool as an electric scooter, perhaps.

Read more!

Exhibition on possible climate change consequences to be held on Orchard Road

JORDON SIMPSON Today Online 12 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE — For a glimpse of how climate change can disrupt daily life, this year’s World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) Earth Hour will have an exhibition of mock-ups, including one of a HDB flat grappling with a heatwave.

The “Climate Change Trail”, outside ION Orchard, will transport visitors to an alternate Singapore affected by climate change and extreme weather conditions. It will be opened to the public from March 13 to March 28,

The trail will feature three distinct scenarios unique to the Singapore context. The first scenario, a HDB flat facing an uncomfortable heatwave, reflects the increasing temperature extremes seen around the Asian region.

To signify the reduced food production of major food crops worldwide due to unpredictable weather, there will be a scenario of a supermarket grappling with a food shortage and increased prices.

The last scenario features a disaster caused by extreme rainfall and flooding, which are related to rising sea levels.

The three scenarios are each built into compact rooms in front of ION Orchard, and have a variety of actors and props, such as smoke and sandbags, to make the exhibition more impactful.

Besides the main event at ION Orchard, there will also be independent satellite events and activities held by several grassroots communities in areas such as West Coast Community, North West Community Development Council and Hong Kah.

These events are aimed at teaching residents how they can make a difference in the battle against climate change.

Apart from these activities, there will also be the traditional one-hour lights-off event, to be observed from 8.30pm to 9.30pm on March 28.

The 60 minutes of darkness is meant to bring together millions of people around the globe to show their support for a sustainable planet, and how they can each use their power to combat climate change.

According to the WWF, the companies taking part in this year’s event includes IKEA, NTUC FairPrice and StarHub. CapitaLand, the developer of ION Orchard, will also be getting over 200 of its properties in Asia and Europe to participate in Earth Hour 2015.

'Heatwave, food crisis' in Orchard Road
Samantha Boh The Straits Times AsiaOne 14 Mar 15;

EARTH Hour is no longer just about switching off lights. This year, there will also be a chance to experience a heatwave, and learn about the effects of a flood and food shortage.

This will be done through a Climate Change Trail created by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Singapore, with booths illustrating the three extreme climate scenarios.

"These are scenarios which many people believe may not happen or are not likely to happen. But research has shown that they are very real," said WWF Singapore chief executive Elaine Tan.

Climate change is a subject that is difficult to grasp, she said. Acting on it is even tougher, hence the need to let visitors experience the effects first-hand.

People who walk into the booth that simulates a heatwave will be hit by temperatures of up to 42 deg C. They will also hear the buzzing of mosquitos in their ears, which is meant to illustrate a rise in dengue cases brought on by the dry weather, as there will be more stagnant water around.

The booth that features intense floods, as a result of rising sea levels and extreme rainfall, will have mist blown at visitors to mimic rain.

There will also be a skit, set in a supermarket, to show the impact of a food shortage and how that can lead to skyrocketing prices.

WWF Singapore aims to have at least 30,000 people visit the trail, which is located in front of Ion Orchard. It will run from today to March 28, from 5pm to 8pm on weekdays and 2pm to 9pm on weekends.

Biologist Nicole Dorville, 26, said the skit will be an eye-opener. "People think of climate change as only a change in weather but they don't realise it affects our food supply too," she said.

The trail will be a prelude to Earth Hour, which will take place from 8.30pm on March 28, when participating organisations and households will turn off their non-essential lights for an hour.

One firm which has already pledged its support is CapitaLand, which will be switching off the facade lights and non-essential lighting of 200 properties across Asia and Europe throughout the night.

Read more!