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Waste isn’t just waste when it can be turned into a valuable resource


SINGAPORE: The circular economy is a buzzword in sustainability circles, yet globally, it is estimated that only 8.6 per cent of the world economy is circular.

As Singapore’s economic activity picked up in 2021 after the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions, the overall solid waste generated increased by 18 per cent.

At the same time, however, the domestic recycling rate remained at 13 per cent. This is the lowest figure in more than 10 years.

Under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, the goal is to raise this recycling rate to 30 per cent by 2030.

According to industry experts, one way to get there is to make consumers aware that waste doesn’t need to be wasted.

“If that particular recyclable material is of no resale value, then people will not want to recycle it, or would not want to collect it. Likewise, if the recyclable material fetches a higher price, then there will be more recycling companies that will collect it. So then they are likely to do it in a slightly bigger scale,” said Ms Melissa Tan, CEO of Singapore-based waste management company Wah and Hua. 

Currently, when residents do recycle, however, many are not doing it correctly  About 40 per cent of the items found in the blue recycling bins cannot be recycled due to contamination, mainly from food and liquid waste, as well as e-waste and styrofoam.

To address the high contamination rate and low recycling rate, Wah and Hua launched a mobile application that rewards users with green bonus points for recycling right.

The app provides information on recycling points and locations. Residents take pictures of the materials to be recycled, and the company’s artificial intelligence (AI) software works out what the materials are, as well as their estimated weight.

Users collect bonus points when they deposit their recyclables, and these points can be used to redeem rewards.

The company’s next project is the construction of a zero-waste facility tailored for Singapore’s densely-populated urban environment.

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