If you’ve ever stood at the blue bin scratching your head over what can or can’t be recycled (and then spend hours wondering what happens once all the trash is picked up), this beginner guide to waste disposal in Singapore is for you.
“There is no such thing as ‘throw-away’. When we throw something away, it must go somewhere.” (Never a truer word been said!). When it comes to recycling, we can no longer sweep the issue under the rug. And thanks to the National Environment Agency’s hugely engaging campaigns, the extent of the problem is finally starting to cut through and resonate in Singapore. Not only is it making a lot of noise about the perils of plastic but also making it ridiculously easy for even the not-so-conscious to recycle. The gist of it involves what we like to practice and preach as #LittleGreenSteps. And if we all follow them and do our teeny tiny part then collectively, we’ll make a giant and impactful difference.
Below is the skinny on what the average person can do and why (we’re working on a long-form guide for the more conscious recycler coming soon). Now, before you head straight to the blue bins, our first tip is always to try to reduce and reuse. But if you’re sure it has to go, check out our guide of where to donate and dispose. Ready for your Recycling 101 lesson? Buckle up.
Numbers don’t lie
We’ve all seen the rubbish. Whether it’s an overflowing bin at the mall or an image on social media of an ocean island formed entirely of garbage. But terrifyingly, the maths show a reality that is much, much worse. Here are a just few of the most staggering statistics:
– The amount of rubbish that Singapore creates has increased by seven-fold over the last 45 years
– Singaporeans tossed 8,284,000kgs of trash EVERY DAY in 2015 (enough to fill 16 Olympic-sized pools. Yikes.)
– At this rate, Singapore’s only landfill is due to run out of space by 2035
– Singapore’s recycling rate was ONLY 19% in 2015
– Singaporeans use 2.2 million straws each day (yes, really)
What can & cannot be recycled
We’ve all been there; pausing in front of a recycling bin. Looking down at the item in your hand. And not knowing what to do with it or where it belongs. Make a mental of note of this everyday item cheat sheet so you can make a more conscious choice next time:
Can: Paper envelopes, carton juice boxes, newspapers, magazines, and cardboard boxes
Cannot: Tissues and paper towels
Can: Plastic bottles, detergent bottles, skincare containers, and plastic food containers
Cannot: Plastic film covers (like chopsticks and crisp packets), disposable polystyrene food containers and disposable cutlery
Can: Drink cans, food cans, glass bottles, aerosol cans, biscuit tins
Cannot: Food waste, disposable chopsticks, mirrors, light bulbs, batteries and nappies
It’s estimated that globally only 15-20% of e-waste is recycled (with the number much higher in Asia). And by e-waste, we mean your electrical or electronic devices like phones, computers or TVs. Most cannot be recycled, so the NEA recommends repairing electronic equipment when possible, reusing or donating items in working condition and if you must, recycle unwanted items at one of the recycling points listed here.
Sort it right
Need to know more about what can and cannot be recycled? Head here or watch us break it down for you below.
What CAN or CANNOT be RECYCLED? Fast. Easy. & Practical #Recycling Guide in #Singapore.Singapore uses 2.2 million straws everyday, enough to cover Singapore's coastline twice over. Time to wake-up! Take #LittleGreenSteps every day and share with us how you #RecyclemoreWasteless. Brought to you by Green Is The New Black Asia, DBS, Eco-Business, Sembcorp, and the Climate Action SG Alliance for the year of Climate Action. Starring Judee Tan.
Posted by Green Is The New Black on Thursday, 8 November 2018
What happens next to the recyclables?
Have you ever wondered what happens to your recyclables when they get picked up? The National Environment Agency (NEA) has put together a handy infographic to help simplify what happens after collection.
Breaking it down even more
Eco-Business breaks down the recycling process even further with TV host and actor Jason Godfrey in this video that follows the trash. Follow him as he takes viewers through every single stage of the process.
Did you know? Contamination is the silent recycling killer.
Remember to rinse your containers and recyclables. If they are contaminated with oil stains or food residues, it will cross-contaminate everything else near it, and it will then get sorted as general waste. In Singapore, a staggering 40% of items are contaminated, so next time you’re about to toss a half-full drink into the bin, think again.
BUT — just because you put something in the recycling bin, doesn’t mean it gets recycled
Items have to be transported, sorted, processed and put to market. But if someone doesn’t buy it, then it doesn’t get recycled. Shocking, we know! Around the world, recyclables often end up landfills where they pollute environments. Our planet is swimming in plastic (literally, it’s clogging up our oceans), which is why reduction and reusing is a critical part of this conversation.
The blue bins are not your only choice, check these other options out.
While the blue bins around Singapore may be the easiest option, they aren’t necessarily the best (primarily due to the high contamination rates). We understand that this is where it starts to get intimidating, so here are a few other options to get you started:
Tzu Chi — Community recycling points for a good cause
Tzu Chi has organised community recycling points around Singapore, where it transforms trash into gold, and gold into loving hearts. With close to 40 locations islandwide, on every second Sunday of the month, it converts the void decks of HDB block’s communal pavilions, activity areas, and more into pop-up recycling stations. Together with resident committees, people bring their recyclables for sorting while learning about consumerism and environmental protection at the same time.
Once the recyclables are sorted, Tzu Chi sells them to recyclers and proceeds go to support their programmes and services that benefit local communities. Check out its list of what can and cannot be sorted at their recycling points as well as locations around Singapore. Follow along here for information on its next event.
Art Don’t Throw — Resource sharing
Art Don’t Throw is a community bringing together artists and art groups in Singapore to foster a mindset for sharing resources. Whether you are looking to dispose of materials or want to scavenge for materials to build something – check out this Facebook group. And it’s not just for artists and art materials. It’s for anyone who wants to share or give away a variety of other goods like post-production items.
It’s also here that we discovered a company launching in March called Seekabook, which is currently collecting books of all kinds to be catalogued for the public to make requests and take home.
Green Warehouse — Reusing and repurposing trash
Green Warehouse is a community looking to inspire a DIY culture that transforms your daily discards. The group encourages reusing, recycling and repurposing materials and goods that have outlived their initial purpose. You’ll find plastic bottles, papers, old tools, wooden products (e.g. wine crates and pallets) and more which can be repurposed or upcycled into useful items.
If you’re lucky, you’ll also discover random items up for grabs like clothes, shoes, jars, eggshells, paper bags, books, plants and more. Most people give these away for free or sell them at a low cost. A kind note that is not the place to earn money by selling your second-hand stuff, but to reuse and repurpose it.
Freecycling Singapore & Re-Usable Objects — Instead of recycling, give it away for free
At Freecycling Singapore, it’s as easy as posting an image of the items you want to rehome, then updating once the items have been reserved or taken. It’s very straightforward although these pages don’t have quite the interaction as some of the other groups.
Freevo Nation – Give away your preloved furniture
Freevo Nation is on a mission to make rehoming preloved furniture easy, fast and friendly. Its mantra? Whether you are moving out, renovating, upgrading your couch, downsizing, making room for a baby, or simply getting rid of your ex’s stuff…the things you used to love will find a second home. Its Facebook group is excellent for anyone looking to reuse, recycle, upcycle or pass on their home items for free. To date, over 4,500 pieces of furniture have been given away on Freevo Nation.
Journeying to Zero Waste – Looking for ideas or suggestions to live a zero-waste life?
If you are looking to reduce the amount of waste you produce even further, or are curious and interested to learn more, check out Journeying to Zero Waste. To be clear, this is not a freecycling group, but they do have a subgroup for giving away or asking for items. This group has been around for a while and has heaps of content. Make use of its search function to find answers to what you are looking for.
For clothes, e-waste and donation options – check out our guide on where to donate and dispose of your things in Singapore.
Otherwise, stay tuned for a complete guide to recycling in Singapore coming soon.
Head here if you are looking where to donate your things in Hong Kong.