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Since its independence in 1965, Singapore has achieved rapid industrialisation and economic growth. From having a small manufacturing base, producing simple products such as biscuits, soap, canned pineapples etc. today we have built diverse manufacturing industries including chemical industry, electronic industry, bio-medical industry, services industry etc. However, this progress has also brought along with significant waste challenges to us. From 1974 to 2008, our population increased about 2-fold.

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But our total annual waste disposal increased from 0. 5 million tonnes, to a stunning 2. 63 million tonnes (see table 1 – NEA Data and Statistics), which is about six times the former. Before 1979, Singapore disposed of all its waste directly in dumping grounds / landfills. To reduce the demand for landfills, Singapore built four incineration plants, which are located at Ulu Pandan, Senoko, Tuas, and Tuas south. The Tuas south incineration plant is one of the largest in the world. Tuas South Incineration Plant

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However, by 1999, Singapore had completely depleted five large dumping grounds (the Tampines dumping ground, Choa Chu Kang dumping ground, Kok Sek Lin dumping ground, Lim Chu Kang dumping ground and the Lorong Halus dumping ground) on the mainland. As a result, Singapore had to resort to building her first offshore landfill, Pulau Semakau, which started in operation on 1st April 1999 and is expected to last for about 40 years. It is now the only landfill in Singapore. Pulau Semakau Landfill

In the long term, this is not sustainable. Firstly, our waste generation is increasing each year. This growth places considerable demand on waste management, disposal facilities and the environment – although incineration of waste can reduce the volume of waste to be finally disposed of, it produces large amounts of greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change. Secondly, Singapore has very little land resources; hence it is difficult to find land in Singapore on which to build incineration plants and landfills.

Thirdly, it is expensive to construct, operate and maintain incineration plants and landfills. In 1979, it only cost 130 million dollars to construct an incineration plant, but in 2000, it cost 900 million dollars to construct an incineration plant. Global warming As a result of the above challenges, there is a need to minimise the amount of waste produced by Singapore as explained above and a sustainable solution to Singapore’s waste management is necessary. This can be done in a number of ways, at the individual, business, school and government level.

Firstly, I believe that individual Singaporeans can contribute to the cause by practicing the three ‘R’s – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – wherever possible. For example, by recycling paper, we are able to reduce the amount of air pollution produced by 74 percent and water pollution by 35 percent (NEA website). Every ton of paper that is recycled could also save 17 trees, which help reduce deforestation and the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. A single individual may not contribute much change.

However, if everyone was to practice the three ‘R’s, our contribution as a whole would be very significant. Schools can also play a part to help reduce waste through educating their students about the environment, the challenges Singapore faces in waste minimization, as well as solutions to reducing waste. For example, schools may arrange for speakers to visit and give presentations about the three ‘R’s, which everyone can practice.

I would also recommend that people should watch this video about waste minimisation and environmental sustainability (http://www. storyofstuff. com/ ) schools may also put recycle bins at places that are frequently visited during big school events, such as Funfairs, Sports Day, etc. Another place to put recycle bins are school canteens so that it would encourage pupils to recycle more drink cartons, bottles, and cans. In my opinion, our society has produced too many disposable products and packaging.

For example, instead of having to produce so many bottles of a certain product (like shampoo, cooking oil, etc. ), they could make refills of that product, like a pen refill, where it costs less and saves a lot of resources that would have been used to make the whole thing. Also, instead of providing disposable products such as plastic plates, Styrofoam cups, plastic forks, etc. , caterers could instead just provide reusable ones to use instead. Businesses should also take part in reducing the waste produced in Singapore and setting an example for their employees to follow. They can do this by practicing the three ‘R’s in their business plans and practices.

For example, IBM Singapore, an IT company, has started segregating their non-hazardous waste into different categories since 1997. This has allowed them to recycle more than non-hazardous waste. In another example, Sony Display Device (Singapore) started to reduce packaging material, reuse polyfoam material and wooden pallets used for transporting their cathode ray tubes (CRTs) to their customers, and recycle their segregated waste glass, wooden pallets, metals, and carton boxes.

Other businesses can learn from IBM and Sony Display Device. Finally, the government can contribute through their policies. For example, the National Environment Agency (NEA) may put recycle bins in more frequently visited places to promote recycling among shopper. They may also carry out campaigns to promote environmentally friendly practices. The government can also implement policies requiring businesses to be more environmentally friendly. It’s very good that the NEA has already begun a Bring Your Own Bag Day (BYOBD) movement.

But I think may be the government should charge for plastic bags, so that more people will bring their own bags for shopping and waste less plastic bags. The unsustainable rate of waste disposal is a problem for Singapore. This is a problem because Singapore is producing too much waste and we do not have enough space to contain it. Hence, we have to create solutions to solve this problem through 3Rs. Although one person cannot contribute much alone, but collectively, we can make a big difference.

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Kylie Garcia

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