Lack of knowledge key reason why plastic recycling lags in Singapore

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Report also shows 45% of Singaporeans want more information on the issue

Non-polystyrene takeaway containers can be recycled after being emptied and rinsed, but styrofoam ones should not be thrown into the blue recycling bins in Singapore.

However, most Singaporeans are not fully aware of such guidelines and which kinds of plastics can and cannot be recycled.

This lack of knowledge is why the bulk of plastic products are disposed of as general waste, a new report by the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) shows.

The Consumer Plastic and Plastic Resource Ecosystem in Singapore report, which was released yesterday at the SEC Annual Conference at the One Farrer Hotel and Spa, showed four in 10 cited inconvenience as a reason for not recycling.

This is in addition to seven in 10 who indicated that they did not fully understand what plastics to recycle.

About 20 per cent also said they were not aware of the location of the nearest recycling bins.

To tackle the issues, SEC, a non-governmental organisation, has spelled out six recommendations to boost Singapore's plastic recycling rate, which is only at 6 per cent, poorer than for other materials such as paper and cardboard, at 50 per cent.

They include giving companies that specialise in recycling technology the opportunity to operate in Singapore.

The council also suggested that public-sector and non-governmental organisations partner major packaging-waste industries, such as food and beverage, to reduce the use of plastic packaging.

Another recommendation is to build a market for recycled plastic through innovation, such as using recycled plastic to support major manufacturing segments, such as the biomedical and electronics industries.

For the report, which was commissioned jointly with Deloitte & Touche Enterprise Risk Services, 1,003 Singaporeans were surveyed from last December to May.

Despite the lack of awareness of which plastics can be recycled, the poll found that 45 per cent of respondents wanted more information on the matter.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said the council's efforts to fight plastic waste and its call for individuals to use one less plastic item a day are commendable, and he hopes the public will rise to the challenge.

Mr Emmanual Tay, who runs Eco Innovative, a company which helps clients monitor and analyse their waste data, said that when recyclable plastic is contaminated by food waste, it is difficult to recycle.

Recyclable plastic is usually collected, baled and sent overseas, in a process that takes weeks.

But if it is contaminated, there may be decomposition and health issues, Mr Tay added.