Secret cameras expose Singapore's recycling habits

Why is Singapore's domestic recycling rate so abysmal? Little cameras were hidden in the blue bins around the country to find out how people are recycling—or not.

What do toilet seats, shoes and plastic toys have in common? They are all items that cannot be recycled and yet are frequently found in Singapore’s blue recycling bins.

To find out if Singaporeans realise how carelessly waste is being disposed of in their city, Eco-Business hid secret cameras in recycling bins around the island-state and later showed the footage to people on the street to get their reactions and test their knowledge about which materials can be recycled. 

While most people Eco-Business approached were shocked or dismayed, most were not surprised to hear that a staggering 40 per cent of what goes into Singapore’s blue bins end up in the incinerator.

This is because materials contaminated by food waste or liquids cannot be recycled and are incinerated in Singapore, making one person’s irresponsible behaviour enough to undermine the recycling efforts of many other fellow residents. Of the 800 million kilograms of plastic trash the country generated last year, 94 per cent was burned.

Last month, the prosperous city-state, which recycled only 4 per cent of its plastic waste in 2018, launched a much-anticipated masterplan to tackle its growing waste problem amid rising concerns that at current recycling rates, the aspiring zero-waste nation could soon run out of space to manage its trash, with its only landfill site, Pulau Semakau, projected to be completely full by 2035.

What goes into Singapore’s recycling bins? Watch the video above to find out, then tell us: what’s the worst thing you’ve seen in a recycling bin?

The video was produced by Eco-Business in partnership with Sembcorp. 

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