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Singapore's secrets to a clean and green city

Recognising the importance of having a clean city and addressing waste management challenges as part of nation building, Singapore is set to showcase the latest cleaning, recycling and recovery resource technologies and solutions at the upcoming WasteMET Asia 2014 and CleanMET Asia 2014.

Singapore is widely recognised as a clean and green city, and just how the island-state achieves this will be revealed next month when it hosts the second edition of its WasteMET Asia and the inaugural CleanMET Asia 2014.

These two co-located events, held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center at Marina Bay Sands on June 2-4, are a combined trade exhibition and conference focusing on the latest solutions in waste management, recycling and resource recovery and the recent developments and technologies in the cleaning industries.

WasteMET Asia is organised by the Waste Management and Recycling Association of Singapore (WMRAS) and the government’s National Environment Agency (NEA), while the Environmental Management Association of Singapore (EMAS), trade events firm Singex and WMRAS is behind CleanMET Asia.

Both events are under the CleanEnviro Summit Singapore, a global knowledge-sharing platform centred on solving environmental challenges in Asia’s growing cities, held from June 1 to 4. 

National Environment Agency (NEA) chief executive Ronnie Tay

NEA chief executive Ronnie Tay, in an interview with Eco-Business, said: “While the CleanEnviro Summit Singapore promotes the environmental agenda in planning and managing sustainable development for growing cities in the various knowledge exchange sessions … the next question then is what sustainable solutions should cities adopt, and this is where WasteMET Asia and CleanMET Asia come in.”

In the case of Singapore, he explained that despite the country creating and maintaining a clean and liveable environment, it is still a “pressing challenge” given the current rapid urbanisation. “This has led us to look at innovative ways to sustainably manage our waste problems at the beginning of our nation building,” said Tay.

The exhibitions will draw attention to waste management and cleaning solutions that are so critical for Asia’ rapidly urbanising cities and are a crucial step to solving our environmental challenges

Ronnie Tay, National Environment Agency chief executive officer

He recounted how in the 1970s Singapore, with funding from the World Bank, built its first incineration plant to address waste management challenges. This eventually developed into “one of the most cost-effective waste collection and disposal systems in the world”, such that in 2013, 60 per cent of Singapore’s waste was recycled and only 37 per cent was incinerated and 3 per cent went to a landfill, according to NEA data.

The agency also lists other current waste minimisation and recycling initiatives such as using waste-to-energy incineration plants for incinerable waste that cannot be recycled, a Bring-Your-Own-Bag campaign to reduce plastic waste, an e-waste take-back programme with select electronics firms, and the Singapore Packaging Agreement (SPA), which is a joint initiative by the NEA with NGOs and the private sector to reduce packaging waste generated throughout the supply chain.

Singapore is looking to drive the waste and clean management sectors regionally and globally by sharing its experience, just as the country is now an established leader in water sustainability. In fact, the city-state is also hosting the Singapore International Water Week in conjunction with CleanEnviro Summit Singapore and WasteMET and CleanMET Asia.

“The need for innovative and integrated urban solutions has always been imperative for Singapore,” organisers told Eco-Business in an interview, as such provides impetus for conducting these events simultaneously. “The involvement of key stakeholders across the spectrum of urban planning, water planning and waste management is critical, given the new and complex challenges facing cities,” they added.

Both WasteMET Asia and CleanMET Asia will have technical conferences, site visits, a networking dinner, and an extensive exhibition that will feature innovative equipment and technologies in waste management and cleaning. This is expected to draw over 10,000 participants. CleanMET, in particular, will have more than 100 exhibitors and six national pavilions, said the organisers.

These events “were conceptualised as a key driver to grow the waste and cleaning management sector and serve as a strategic and unified end-to-end platform for decision makers and solution providers to come together to produce environmental solutions of tomorrow,” noted Tay.

WasteMET organisers added that companies and strategic partnerships could tap into myriad opportunities in waste management, such as filling in the need for solid waste management facilities or waste-to-energy plants.

Currently, only 10 per cent of solid waste in Asia ends up in properly engineered and managed landfills, the organisers said. In addition, the amount of solid waste generated in the region is expected to rise to 1.8 million tonnes per day by 2025, while to date, Asia’s expenditure on municipal waste is about 40 per cent of a municipality’s total operating budget.

Stream, an international Malaysian waste management solutions company, presented their automated waste collection system at the 2012 WasteMET Asia. Image: Stream

The organisers underscored the importance of efficiency, recycling and better waste disposal. “The exhibitions will draw attention to waste management and cleaning solutions that are so critical for Asia’ rapidly urbanising cities and are a crucial step to solving our environmental challenges,” Tay stressed.

Aside from these solutions, he also emphasised how active community participation is also key, especially in implementing the 3R activities of ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’. Schools, neighbourhoods and businesses all have a part to play in reducing waste generation and waste disposal at incineration plants and landfills, he noted.

In Singapore, the govenrment has taken the lead by mandating that shopping malls larger than 50,000 square feet and hotels with more than 200 rooms to report their waste and recycling data to the NEA by first quarter of next year. This will be annual compliance report, which if companies fail to submit will result in a fine of up to S$5,000 or up to S$10,000 for succeeding violations, and a possible jail term of up to three months.

Singapore is keen on reaching the 65 per cent recycling target that it has set in its Sustainable Development Blueprint 2020. The nation is still five per cent shy from this goal, although waste – both domestic and non-domestic – is growing each year, according to NEA.

WasteMET Asia and CleanMET Asia will help Singapore and other countries to advance their waste management and cleaning measures, said Tay.

“We urge countries to look at challenges differently and more holistically, and ensure that waste and cleaning management is integrated in the master planning of growing cities,” he added.    

For more information on the upcoming events this June, visit WasteMET Asia 2014 and CleanMET Asia 2014.

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