From a linear to circular economy

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Singapores Recycling Scene (Pt 2)

Hi everyone!

As promised, I will be revealing the ‘truth’ about recycling “in” Singapore in my post today.

Well… to be accurate, nothing gets recycled IN Singapore. If you noticed in the video from last week’s post, our recycled items get sent to a sorting facility in Singapore then shipped overseas to countries like Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia. (SOURCE) Once they are out of shores, it is difficult to track what happens to our recycled items. Even the government statutory board, NEA, “recognises that there may be uncertainties involved in exporting plastic waste overseas”. (SOURCE)

For example, in 2017, Singapore sent approximately 19,000 tonnes (19million kg!) of plastic waste to Malaysia alone. With such a large amount of waste to process, it is no surprise that not all of this waste will get properly recycled, with many cases of the ‘recycled’ plastic waste just being burnt at illegal dumpsites. (SOURCE)

Look at that mountain of plastic waste (in an illegal recycling factory in Malaysia)! Source: Lai Seng Sin/Reuters

Truth to be told, I only learnt of these statistics recently and I am definitely shocked and exasperated that most of Singapore’s recyclables are pretty much treated just like normal trash. Of course, I have to admit, when I first watched the video I just accepted the information as it is, without thinking further of the problems highlighted in the video. Nevertheless, as I continue exploring environmental issues like these in my blog, I will certainly keep this in my mind and seek to find out more beyond what mass media informs us.

If we are told daily to recycle our waste, why are our efforts still going to waste?

I am afraid I do not have the answer to that yet(I would probably have to ask the government). However, ignoring politics, with this year being designated as the ‘Year Towards Zero Waste’, I think this is a good time to think about reducing consumption, instead of utilising resources thereafter trying to think about how to recycle, or just simply leaving the recycling up to other entities and/or countries. (SOURCE)

I hope this post cleared up some misconceptions about the recycling scene in Singapore!




  1. FYI,

    Good job addressing the issues I pointed out last time. When you showcase your own thoughts & critical thinking, content will help you and your peers learn. Well-written. Effective photo !

    I want to see more of this (independent thought) in future posts and if you can find a way to do primary research, that would be great. And I think blog theme lends itself very well to that. Need some ideas ? Come talk to me or even ask your peers for suggestions.

  2. Hi Victoria,

    This situation you describe… i.e., with most of our so-called recyclables not eventually being recycled and all of them outsourced to less affluent nations…

    How pervasive do you think it is globally ?
    What are the main, deeper reasons why this occurs ?
    What does the avg Singaporean think happens to our recyclables (topic for primary research, perhaps) ?
    If awareness is low, what factors contribute to that ?
    Why is the government vague in describing the eventual fate of recyclables ?
    Given your blog theme, does recycling of plastics, metals, paper and glass (as it is currently done) contribute to a circular economy ?



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