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Visit to Pulau Semakau landfill

Hi everyone!

This week, I thought I would take a break from all the “drier information” from the various academic journals and articles, and write about my experience at the Pulau Semakau landfill instead.

Two Saturdays ago, I was fortunate enough to visit the landfill on an organised visit (visitors are not allowed to just walk in) and it really proved to me the meaning of ‘seeing is believing’. A quick search on the Internet regarding ‘Pulau Semakau landfill’ immediately brings up various articles, videos, images and media postings about the landfill, so I already had some expectations about what it would look like. However, when we were brought on the tour to see the ‘cells’, (where incinerated trash is thrown into) I was definitely in awe. It did not feel like we were in Singapore, much less a “garbage island”!

The impressive flora and fauna! We saw monitor lizards (bottom right), egrets, and even a cat! IMAGES: VICTORIA LIM

A (very) short explanation on how the landfill works:

Waste in Singapore is sent to various incineration plants around the island, where they undergo incineration and gets reduced to ashes. The ashes then get collected at Tuas Marine Transfer Station, an intermediate collection point before being sent to Pulau Semakau. (Source)

The ashes then get dumped into ‘cells’ in Pulau Semakau, which are areas of the sea that are enclosed by a sand bund.  In order to ensure that no water pollution occurs in the sea outside of the bund, the leachate in the ‘cells’ will get treated by a water treatment plant connected to the ‘cell’ before being released into the sea. (Source)


The largest and newest ‘cell’ in the landfill; the rocks form a bund to prevent leakage of water out to the sea.IMAGE: VICTORIA LIM

Sadly, “beauty is pain”, and this beautiful resort-esque island could soon be gone. As highlighted in last week’s post, Singapore has to work towards being a ‘Zero-waste nation’, for the very reason that if we continue with our rate of waste production, the landfill is estimated to be filled by 2035, which is scarily close to 2019!

Our friendly guide was explaining to us that she has to ‘argue’ with her mother almost daily about their household’s reliance on single-use plastics, and she believes that it is more difficult to convince the older generation as it is asking them to make changes in their daily lifestyle. Personally, I do not blame them as I completely understand that old habits are hard to kick.  We cannot expect people to change overnight, and whether or not they have forgotten or were just unbothered, I believe that if we keep persisting in spreading the message to those around us (just like our guide consistently does for her mother), more change can be seen. All is not lost if we do not give up!



1 Comment

  1. Hi Victoria!

    Thanks for sharing about the Pulau Semakau landfill and how it operates! Like you, I was really fascinated when I was there even though I’ve read and seen pictures of it online before.

    You may be interested to check out this (fairly recent) article by TODAYonline on our government’s plans to address our waste problem through! (I’m surprised to find out that out of 60% of the waste recycled in Singapore, only 22% of it was from domestic waste!)

    The link to the article is:—singapore-aims-to-cut-daily-waste-sent-to-landfill

    Letitia 🙂

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