Sustainable Packaging Plans for Singapore

An ambitious goal to become a Zero Waste Nation will rely on recyclable materials like aluminium.
21 February, 2017
Singapore residents tossed 1.73 million tons of domestic waste in 2015, and a third of that was from product packaging.
That is a lot of trash headed for the landfill, but Singapore has a problem: the city only has one landfill. That landfill handles Singapore's entire waste stream, and it will be full by 2045. That makes finding solutions to reduce waste and boost recyclables a high-impact priority.

That is why the country's National Environment Agency has announced that, within the next three to five years, strict new packaging rules will be applied for any company doing business and selling products in Singapore. Aluminium is likely to pass the Singapore test because it is so highly reusable across lifespan.
For example, an aluminium container can be recycled an indefinite number of times without any deterioration in the quality of the cans produced from recycled aluminium. Recycling significantly reduces total energy consumption which reduces the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere, and making cans from recycled aluminium requires 95 percent less energy than making them from primary aluminium.

Packaging made from aluminium foil is most widely used in the food industry, including containers, bins, bottle caps and closures, and soft packages for liquids. It is also widely used in construction, transport and other industries, so multinational companies in these industries can see competitive advantages.
The Singapore environmental agency has met with more than 140 representatives from 100 different organizations in manufacturing, food and beverages, and other sectors to help design the new rules. They are expected to be much like those in the European Union, where all packaging that enters or originates within the country must be listed. In Singapore, hefty taxes are likely to apply, or the products themselves will simply be banned so that it is impossible for firms to do business without complying.

That is one big difference when compared with strategies used or contemplated by other nations, says Rich Lindgren, a contributing editor for Greener Package, a news resource for sustainable packaging. In many places, the idea is to put the burden on the consumer to recycle products. That may include fees that kick in when a customer buys a product they know cannot be recycled, so that the purchase of those products is discouraged.
"This policy relies on capitalism and buyer behavior to push sustainability up supply chains as consumers refuse to purchase items they know they will have to pay extra to discard," Lindgren said. Singapore may go that route with an adjunct mechanism to reduce waste headed for the landfill, but authorities there are placing the burden squarely on companies who can comply with the regulations – or else.

"The state of the country's landfill problem is too dire to put the burden of sustainability entirely on consumers; no matter how much money is collected from fees, officials know they cannot simply buy another landfill," he explains.
Fortunately, aluminium won't need to go to the landfill. Other materials likely to be accepted include glass and corrugated cardboard. Items that Singapore will likely restrict include laminated films, polyvinyl chloride, expanded polystyrene foam, and other packaging that's not suitable for recycling.

The new rules will extend packaging agreements that Singapore began in 2007. Those rules, through 2016, have reduced less than 1 percent of the country's total packaging waste, and made clear to government officials that a new approach to insist on recycling-friendly materials is needed.
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