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National Environment Agency (NEA) has announced that companies in Singapore will have to report the packaging used in their products a year earlier than the previous deadline, in a national push to reduce waste.

The announcements were made by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, at the Opening Ceremony of the Clean Environment Leaders’ Summit 2018 on Tuesday (10 July).

Thirteen signatories of the Singapore Packaging Agreement (SPA) were recognised for their notable efforts in packaging waste reduction at the SPA Awards 2018 presentation ceremony this morning, held at the Clean Environment Leaders’ Summit 2018.

To date, SPA signatories have cumulatively reduced about 46,000 tonnes of packaging waste, enough to fill about 88 Olympic-size swimming pools, which has resulted in material cost savings of over $100 million for locally consumed products. The mandatory reporting framework for packaging data and waste reduction will be introduced in 2020, which is earlier than the 2021 timeline announced last year.

In addition, Mr Masagos stated that NEA will be studying the feasibility of introducing an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) framework for plastic and packaging waste.

The minister mandatory reporting is touted as the first step towards sustainable packaging waste management. Under the mandatory reporting framework, companies that place packaging on the consumer market will be required to report information on the types and amounts of packaging they are placing on the market annually, and develop packaging waste reduction plans.

The mandatory reporting framework will be implemented in 2020, beginning with the registration of businesses such as brand owners, importers and large retailers including supermarkets.

He noted that these businesses will also be required to collect data on the types and amounts of packaging they place on the market and draw up plans for reducing the amount of packaging that will end up as waste for disposal.  The data and the plans must be included in their first report to NEA in 2021.

In March this year, the Ministry for the Environment and Water Resources announced that an EPR framework would be implemented for e-waste management by 2021.  NEA is also studying the feasibility of extending the EPR framework to cover packaging waste, including plastics.

In the meantime, the minister said that the SPA will continue to provide a platform for companies to network and exchange information on packaging waste reduction best practices through meetings, events and sharing sessions.  The SPA will help raise awareness among companies of the potential for waste reduction within their businesses so that they will take action to reduce the amount of packaging used in their products, thereby generating less packaging waste in Singapore.

The SPA was launched a decade ago as a voluntary initiative to garner the commitment of industry in reducing packaging waste. Since 2008, the SPA Awards (formerly known as the 3R Packaging Awards) have been presented annually under the SPA programme, to recognise signatories that have made notable efforts and achievements in reducing packaging waste.

Multi-National Companies (MNCs)/Large Local Enterprises (LLEs) and Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are assessed separately for three tiers of awards, with the highest tier being Top Achievement, followed by Excellence and Merit Awards.

In 2017, 1.67 million tonnes of waste were disposed of by the domestic sector. Of this, about one-third is packaging waste. At the current rate of waste disposal, a new waste-to-energy plant is required to be built every seven to 10 years, and a new landfill is needed every 35 years.

The government notes that this is not sustainable given Singapore’s land constraints. Hence, it emphasise the importance for everyone to play their part in minimising packaging waste. Businesses can do their part for example, by adopting cost-effective solutions to reduce packaging waste or designing packaging that can be recycled easily at end-of-life.

The minister noted that consumers can do so by choosing products with reduced packaging, such as products with the Logo for Products with Reduced Packaging (LPRP), bringing their own reusable bags when shopping, and reusing and recycling packaging wherever possible.

Chief Executive Officer of NEA, Mr Ronnie Tay, said, “The excessive use of packaging is a waste of resources and increases our carbon footprint. I would like to encourage all companies to take action to reduce waste and combat climate change. NEA will continually explore ways to further promote the 3Rs and work towards Singapore becoming a Zero Waste Nation.”

“We look forward to the support of industry, academia and public as we make a concerted effort to reduce and recycle packaging waste, conserve our precious resources and extend the lifespan of Semakau Landfill,” he added.

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