It is time to stop waste at its source

It is time to stop waste at its source Why squander resources on waste that can be avoided in the first place? Monday • March 3, 2008 Sheralyn Tay sheralyn@… AT Dover Park View, more than 1.5 tonnes of recyclables are collected a month from residents — that is a lot of wastage averted. But the condominium is in a minority, as only 38 per cent of all condominiums in Singapore have recycling programmes. That will soon change, with the Government announcing on Friday that it would go ahead with making it mandatory for all condominiums and private apartments to provide residents with convenient recycling facilities. Implementation will begin this year and in phases. There are even plans to build future HDB homes fitted with separate refuse chutes for recyclables — such chutes are being pilot tested right now. Recycling, right in the home — how convenient is that! That’s only another step along the way of the National Recycling Programme (NRP), launched in 2001. Seven years on, the participation rate of recycling in the door-to-door programme has risen from 15 per cent in 2001 to 63 per cent. Today, all HDB blocks and even many landed houses have access to such a service through appointed Public Waste Collectors, even as steps have also been taken to ensure at least one recycling receptacle located every five blocks. Since the NRP started, the amount of recyclables collected has jumped from 1,600 tonnes in 2001 to 20,700 tonnes. But has the “Reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra truly sunk in? Even with all the infrastructure that has been put in place and the national campaigns to support them, there is still the perception that more can be done. Perhaps one area that bears some consideration is that we are focused too much on what to with our waste, and not thinking about where it comes from in the first place. While recycling plays a critical role in reducing the use of raw material — a cornerstone of mitigating climate change — the process itself is still energy and resource intensive. It is all very easy, and not to mention feel-good, to haul a large bag of recyclables to the recycling bin every other day, but should there be a need to in the first place? The authorities have done their part, what needs to be addressed more strongly is our mindset towards waste. What is the use of wasting energy and resources on waste that could be avoided in the first place? In many parts of Europe and in the United States, what drives waste minimisation efforts is the cost of refuse collection and a “producer-pays” tax on manufacturers. It has not yet come to that in Singapore. But it may happen one day. Even as current efforts have driven waste-generation rates down from 7,600 to 7,030 tons a day, we are still down to our last landfill — on Semakau Island — which, at our current rate of waste generation, will run out of space in 2045. Steps like the Singapore Packaging Agreement and the Bring Your Own Bag campaign are indeed good first steps to take, and though some raise the point of how these movements can be ramped up, I think they miss the point. We have to stop looking at what other people can do to help us be green. Instead, let us look to our own behaviour. Can we — in the absence of campaigns — be more conscious of our own consumption? Do we really need plastic spoons with our take-away food? Can we do away with plastic straws? Is it really necessary to pack every single fancy little bread bun into a separate little baggie? Rather than leaving it to someone else to do the asking, the cajoling or the stick-wielding, it is timely and much more efficient if we stopped waste at its source rather than ponder over new ways to deal with it. Source: TodayOnline