The biggest challenge that leads to the low plastics recycling rate in Singapore is that of mixed waste streams. Some material streams are easier to separate than others – hence paper/cardboard see a recycling rate of 56%, but plastics only see 4% (NEA statistics).
This disparity exists globally, but is particularly severe here in Singapore – this 4% recycling rate is the lowest in recent history.
Processing requires the sorting of mixed waste streams into their respective material types in order for recycling to take place. Paper, aluminium, glass, and plastics need to be separated from one another, and within plastics alone there are at least 7 different types (Polypropylene, which is what contact lens blisters are made of, is “#5”, for example) that also need to be separated for recycling.
Because blue bin waste arrives in mixed form at the central waste facilities, sorting costs are high – especially for certain material streams, and for plastics in particular. To further compound issues, the profitability of recycling plastics is very thin. What is not cost effective or gets filtered out while sorting, then ends up in landfills or incineration.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to make things better. It’s our hope that initiatives like Project 2×2 help bridge this gap directly sorting at the consumer level, far earlier than the final point of consolidation, which eases the burden and lessens the cost for those engaged in the actual recycling itself. It’s a humble and first step in assisting in a gradual solution that starts from the consumption part of the supply chain.