Photo of recycling bin from CNA

According to a project consultant interviewed on state media, the Singapore government’s public waste collectors like Temasek Holdings-owned Sembwaste are now no longer sorting out plastic from burnable materials because it is no longer profitable:

“Public waste collectors (PWC) that may have in the past collected household recyclables, sorted out the plastics and sold them to China, are now incinerating them instead. They don’t want to sort the recyclables because there’s no demand. They cannot sell it, so they burn it.”

The decision came after China stopped buying plastic recyclable from overseas. In 2016, Singapore exported 42,000 tonnes of plastic waste, with China being a key buyer of over 70% of the export. At S$0.80 a kg, China used to be the most profitable nation to sell to as compared to Malaysia’s S$0.50.

It is illegal to burn recyclable plastic waste in Singapore and the National Environment Agency (NEA) claimed that they often conduct checks on the PWCs.

Burning plastic creates toxic emission that severely damages the ozone layer, resulting in more adverse climate change.

The Singapore government is now looking to reduce consumption by banning plastic bags in supermarkets due to China not buying the plastic waste.