Zero Waste

“Waste and pollution is fast becoming one of the most important issues in the world, affecting everyone, human and animal. In Singapore alone, in 2014, threw away more than 7.5 million tonnes of rubbish. That’s 1,370kg per person!” (Geise, Hannah)


So what?

Well, a lot of this trash eventually ends up in the ocean.  Water Pollution is caused by the trash that we throw in the water, or the trash that gets into the water from inland. Plastic that we throw away takes up to 1000 years to decompose. Aquatic animals such as fish eat our toxic waste and die, this severely messes up the ocean ecosystem, not to mention our own health as we can consume fish who have eaten plastic. Every year, an estimated 2.2 billion tons of waste, such as plastic is dumped in our oceans, this has caused the destruction of 27% of coral reefs and entire continent sized areas of garbage. (Zero Waste) This has an obvious impact on the environment ecosystem and can link back to both the; 5 P’s of sustainable development “planet “section and the compass model under “nature”, this makes waste management incredibly important for a sustainable future.

(Photo of trash covered beach by 27 Alarming Facts)


How is this dealt with in Singapore?

In Singapore most of our trash is incinerated in huge incinerators. An incinerator takes waste and burns it into ash, this ash is then taken and dumped in a large dump called the Semakau Landfill, which is a segregated part of the ocean. (Kotwani, Monica) This may be a good short term goal and works alright but there also negative side effects, such as the burning of tonnes of rubbish daily can cause air pollution and also the fact that the ash is put into the sea, despite the said impermeable membranes to ensure the ash does not leak into the sea.

(Photo of Semakau Landfill by Audrey Tan)


The Government’s efforts

The government of Singapore tries hard to keep Singapore as environmentally conscious as it can this is seen on multiple occasions; firstly the incinerators not only reduce the size of solid waste but also the heat produced is used to create electricity, most of which is used in Singapore. This can reduce the amount of electricity created by fossil fuels. In addition Singapore, recycles about 60 percent of its solid waste and incinerates 38 percent of its total waste in waste-to-energy plants. Just 2 percent of the non-incinerable solid waste and the ash from the incinerator plants are buried in the landfill. But this is not due to the citizens of Singapore, according to CNBC, Households recycled just 19 percent of their waste in 2015, down from 22 percent in 2010.

(Photo of the Singapore Incinerator by Nccs)


What do people think of this issue?

Image result for recycling bins in singapore

Many people are aware of the issue of trash pollution and trash waste, but for most they are either not aware of the scale of the issue and/or are not bothered to do anything about it. Tong Yen Wah, co-director of the Energy and Environmental Sustainability Solutions for Megacities program at the NUS Environmental Research Institute said, “The lack of awareness and indifference only partly explains the absence of recycling habits [in Singapore] … In most cases people do not recycle simply because they are not required to do so.” (Aza Wee Sile). After interviewing some of the students at UWCSEA, a school often associated with being eco-friendly/ecocentric it was clear that many people found it difficult to change their usual habits for the environment. One grade 10 student says, “Yeah, I love the environment and I agree that it’s (waste is) a big issue in today’s society, it’s just that it’s a lot of effort to recycle and sometimes I forget”. This is probably the main issue for majority of people, despite the effort the government has put in creating recycling bins in every HDB and most condos. This mindset is a very Anthropocentric view on the environment as you are putting the humans in front without thinking about the damaging effects it could have on the rest of the planet.

(Photo of overflowing trash can by Siau Ming En)


A Zero Waste Movement

But there are people who are trying to make a change, in Singapore a ecocentric movement called “the Zero Waste Movement” works on creating activities and ways in which local Singapore residences can make a change themselves. Their goal is to eliminate waste in Singapore by implementing the concepts of reducing, reusing, and recycling. They do this by raising awareness and holding workshops on how to effectively create a zero waste free environment.


How UWCSEA Helps

Image result for uwcsea recycling

UWC is very active in creating a more sustainable environment, an example of this would be the uwcsea uniforms, which are actually created from recycled plastic bottles. (Buildings and Operations) In addition, UWCSEA East works with Tzu Chi Foundation to help recycle many of the materials we use at school; paper, card, plastics, tetra packs, cans, and foods. This is done by the both the schools efforts and the recycling bins around school, taking things that otherwise would of been incinerated and converts them into new materials and objects.

(Photo of recycling bins at UWCSEA Dover by Gordon Hirons)


A Zero Waste Household

In addition to recycling more waste, another solution to would be to simply reduce the amount of trash thrown away. There are a few people around the world who have completely changed their life for the issue, an example of this would be Bea Johnson who is an strong Deep Ecologist, who believes in a for a zero waste lifestyle. What this means is that is reducing, reusing, and recycling her trash, along with growing her own goods, so much to the point where she is only producing a jars worth of waste in a year. If we link this back to the faith, ethics and ideology unit, we can say that she values strongly across the ideology of altruism. (Emilie)

(Photo of a whole years worth of trash by Cristovão)


My Thoughts

GImage result for recycling singaporerowing up in a very environmentally conscious home, this issue as always been a relevant topic in my household. I agree with the idea of reducing, reusing and recycling materials as my mother has always made it essential that we do so to the news papers and bottles that we use under our roof. I really believe it is essential that more people in Singapore are made aware of the problem of waste on the environment, this could be through more advertising campaigns sponsored by the government such as the national defense campaigns. This would increase awareness of the already quite extensive array of recycling bins around Singapore. There are also a multitude of countries who are actually placing fines if citizens do not segregate their waste into recyclable and non-recyclable. This is being put into place in Malaysia where offenders can be charged upto $120 SGD (Monica Kotwani). An issue that this may hold is that most HDB’s use a communal chute that would make it difficult to identify repeated offenders. Another thing may be more relevant would be that each resident has to pay depending on the weight of the trash itself. This has been put into place in South Korea where it is mandatory for food waste to be separated by households so it can be recycled into animal feed or compost. There are high-tech food waste disposal systems that weigh the food waste and charge residents based on the weight of disposed food waste. The country managed to cut its food waste from 5.1 million tons in 2008 to 4.8 million tons in 2014 (Monica Kotwani).

(Photo of Recycling Campaign in Singapore by Zero Waste SG)




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Emilie, et al. “Living the Zero Waste Life in Singapore: Reducing Your Waste Footprint to Help the Planet and Save Money.” Sassy Mama, 9 Sept. 2017,

Geise, Hannah. “Food Waste Blog | Spoiler Alert.” 3 Surprising Statistics About the Environmental Impact of Food Waste,

Hirons, Gordon. “UWCSEA Dover – Environmental Stewardship in Action.” Recycling at Dover,

“How Pollution Affects the Environment.” The World Counts,

Kotwani, Monica. “A Rare Glimpse into the Processes behind Singapore’s Waste Disposal.”Channel NewsAsia, 13 Mar. 2017,

MING EN, SIAU. “Less Waste Generated, but Less Recycling Too.” TODAYonline, 12 Mar. 2015,,

Sile, Aza Wee. “Why Are Singaporeans so Rubbish at Recycling? The Experts Explain.”CNBC, CNBC, 14 Nov. 2016,

TAN, AUDREY. “Using Ash from Burnt Trash to Reclaim Land.” AsiaOne, 16 Mar. 2015,

“Waste Management in Singapore.” Waste Management,

“Zero Waste.” Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Your Waste | Circular Economy,

“27 Alarming Facts About Water Pollution in the United States (END GAME).” ALL ABOUT WATER FILTERS, 27 Apr. 2017,

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