SINGAPORE – Punggol residents just need to empty their PET bottles without the need to wash them before placing them at collection points, under a new pilot aimed at raising the recycling rate of such waste.
Waste management company SembWaste and Singapore Polytechnic (SP) aim to triple recycling rates to about 18,000 PET bottles by the end of three months. Packaging, including plastic, is one of three priority waste streams here – the other two are e-waste and food.
The move comes after SembWaste found that about 52 per cent of materials collected at blue recycling bins at Punggol Coral estate were contaminated or not suitable for recycling, while 1 per cent of waste were recyclable PET bottles, despite the ubiquity of their use.
Across Singapore, contamination has been a roadblock to raising the domestic recycling rate – which remained at 13 per cent in 2021 – as contents found in such bins cannot be recycled due to leakage, e-waste and styrofoam.
Said SembWaste’s chief executive Lee Kok Kin: “We thought that the recycling rate could be higher because we all use PET bottles, it’s kind of prevalent in our lives whether you carry a bottle to drink or when you buy a beverage.”
The pilot also aims to lower the estate’s waste contamination rate by at least 10 per cent by the end of three months. It is part of a project by SembWaste and green champion Singapore Environment Council to identify the most cost-effective and lowest carbon footprint method to harvest recyclables through separate waste streams, rather than mixing them in a single bin.
The collection will be more convenient as well for SembWaste, which will be notified each time one of the collection points reaches 300 bottles. This has been made possible by the use of repurposed supermarket cages retrofitted with Internet of Things technology providing real-time waste collection data.
The cages are stationed at 10 HDB blocks within the Punggol Coral estate, Prime and Ang Mo supermarkets in Punggol Shore and Sheng Siong’s outlet in Punggol Central.
The design and deployment of collection points in the initiative called Rebottle was jointly developed with five students from SP’s Electrical and Electronic Engineering school as well as Media, Arts and Design school.
Lack of knowledge about recycling, being unable to differentiate between the various bins and seeing washing bottles as a hassle were common reasons cited by residents for being reluctant to recycle, said Year 2 SP student Aishah Mohamad Kusnan, 19.
She said: “Some residents were reluctant to recycle because they felt that washing bottles will increase their water bill.
“But SembWaste told us that residents just need to empty their bottles because such waste is washed after collection.”
So the team worked on helping residents visualise the different steps of the recycling process and even developed a mascot named Rebo, modelled after stray cats in the estate to make the initiative more memorable.
Each roller cage is also designed such that it will be able to withstand the weight of bottles containing liquids should people forget to empty them, said Year 3 computer engineering student Peh Jun Xiang, 19, who helped build the collection point.