By Cheryl Tan Kay Yin
From the 3Rs (Reduce, Reduce , Recycle) to waste management to alternative renewable resources. Is what we’re doing enough, or do we need to do things differently?
On the world’s Environmental Performance Ranking, Yale University and the U.N placed Singapore at 17th globally and first in Asia. It’s a decent global ranking, but can we do better as a nation with a growing population with limited land resources?
Sussing Out Solar Energy
To manage our country’s steps towards its low-carbon future, we’re looking to the sun. Given our city’s year-round tropical climate, solar energy looks to be the most reliable renewable resource to create energy.
As such, Singapore has assembled one of the world’s largest floating solar photovoltaic test-bed, operating in the north of the island. This S$11 million experiment aims to implement the most effective way to garner energy from the sun, with the application of pioneering ‘active-cooling’ panels in which water is pumped into the solar cells to help cool and enhance their performance, and bi-facial solar panels which enable sunlight to be absorbed from both sides, optimising efficiency.
War on Waste
Where does all our rubbish go? Once the recyclables are sorted for processing, up to 90% of the waste is incinerated. The ash and other non-incinerable waste end up in the Semakau landfill – Singapore’s only landfill site. By 2035, Pulau Semakau will be completely full.
However, the push for innovative waste management has turned incinerated bottom ash (IBA) into NEWSand to be used on road construction projects – the field trial is a stretch of 3 sections along Tanah Merah Coast Road. NEWSand has also been used in the construction of footpaths.
Pressing Plastic Problems
Single use plastics: a perennial issue around the world and one that Singapore’s convenience-based, take-away lifestyle is not immune to. To address the growing volume of plastic waste, the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) are looking into recycling contaminated plastic bags and single-use plastics into synthetic fuel known as NEWOil. Pyrolysis oil (bio-oil or synthetic fuel) could potentially be used as a feedstock for Singapore’s petrochemical sector.
However, here’s food for thought: converting plastic to oil is energy-intensive and the cost of pyrolysis oil made from plastic waste is still higher than conventional crude oil. It might not be the most cost-effective solution at the moment, so perhaps the bigger and more pressing challenge here is in encouraging mindful consumption of single-use plastics.
Green Mark Certification by 2030
Singapore aims to have 80% of our buildings achieve the Green Mark Certification which ensures sustainable developments have reduced carbon emissions and energy consumption whilst still providing quality living for its residents. One such landmark structure that has achieved this rating is Marina Bay Sands. So what features did they implement to get the Green Mark?
Integrated infrastructure: The hotel has implemented several smart strategies like smart sensor lighting that dims or brightens according to the weather outside and hot water supplies piggy-backing on the heat emission from air conditioning units.
The Water Cycle: To battle food wastage, all the food scraps that turn into almost 2,500kg worth of daily food waste is compressed by giant digesters and turned into recycled water. Rainwater is also collected on the roof of the accompanying ArtScience Museum and reused in the building’s washroom system.
There are many other initiatives and campaigns Singapore has rolled out in our quest to be a zero waste, low carbon nation. It is hoped that these initiatives will inspire you to explore more innovative ways that we can turn our waste into functional use, our infrastructure into integrated systems, and finally closing the loop in our recycling strategies.