Singapore Not ‘In a Hurry’ to Ban Plastic Bags, Minister Says


Singapore, the Asia-Pacific island nation that likens the fight against climate change to national defense, is not “in a hurry” to ban plastic bags because it burns the waste to produce energy, according to a government minister.

Grace Fu, the recently appointed Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, said at an online event Wednesday that because Singapore incinerates plastic waste to generate power, the value of banning plastic bags “is a little different” than for other countries.

“Some decisions that have been taken by other societies -- for example, by banning of plastic bags -- is not something that we do in a hurry,” Fu said. “In Singapore, our attitude towards waste is not an idealistic one but a very pragmatic one.”

Singapore either recycles or burns its plastic waste, without sending any directly to the landfill, a ministry spokesman said by email. The incineration process, which also burns other general waste, generates electricity that can be fed to the nation’s grid.

For example, the Tuas South Incineration Plant produces about 1.6 gigawatt-hours of electricity each day, according to the ministry, with 20% of that used to power the plant itself. The facility generates the equivalent of about 1.2% of the country’s total daily consumption, according to Bloomberg calculations using Energy Market Authority data for 2018.

The country is still eager to pursue plastic recycling efforts, Fu said, citing a “bottle-to-bottle” approach that retains the quality of virgin plastic after being processed. Such initiatives could create new jobs and put the country in a position to export its solutions, she said, according to the Today newspaper, which earlier reported her comments.

Last year, Singapore recycled about 4% of the 930,000 tons of plastic waste it generated, according to the National Environment Agency.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last year called climate change a matter of “life and death” and an existential threat to the country as important as national defense. Singapore is devising a S$100 billion ($73 billion) plan to safeguard the city against rising temperatures and sea levels.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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