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Vol 20, No. 07, July 2016   |   Issue PDF view/purchase
Waste Management in Singapore: Where Does Our Rubbish Go?
A drastic increase of solid waste of 159,000 tonnes was observed from 2014 to 2015 in Singapore. The growing population and rise in affluence and purchasing power, substantially increase the production of solid waste over year. This situation is not unique to Singapore, but also happens across other nations in this planet.

The waste created cannot be destroyed according to the Law of Conservation of Mass, but what can we do to make Singapore an environmental-friendly and Zero Waste Nation?

A few premiere actions are taken by several companies to tackle waste management issue in Singapore. Take Hyflux and MHI (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries) for example. They have formed a concession company to construct a new Waste-to-Energy (WTE) plant at Tuas South Avenue 3. This pilot facility will be able to process 300 tonnes of domestic waste per day over a 20-year period. At present, about 80 per cent of domestic waste is disposed of at the WTE incineration plants built in Singapore. WTE incineration plants offer the best technical solution for land-scarce countries like Singapore to reduce waste volume and conserve landfill space.

APBN interviewed Mr Roland Ang, Senior Managing Director, Business Development & Special Projects, Hyflux Ltd., to learn more about this collaboration.

About the Interviewee
Roland ANG
Senior Managing Director, Business Development & Special Projects for Hyflux Ltd.

Roland Ang manages Hyflux’s business development in the Middle East, in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Iran. Armed with over 35 years in management roles, Roland’s strengths lie in establishing government networks and securing local contacts, and building a sound track record in developing and implementing turnkey projects. This includes the successful Build-Own-and-Operate Waste-to-Energy project, Singapore’s largest, awarded to Hyflux by the National Environment Agency in September 2015.

Prior to Hyflux, Roland was at ST Engineering where he spearheaded their environmental business, encompassing the USA, India, the Middle East and North Africa region, and China. His career first began with Renault Vehicules Industriel, a French nationalised company.

1. When did you form the concession company to build the new WTE plant? When will it start to operate?

Hyflux together with consortium partner Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was named the preferred bidder to develop the new waste-to-energy plant in September 2015. The TuasOne Waste-to-Energy Plant is expected to start operations in 2Q 2019, and piling and foundation works have started at the project site.

2. The 6th WTE will be Singapore’s largest and most energy-efficient WTE plant. How does this new plant save on energy despite being the largest? How does the technology differ from the existing plants?

The TuasOne Waste-to-Energy Plant will utilise good engineering practices such as the right sizing of equipment (e.g. motors, transformers, etc.) which minimise heat loss and internal electricity consumption. The technology employed in the plant will also primarily be similar to that of the existing Tuas South plants in Singapore, where proven, reliable and importantly easy to manage principles are being adopted.

3. Can you give us an idea of the process of how the waste is turned into energy?

The input composition of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) are paper, plastics and organic waste. As an aggregate of the various compositions making up MSW, the calorific value of MSW is high enough to result in a combustion process that produces sufficient heat energy to be recovered by the boiler system to produce steam. The steam will subsequently be directed to the turbine-generator system to generate electrical energy.

4. How much more per cent of energy do you estimate this new plant can contribute to Singapore's electricity needs?

The TuasOne Waste-to-Energy Plant can contribute up to estimated 1.8% of Singapore’s electricity needs, assuming Singapore’s total electricity needs are about 6700 MW.

5. What is the lifespan of a WTE plant? Will more plants need to be built in future to keep up with the increasing waste, or can the existing plants be expanded for the future?

The lifespan of the plant is about 30 years. This is typically the designed lifespan of the electrical and mechanical equipment in the plant. Normally before the end of the plant’s lifespan, the planning authority must decide on whether more plants need to be built to keep up with increasing waste or to extend the lifespan of existing plants.

6. As the pioneer in providing NEWater solutions, Hyflux focuses in dealing with wastewater treatment. What are its plans in helping to deal with domestic waste?

Over the years, Hyflux has evolved from a water pure play to a global leader in sustainable solutions focusing on the areas of water and energy, to meet the changing needs of urban cities around the world. In energy, the company expanded from energy generation and retail to include waste-to-energy, providing clean and renewable energy. This is in keeping up with our vision to be the company the world seeks for innovative and effective environmental solutions, and contributing to resource optimisation and sustainable growth for communities and industries. In the area of waste-to-energy, we will continue to actively pursue new projects.

Environmental sustainability is now a universal issue. While developing economy and life quality, nations are sacrificing their greens and environment, and producing more and more wastes, which might have no place to discard in the future. More conferences should be organised to examine and discover practical solutions to address environmental challenges. This year, CleanEnviro Summit Singapore (CESS) will be held in Sands Expo & Convention Centre, Marina Bay Sands from July 10 – 14, 2016, where the government leaders, policy makers, regulators and industry captains will all come together to discuss and shape sustainable solutions for our tomorrow’s cities.

APBN interviewed Mr Dalson Chung, Managing Director, CleanEnviro Summit Singapore 2016, and the National Environment Agency (NEA).

About the Interviewee

Mr Dalson Chung
Director (Industry Development and Promotion Office) and Director (Sustainability Office), National Environment Agency

Managing Director, CleanEnviro Summit Singapore

Mr Dalson Chung is currently the Director (Industry Development and Promotion Office) and the Director (Sustainability Office) with the National Environment Agency (NEA). NEA, one of the two Statutory Boards of the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), is the public organization responsible for improving and sustaining a clean and green environment in Singapore.

Mr Chung was educated in Singapore and Germany. He obtained his bachelor degree in Structural Engineering from Essen University in Germany under the Singapore Government’s scholarship. He later obtained his Masters degrees in Civil Engineering and Business Administration from the National University of Singapore.

After graduating from Germany, Mr Chung joined the then Ministry of the Environment (ENV) in 1984 and has since held various appointments in different departments in ENV, NEA and MEWR. He started his career in ENV as an Engineer in the Sewerage Department and Drainage Department before becoming a Senior Engineer with the International Environment and Policy Department.

He was later promoted to Chief Engineer (Waste Minimisation) of the Resource Conservation Department in NEA. He was also Head (Operations) of NEA’s Environmental Health Department from 2004 to 2006 before being seconded to MEWR as its Director, 3P Partnership Division from 2006 to 2009.

1. How does the Hyflux - MHI cross-border collaboration benefit the region?

According to a report by a former World Bank urban development specialist and two of his colleagues, by 2100, the world’s burgeoning urban population will be producing thrice the amount of waste it did in 2013 [1]. The region faces the challenge of quickly developing infrastructure to efficiently manage the steady increase in waste produced each year in a sustainable way.

It is vital for stakeholders in the region to get involved and facilitate the cross-border sharing of knowledge and expertise, to expedite the process of developing waste management solutions for a sustainable future.

The partnership between Hyflux and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is a good example of knowledge exchange and collaboration between two internationally established companies. Singapore’s sixth Waste-to-Energy (WTE) plant will benefit from the synergies these two solution providers bring to the table, which will make the plant Singapore’s most energy-efficient and land-efficient incineration plant.

It is heartening to see these industry heavyweights coming together to create competitive solutions that benefit the environment and we hope to see more of such collaborations at our upcoming CleanEnviro Summit Singapore (CESS) 2016.

This year, CESS 2016 will have its first ever integrated exhibition with the World Cities Summit (WCS) and Singapore International Water Week (SIWW). The inaugural City Solutions Singapore Expo will host leading companies and start-ups showcasing new and cutting-edge solutions for the waste management, cleaning and water sectors. With over 1,000 participating companies, our goal is for the expo to be a catalyst for similar partnerships.

2. Please share more about the principles of Singapore’s integrated solid waste management system.

Singapore’s waste management system is based on the principles of minimising waste at source and maximising the extraction of resources and energy from waste, while ensuring a high level of public health and minimising the land footprint and environmental impact of waste management activities.

Singapore's growing population and economy have contributed to a seven-fold increase in the amount of solid waste disposed of, from about 1,200 tonnes a day in 1970 to more than 8,000 tonnes a day in 2015. At this rate of waste disposal, we would require a new waste-to-energy incineration plant every seven to 10 years and a new landfill every 30 to 35 years. This is not sustainable for land and resource scarce Singapore.

Hence practising the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) is a key strategy in Singapore's waste management system to reduce the amount of waste disposed of. NEA encourages the reduction of waste at source through efforts such as working with the industry under the Singapore Packaging Agreement to reduce the amount of packaging materials used in their products. In order to make recycling more convenient for residents, recycling bins are now available at every block in public housing estates and all landed residences. NEA also promotes waste minimisation and recycling at community events, schools and through social media.

While we work to reduce and recycle our waste as much as possible, we need to build up our waste management capabilities and integrate them to maximise resource and energy recovery, as well as increase land use efficiency. A good example of such an infrastructure is the Integrated Waste Management Facility (IWMF) that NEA is developing. The IWMF will be able to treat incinerable waste, sort commingled recyclables collected from the National Recycling Programme (NRP), and incinerate dewatered sludge from PUB’s co-located Tuas Water Reclamation Plant (TWRP). Food waste will also be co-digested with used water sludge at the IWMF-TWRP facilities. The biogas generated from the co-digestion process will be used to enhance electricity generation at the IWMF.

At this year’s City Solutions Singapore Expo, visitors will be able to visualise this IWMF-TWRP co-location synergy at our joint Water-Energy-Waste Nexus booth with PUB.

3. What are the main issues in waste management? Are there any permanent solutions to solve this problem?

A challenge that many cities, including Singapore, are grappling with is the issue of overconsumption. With increasing affluence, people are acquiring and discarding more things, such as food, electronics and the packaging waste that accompanies most products.

Hence waste management also largely involves changing the mind-sets of the public as well as the private sector to inculcate the habit of cherishing our limited resources, reducing waste as much as possible and recycling materials instead of generating more waste.

4. In your opinion, how can Singaporeans work towards becoming a Zero Waste Nation?

To become a Zero Waste Nation, we need the commitment and joint effort from the people, private and public sectors. Waste management in Singapore begins in homes and businesses where practicing the 3Rs can help tremendously in reducing the amount of waste that goes to our incineration plants. We encourage all to start incorporating the 3Rs into their daily lives, such as not wasting food by asking for a smaller portion, avoiding the use of disposables and sorting out simple recyclables and depositing them in the blue recycling bins all around Singapore. However small, every action counts, and I urge everyone to start today.

In recent years, there have been several local ground-up initiatives that have helped raise awareness on the social and environmental impact of food wastage, such as the Save Food, Cut Waste initiative organised by Green Future Solutions. It is wonderful to see citizens taking ownership of these issues and garnering support from the wider community for environmental causes.

Corporations and businesses can play a part as well. At this year’s 3R Packaging Awards, which will be held during CESS on 12 July, we will be recognising organisations that have made notable efforts and their achievements in reducing packaging waste in their processes and products.

As we become more attuned to the 3Rs, the next stage would be to evolve our thinking to view what we have traditionally seen as waste as valuable resources instead. In this aspect, we need to study and develop emerging technologies and innovative ideas that can be applied in the local context.

For instance, Singapore’s first metals recovery facility, which opened in 2015, extracts metals from incineration bottom ash generated by our incineration plants, which can then be processed into new products.

5. Does NEA have new campaigns planned for encouraging better waste management?

Just last year, NEA launched a programme to encourage consumers to engage in smart food purchase, storage and preparation habits that help consumers save money while reducing food waste generated at source. On top of a handy guide developed to provide tips for consumers on how they can reduce food wastage at home and when dining out, NEA is also producing good practice guides for food manufacturers, food retail establishments and supermarkets. These good practice guides will provide information on how to reduce food wastage across the supply chain, as well as promote food donation and redistribution. The guides are expected to be rolled out by end 2016.

6. Please tell us more about the landfill in Pulau Semakau. By when will its landfill space be fully filled? How will waste be dealt with after that?

Semakau Landfill, which was commissioned in 1999, is Singapore’s only landfill. Covering a total area of 350 hectares, a seven-kilometre perimeter rock bund was built to enclose a part of the sea off Pulau Semakau and Pulau Sakeng. The bund is lined with an impermeable membrane, which together with a layer of marine clay covering the enclosed sea-space, ensures that waste is contained within the landfill body.

Based on our current rate of waste disposal, Semakau Landfill is expected to be filled by 2035. We are looking into new approaches to improve our waste management system. The setting up of Singapore’s first metals recovery facility in July 2015 has helped to reduce the weight of incineration bottom ash to be landfilled by about 10 per cent. NEA is also studying options for the reuse of incineration bottom ash, which will extend the lifespan of Semakau Landfill and help Singapore further increase resource recovery.


  1. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2013/10/30/global-waste-on-pace-to-triple

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