Accelerating Singapore’s Next Generation Plastic Recycling Value Chain

Plastic waste generation is a growing problem in Singapore. In 2019 alone, around 930,000 tonnes of plastic waste were generated; another 12 million tonnes is expected to be generated between 2020 and 2030.  More alarmingly, Singapore’s plastic recycling rate (4%) is significantly lower than other developed Asia Pacific countries like Japan (27%), China (30%), and South Korea (34%).

Little is known about the plastic waste generation and recycling landscape in Singapore. For example, what are the major economic sectors contributing to plastic waste generation? What are the main polymers being used by households and commercial entities? What is the proportion of plastic waste that is recycled domestically versus overseas? Greater clarity around these questions could stimulate more targeted investments to address inefficiencies and bottlenecks in the system.

To close this research gap, AlphaBeta and Circulate Capital, an investment management firm focused on preventing the flow of plastic wastes into the ocean, conducted a study to examine plastic waste flows and the recycling value chain in Singapore. Key insights from the study were:

  • 5 sectors account for 69% of the plastic waste generated. These are Wholesale and Retail (38%); Accommodation and Food Services (16%); Transportation (6%); Computer, Electronic and Optical Products (5%); and Construction (5%).
  • LDPE was the dominant polymer generated in the five sectors, accounting for 30% of all plastic waste. This was followed by PP (20%) and HDPE (14%).
  • Plastic waste channelled into recycling remains low. Only around 10% of post-industrial plastic waste (e.g. waste from factories) is recycled. This decreases to 2% for post-consumer plastic waste (e.g. waste from households, commercial units).

Through the study, we also identified 3 investment interventions to power the plastic waste sector forward:

  1. Focusing on collection and sorting. Investments in collection and sorting will increase the quantity and the quality of feedstock and drive mid-term investment opportunities in processing. This is especially important for Singapore where nearly
  2. Deploying upcycling technologies. Investments in advancing recycling technologies (e.g. pyrolysis, gasification) would strengthen the local offtake market by creating demand for polymers that would traditionally be incinerated.
  3. Becoming a hub of circular economy goods. Singapore is in a unique position to become a trade hub in circular economy goods, services, and systems. Investments into waste infrastructure, like the Nexus in Tuas, would galvanise its regional hub status.

These interventions are especially important in light of the recently published IPCC findings, which found that if carbon emissions are not reigned in, global temperatures would increase by 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next 10 years.

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