The Government will consult and work with the relevant stakeholders to further develop and implement the recommendations
Singapore, 10 April 2021 –The Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) have supported eight recommendations proposed by the Citizens’ Workgroup on Reducing Excessive Consumption of Disposables. This was announced at the final Citizens’ Workgroup session on 10 April 2021, which was live-streamed on the Clean & Green Singapore Facebook page. The session was opened by Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, Dr. Amy Khor.
2 The Citizens’ Workgroup was convened in September 2020 and comprises 55 members of the public from diverse backgrounds. A total of seven sessions were held for members to exchange ideas and consult stakeholders on ideas to build a more sustainable Singapore. In January 2021, the Citizens’ Workgroup submitted 14 recommendations to MSE and NEA in relation to reducing the excessive consumption of disposables such as carrier bags, food containers, cutlery, and packaging (refer to Annex A for an overview of the Citizens’ Workgroup journey).
Environmental impact of disposables
3 Disposables, regardless of whether they are made of paper, plastics, or degradable materials, have some impact on the environment during their production, transportation, and disposal. The current “take, make, use, and throw” approach to disposables is not ideal. In 2019, about 200,000 tonnes of disposables, enough to fill 400 Olympic-size swimming pools, was sent for incineration. The excessive consumption of disposables adds to carbon emissions, and the incineration ash takes up valuable space at Semakau Landfill.
4 As alternatives to disposables like reusable bags and take-out containers are readily available, it is possible to change our usage patterns to favour reusables over disposables. The concerted effort of the public, businesses, and non-governmental groups will be instrumental to successfully reducing the excessive consumption of disposables.
Overview of MSE and NEA’s responses to the recommendations
5 MSE and NEA have studied the Citizens’ Workgroup’s recommendations carefully. We support recommendations on educating the public on environmental sustainability, shaping behavioural change through nudges, as well as supporting companies to adopt solutions that reduce the need for packaging and disposables.
6 For some recommendations, MSE and NEA have assessed that their feasibility and overall benefits will require further study (refer to the summary of MSE and NEA’s responses to the Citizens’ Workgroup’s 14 recommendations in Annex B).
Commencing public consultations for a disposable carrier bag charge
7 One of the recommendations by the Workgroup is ‘Charging for A Bag’. The recommendation is to impose a charge per bag for all types of single-use carrier bags at all supermarkets. Many jurisdictions overseas have successfully implemented disposable carrier bag charges. In Singapore, retailers such as Uniqlo, Watsons, H&M, and The Body Shop have already taken the initiative to charge for single-use carrier bags. Local supermarkets such as NTUC FairPrice have also piloted trials involving disposable carrier bag charges. Public support for these ground-up initiatives has been good, due to a growing desire and awareness of the need to curb excessive consumption. A broader disposable carrier bag charge will engender a mindset shift toward a greener and more resource-conscious Singapore.
8 MSE and NEA will commence public consultations on an appropriate charging model for a disposable carrier bag charge at supermarkets. This will take into account Singapore’s context and any impact on vulnerable groups. Details to be studied include the mode and amount to be charged; the possible timeframe for implementation and any legislative amendments needed; time for involved companies to adjust; as well as how proceeds from the charge will be utilised. Details of the carrier bag charge will be finalised following the consultations.
Co-Delivery of six recommendations with 3P sectors
9 MSE and NEA will also work with the People, Private and Public (3P) sectors to co-deliver six other recommendations. Agencies will support them through programmes and grants such as the SG Eco Fund and the 3P Partnership Fund, which interested parties can apply for (refer to Annex C for a summary of the six recommendations to be co-delivered).
10 Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, said, “We look forward to bringing some of the Workgroup’s ideas to fruition, and hope that Workgroup participants and members of the public, businesses, and organisations will continue to co-deliver the projects with us. One of the Workgroup’s recommendation is a charge on disposable carrier bags at supermarkets for which we will work towards developing an appropriate model that takes into account the local context and any potential impact on say, the low income households. We should however recognise that this is not a silver bullet and has to be implemented together with a suite of other measures from enhanced education, behavioural nudges to getting producers and retailers upstream to use less packaging. To reduce excessive consumption of disposables, all parties will have to work together and change our mindsets, behaviour, and practices. We urge everyone to join the whole-of-society effort, and build a more green and sustainable Singapore together.”
11 NEA invites the Workgroup, businesses, organisations, and members of the public to co-deliver some of the recommendations. Interested parties can register at https://go.gov.sg/cwginterest by 31 May 2021. For enquiries about the Citizens’ Workgroup, please email NEA_RD_CWG@nea.gov.sg.
 Co-delivery entails agencies partnering citizens to implement policies and programmes which may involve facilitating ground-up initiatives. MSE and NEA will be liaising with the 3P sectors on further developing and implementing the solutions.
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Overview of the Citizens’ Workgroup on Reducing the Excessive Consumption of Disposables Journey
Source: MSE/NEA’s Response Report.
Summary of Recommendations by the Citizens’ Workgroup on Reducing Excessive Consumption of Disposables, and MSE and NEA’s Response
Workgroup’s Recommendation –
Title and Description
Education & Awareness
Enhancing sustainability education and learning
- “Continuous Education for Sustainable Living” E-Learning Platform, i.e. e-learning platform aimed at various demographics
- Legislation to Incorporate Sustainability Education i.e. mandate sustainability education as part of school curriculum
MSE and NEA support the recommendations to leverage e-learning as a means to reach out to the wider population and integrate sustainability education as part of the school curriculum. MSE/NEA will work with MOE to enhance how environmental sustainability is taught in schools through the Eco Stewardship Programme and adapt the content into a one-stop website for the public.
Driving Behavioural Changes Using Nudges
E.g. placing visual cues, providing packaging-free options
MSE and NEA support the use of nudges to drive behavioural changes and will be expanding the use of nudges under our existing campaigns, as well as encouraging businesses to pilot the ideas.
Gamification to Reduce Consumption of Disposables
E.g. incentivising consumers to track disposables usage, conducting waste reduction competitions between districts, providing rewards for bringing reusables
MSE and NEA support the use of gamification to encourage consumers to track their own consumption of disposables and reduce their usage, and encourage interested Workgroup participants or members of the public to explore incorporating these ideas in existing apps and platforms.
Grants for businesses
- Disposables Innovation Grant to encourage business process innovations to reduce the use of packaging and disposables
- Green Training Grant to fund staff training in sector-specific skills to reduce the use of disposables
MSE and NEA support providing some financial incentives and resources to encourage businesses to build up capabilities and adopt solutions that reduce their reliance on disposables. We can do so using existing as well as upcoming programmes and grants.
“Reduction of Disposables” Checklist for food shops, and to make this mandatory through the existing licensing regime, as well as to offer tax incentives for reduced use of disposables
MSE and NEA will work on the checklist as a voluntary guideline for F&B businesses and also explore with the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) to use the guideline to evaluate F&B businesses that apply for SEC’s Eco F&B certification.
Charging For A Bag - through charge per bag for disposable carrier bags at all supermarkets, from the 3rd bag onwards, and charge for all small carrier bags at pharmacies
MSE and NEA will work on developing an appropriate charging model for the implementation of a disposable carrier bag charge at supermarkets. We will consult key stakeholders on the charging model, fee quantum, implementation timeline, and what the fees collected will be used for, taking into account the local context and any potential negative impact, especially on the more vulnerable groups.
Policies to ban disposables
- #NoBagDay, a nationwide initiative across all businesses
- Ban Four Types of Single-Use Disposables - straws, stirrers, drink carriers, and cutlery
- Nationwide Reusable Dining-ware Scheme^, specifically the proposal to ban disposables for dine-in, supported by centralised dishwashing in hawker centres
MSE and NEA will need to further study the feasibility and impact of such bans. In the meantime, MSE/NEA will encourage voluntary ground-up initiatives to reduce usage of disposables. The public sector will also continue efforts to reduce usage at hawker centres such as a ban on use of disposables for dine-in at our new and replacement hawker centres, as well as productive hawker centres, and for new hawkers.
Policies to reduce packaging/disposables based on existing and upcoming legislative frameworks
- Green Grading Scheme to grade and publish results of companies’ mandatory packaging reporting submissions to spur competition and showcase environmental performance
- Ecological Material Tax, a form of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) where taxes are levied on producers based on the recyclability and climate impact of the materials used in their packaging
MSE and NEA are studying and considering various approaches for the EPR framework on packaging waste and will include for further study, the feasibility of an ecological material tax. Separately, the green grading scheme is challenging to implement, due to different packaging needs by different types of businesses and will therefore not be considered for implementation.
Alternative Business Models
Alternative business models
- Nationwide Reusable Dining-ware Scheme^, specifically the proposal for a reusable take-away container scheme, in which consumers can rent containers from a third-party vendor to take away food
- RE:BAG, a reusable carrier bag rental scheme
MSE/NEA will need to further study the feasibility and costs of the reusable takeaway container scheme and reusable carrier bag rental scheme. Such schemes can be adopted by companies or organisations that find such business models viable. MSE/NEA will however continue to encourage voluntary adoption of existing reusable containers schemes and donation of reusable bags.
^Note: The Workgroup’s “Nationwide Reusable Dining Ware Scheme” recommendation comprises two ideas: (i) ban disposables for dine-in at all F&B outlets, supported by centralised dishwashing facilities at hawker centres; (ii) a pilot on a nationwide reusable takeaway container scheme to prepare for a ban on disposables for take-away at all F&B outlets. Both ideas are evaluated and responded to separately, given that they touch on two distinct uses of disposables used in the food & beverage sector.
Summary of Recommendations for Co-Delivery
There are six recommendations to be co-delivered by the Workgroup participants, members of the public, businesses, and organisations. MSE and NEA will work with and support the 3P sector on this. There are funds and grants that could support the co-delivery. Interested parties may wish to register their interest by 31 May 2021 at https://go.gov.sg/cwginterest
1. Gamification to Reduce Consumption of Disposables
Interested Workgroup participants can share their ideas with the developers of existing apps or platforms such as susGain and STEP Up Sustainability. MSE/NEA can support by linking up Workgroup participants with the developers. There are funds and grants that can co-fund modifications to their apps/platforms.
2. “Continuous Education for Sustainable Living” E-Learning Platform
3. Legislation to Incorporate Sustainability Education
Interested workgroup participants and members of the public are invited to provide input to the content that the government will be developing to enhance sustainability education and learning.
4. Driving Behavioural Changes Using Nudges
Supermarkets and other organisations are encouraged to pilot nudges, reusable mesh bags, and scale up the provision of packaging-free options. Businesses can reach out to interested Workgroup participants to collaborate on further expanding on their recommendations. MSE/NEA can assist to connect both parties if there is interest. There are funds and grants that can support pilots involving behavioural interventions that involve the community.
5. “Reduction of Disposables” Checklist
Interested Workgroup participants and members of the public are invited to co-develop the checklist with MSE and NEA, with inputs from the F&B business associations.
6. Charging for A Bag – disposable carrier bag charge at supermarkets
We will invite Workgroup participants and members of the public to provide input and feedback on the policy design.
We will reach out to Workgroup participants and members of the public, when ready.
Refer to http://www.cgs.gov.sg/citizenworkgroup for the full ‘Response to Recommendations by the Citizens’ Workgroup on Reducing the Excessive Consumption of Disposables’ report.
 It should be noted that the school curriculum is not stipulated in legislation. MSE and NEA support the intent of the recommendation, which is to enhance sustainability education and learning in schools.