As the first phase of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) approach to manage packaging waste including plastics, the Scheme aims to encourage the return and recycling of beverage containers.
Singapore, 20 September 2022 – The National Environment Agency (NEA) invites the public to share their views and suggestions on the proposed beverage container return scheme (Scheme). This consultation forms part of the series of public engagements under the Steward Pillar of the Forward Singapore exercise on the topic of the circular economy and zero waste.
2 The Scheme was proposed by the Citizens’ Workgroup on #RecycleRight in 2019 and was first announced at the 2020 Committee of Supply (COS) debates. The Scheme aims to increase the recycling rate of beverage containers, reduce the amount of waste disposed of and reduce carbon emissions. It also seeks to raise consumer awareness on the importance of the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), and encourage good recycling practices. The Scheme, which is proposed to be implemented by mid-2024, will be the first phase of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) approach to manage packaging waste. EPR frameworks aim to make producers responsible for the collection and end-of-life management of the products they put on the market. The first EPR framework in Singapore was introduced for e-waste in July 2021.
Managing Singapore’s packaging waste
3 Packaging waste, including plastics, has high volume generation and low recycling rates. About a third of domestic waste disposed of is packaging waste, and about 60 per cent of this is plastic waste. In 2021, only 6% of plastic waste disposed of was recycled. The Scheme will contribute towards Singapore’s targets set under the Singapore Green Plan 2030  and the Zero Waste Masterplan , to reduce the amount of waste sent to the landfill per capita per day by 20 per cent by 2026 and 30 per cent by 2030, and to increase the national recycling rate to 70 per cent by 2030.
4 The Scheme is a key initiative to address packaging waste, specifically beverage containers such as plastic bottles and metal cans. Under the Scheme, a small deposit will be applied to certain beverage containers when consumers buy a pre-packaged beverage. Consumers can then claim a deposit refund by returning their empty beverage container to a designated return point. With a deposit in place, the Scheme will encourage consumers to return their empty beverage containers.
5 The Scheme will contribute to our zero waste efforts by cultivating recycling habits and aggregating clean and high-quality recyclables to enable a circular economy with resources recovered to be used for as long as possible. This will reduce the amount of waste incinerated and landfilled, thereby reducing carbon emissions and help extend the lifespan of Semakau Landfill beyond 2035. Additionally, by increasing the supply and quality of recyclables collected, it is also envisaged that the Scheme will be conducive to the development of Singapore’s recycling industry.
6 Similar schemes for beverage containers have been implemented in about 50 jurisdictions including Norway, Germany, Croatia, and Australian states such as New South Wales and Western Australia. In Singapore, it is estimated that more than 1 billion pre-packaged beverages, such as those in plastic bottles or metal cans, are supplied into the market yearly. Based on the performance of overseas Schemes, up to 80 per cent (or up to four in five empty beverage containers) covered under the Scheme could be returned for recycling.
On-going engagements on Scheme’s framework
7 Since 2020, the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) and NEA have been consulting various stakeholders such as beverage producers and retailers extensively to co-develop a Scheme that is suitable for our local context. Other stakeholders consulted include waste management companies, environmental groups, institutes of higher learning and members of the public. These engagements were conducted through dialogues, industry briefings, focus group discussions and surveys. NEA also formed a Stakeholder Group in December 2021 to facilitate the development of the Scheme. The Group comprises members from industry, academia, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
8 MSE and NEA have also gathered useful insights and information on the key Scheme parameters, such as the beverage types, deposit amount and return points by learning from overseas schemes. Collectively, these have aided in the development of a framework suitable for Singapore’s context (refer to Annex A for a summary of the key findings from NEA’s consultations and engagements).
9 Building on findings from past and ongoing engagements, the coming public consultation will solicit views from the wider public on the proposed Scheme framework, including the key parameters. This is done in the spirit of the Forward Singapore exercise, where the Government and citizens work collectively for our nation’s future and design a sustainable Scheme for Singapore.
10 Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, Dr Amy Khor said, “The beverage container return scheme has the potential to significantly improve our beverage container recycling rate. It will be a step forward in the way Singapore manages our packaging waste. We encourage everyone to use this public consultation to share their views and suggestions on how we can make this scheme a sustainable one that works for Singapore.”
11 The public can find out more information on the Scheme and provide their suggestions at https://go.gov.sg/nea-bcrs. The closing date for the submission of views and feedback is Friday, 14 October 2022, 11.59pm. A summary of responses will be published thereafter.
 Launched on 10 February 2021, Singapore’s Green Plan is a whole-of-nation sustainability movement to advance the national agenda on sustainable development.
 Launched in 2019, Singapore’s inaugural Zero Waste Masterplan maps out Singapore’s key strategies to build a sustainable, resource-efficient, and climate-resilient nation. This includes adopting a circular economy approach to waste and resource management practices and shifting towards more sustainable production and consumption.
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Key findings from NEA’s consultations and engagements from 2020 to 2022
A summary of the key findings from NEA’s consultations and engagements are as follows:
A) Parameters discussed at dialogues, focus group discussions and survey
· 57 per cent of households surveyed consumed beverages from plastic bottles at least once a week. The corresponding percentage for other container types was 49 per cent for beverage cartons, 29 per cent for metal cans, 22 per cent for packet drinks, and 7 per cent for glass bottles.
· Amongst specific drink types, 56 per cent of households consumed milk at least once a week, and 4 per cent consumed wine/spirits at least once a week.
· 59 per cent of households surveyed recycled their used beverage containers.
· Out of the households that did not recycle their used beverage containers, 40 per cent cited habit-related reasons, while 43 per cent cited convenience-related reasons for not recycling.
· A deposit amount of S$0.10 to S$0.20 per beverage container would be a reasonable range.
· The deposit value should not be too high such that it deters consumers from buying, and not too low such that there is no motivation to return. S$0.10 was acceptable to all participants at the dialogue session and an amount lower than $0.10 would be too low to incentivise return. A higher deposit of $0.20 would more likely achieve the intended outcomes and was acceptable to most participants.
· Glass and larger containers perceived as inconvenient and effortful to return for deposit.
· A flat deposit is administratively easier to manage and communicate to the public.
· Supermarkets, convenience stores, and common spaces in residential estates were the most preferred refund location across all the age segments.
· Schools and petrol stations were the least preferred refund locations.
· Younger respondents (18 – 39 y.o.) prefer electronic payment methods such as PayNow, physical cash and direct bank transfer as the return methods.
· Older respondents (> 40 y.o.) prefer physical cash and direct bank transfer, and EZ-Link card.
· E-wallet credits such as Grab wallet is the least preferred among all age segments.
· Cash is seen as the most convenient and inclusive refund option, while EZ-Link/ Cashcard top ups were perceived as the most accessible cashless refund modes.
Support for scheme
· 78 per cent of surveyed respondents were generally supportive of implementing the Scheme to encourage recycling of drink containers. 12 per cent were neutral, 10 per cent were generally not supportive.
B) Collaboration with SMU Students
Earlier this year, MSE and NEA partnered the SMU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Business to tap on the SMU-X programme to engage various segments of the public, including youths, adults, seniors, and people with disabilities on the beverage container return scheme. Under this collaboration, students were posed the design challenge: “How might we design the beverage container return scheme to make recycling a way of life in Singapore?”
2 During the Design Thinking and Innovation course, the students went through the design thinking process and developed recommendations for the beverage container return scheme. Some of the recommendations were:
a) Creating convenience – Establishing a convenient network of return points and placing a small recycling receptacle next to the reverse vending machine (RVM). This would let users recycle other items at the same location.
b) Inspiring action through education – Playing educational videos at the RVMs which show how the returned beverage containers are made into new products and providing a live update on the number of containers returned through the scheme.
c) Importance of community support and involvement to shift motivation for recycling from a transactional to relational action – Tapping on student volunteers to run a home collection service for persons with disabilities, installing RVMs in communal spaces such as community centres, and providing an option to donate the deposit to charities, instead of getting a refund.
3 MSE and NEA, together with the future scheme operator of the beverage container return scheme, will take the students’ suggestions into consideration in the implementation of the scheme.
C) Learnings from business mission trip to New South Wales
In April 2022, Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State (SMS) for Sustainability and the Environment, who is also Advisor to the Waste Management and Recycling Association of Singapore (WMRAS), joined WMRAS members on a business mission trip to Sydney, Australia. The delegation, comprising representatives from local waste management companies, academia, and NGOs, visited several waste and recycling facilities in New South Wales (NSW) to learn about their recycling processes and technologies, as well as NSW’s Container Deposit Scheme.
2 Reflecting on the trip, SMS Khor said: “The beverage container return scheme is a crucial step in our journey to become a Zero Waste Nation. It will spur more people to recycle their beverage containers, and aggregate cleaner streams of recyclables that are more readily processed into new products. This will help close our resource loop and reduce the amount of waste sent to our landfill. Learning from other jurisdictions that have implemented such schemes will help us to design one that is cost effective, convenient and suitable for our local context.
3 The key learning points from the trip are summarised below:
a) It is important to ensure that the consumers are aware of the type of containers covered under the scheme. This will need to be achieved through a robust public education campaign.
b) Besides having RVMs as key return points at locations convenient to consumers, we should consider providing other avenues for consumers to return their containers in large volumes, such as through collection depots. This will cater to different consumers’ recycling preferences and make it convenient for them to return the containers.
c) Technology and data can be leveraged to enhance the scheme’s convenience, not only for consumers (e.g., to locate the nearest return points through a mobile app) but also for the operator of the scheme (e.g., to have real-time information of the return points to facilitate the timely clearance of RVMs).
d) The NSW model provided an option for consumers to donate their refunds to social causes. This should be considered for the Singapore scheme as well, to enable people to do good for the society even as they do good for the environment.