Waste Management

Waste Statistics and Overall Recycling

Key Highlights of the 2020 Waste and Recycling Statistics

Waste generation and recyclables collection were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Non-essential economic activities paused during the Circuit Breaker and demand for goods fell as movements of people were restricted. People worked, studied and ate at home. Waste generated at office, commercial and industrial premises fell. There was also less waste being recycled by the non-domestic sector. 

Households disposed of more packaging waste, as online shopping and home-delivered food gained market share during Circuit Breaker. However, recyclables collections from the domestic sector were put on hold at the peak of the pandemic in 2020 and only restarted gradually from 3Q 2020. As the impact of COVID-19 gradually eases, the waste generation and recycling patterns of 2020 are unlikely to be repeated in 2021.

In 2020, about 5.88 million tonnes of solid waste was generated, of which 3.04 million tonnes was recycled. Waste generated by the non-domestic and domestic sectors both saw a reduction in 2020 – from 5.37 million tonnes and 1.87 million tonnes respectively in 2019, to 4.12 million tonnes and 1.76 million tonnes in 2020.

  • Singapore saw a reduction in overall waste generation for the fourth year since 2017, resulting in less waste being sent to Semakau Landfill
  • In 2020, 3 percent less waste was generated in the first half of the year compared to the second half. Waste recycled and disposed of fell by 28 percent and 5 percent respectively compared to 2019. 
  • Overall Waste Generated decreased for a fourth consecutive year since 2017, albeit as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Compared to 2019, Overall Waste Generated was 19 percent lower in 2020, mainly because of lower outputs from two significant industrial waste streams, namely Construction & Demolition waste and Ferrous Metal scrap. Construction & Demolition waste generated fell due to a halt in construction activities during the Circuit Breaker period. Less Ferrous Metal scrap was generated due to a slowdown in industrial activities over the whole year. 
  • Plastic and food waste generated fell for a second consecutive year
  • Compared to 2019, plastic waste generated fell by about 7 percent, while the recycling rate of plastic waste was the same in 2020 at 4 percent.
  • In 2020, food waste generated fell by 11 percent, while the recycling rate of food waste was 19 percent compared to 18 percent in 2019.

2020 Recycling Rates for Major Waste Streams

Overall, the recycling rate decreased from 59 percent in 2019 to 52 percent in 2020. Except Paper/Cardboard waste, the recycling rates of the other waste streams either remained the same or improved. 

The drop in the recycling rate of paper also contributed to the lower Overall Recycling Rate. Less paper recyclables were collected because recyclables collection programmes (e.g. Cash-for-Trash, door-to-door collection, ad-hoc collection drives with schools and Residents’ Committee centres) under the Public Waste Collectors (PWCs) were halted during the Circuit Breaker period. This led to more packaging waste being disposed of. The continued low overseas demand for paper recyclables and COVID-19-related trade restrictions also contributed to the low recycling rate of paper. COVID-19 also affected export trade of other waste streams such as ferrous metals, glass waste, scrap tyres, etc.

On the whole, the drop in the Overall Recycling Rate in 2020 was largely due to the substantially smaller amounts of Ferrous Metal and Construction & Demolition wastes generated and recycled.  While the recycling rates for these two waste streams did not change and remained high, a drop in the quantities of these waste streams affected the overall recycling rates because they made up a significant portion of the waste mix.

The domestic recycling rate decreased from 17 percent in 2019 to 13 percent in 2020, while the non-domestic recycling rate decreased from 73 percent in 2019 to 68 percent in 2020.

2020 Waste Statistics and Overall Recycling

Waste Type Total Generated
('000 tonnes)
Total Recycled
('000 tonnes)
Recycling Rate Total Disposed
('000 tonnes)
Paper/Cardboard 1,14443238% 712
Ferrous metal934 93099% 4
Plastics 868 36 4% 832
Construction & Demolition825 822 99% 3
Food 665 126 19% 539
Horticultural 313 24980% 64
Wood 30419564% 109
Ash & sludge 228 16 7%211
Textile/Leather137 6 4%131
Used slag106 104 99% 2
Non-ferrous metal75 73 98% 2
Glass 66 711%58
Scrap tyres23 2295% 1
Others (stones, ceramics, etc.)193 21 11% 173
Overall 5,880 3,040 52% 2,841

Figures are rounded to the nearest thousand tonnes and percentage point.
Metal recovered from incineration bottom ash for recycling is excluded from waste disposed of.
Wood and horticultural wastes recycled include 406,000 tonnes sent to facilities (e.g. biomass power plants and Sembcorp Energy from Waste plant) for use as fuel.

Please refer to the document Waste and Recycling Statistics 2016 to 2019[PDF, 430.09 KB]  for the waste and recycling statistics from 2016 to 2019.

Please refer to this website Statistics on the Environment for more statistics, reports and publications (e.g. Key Environmental Statistics).