In 2021, Singapore generated 1.82 million tonnes of domestic waste that needed to be incinerated. Almost one-third of it was domestic packaging waste, accounting for 523,000 tonnes (valued at S$1.8 billion), and incineration of the packaging waste alone generated over 3.15 million kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent (KgCO2e).
Identifying packaging waste as one of Singapore’s primary waste streams, the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) conducted a study, Unlocking Sustainable Packaging Opportunities in Singapore, in collaboration with KPMG in 2022 to assess the state of sustainable packaging, consumer attitudes, and opportunities for effective packaging waste management to realise Singapore’s vision of getting to net zero and closing the loop for packaging waste.
The study surveyed over 1,000 respondents from diverse socio-economic backgrounds to understand how packaging is used in Singapore, people’s awareness of eco-labelling, and perceptions of stakeholder roles in sustainable packaging.
Public Awareness and Education
- 7 out of 10 consumers lack a full understanding of what materials are recyclable and what are not.
- 78% cited the absence of insufficient information and clear labelling on sustainable packaging as a hindrance to making sustainable choices.
- Consumers also view the effort needed to wash and clean recyclables for recycling as the biggest challenge to recycling.
Challenges and Opportunities for Businesses
- 95% of the respondents expressed a willingness to choose products with sustainable packaging, while price was a significant factor, with 53% stating they would only opt for sustainable packaging if it didn’t cost more.
- 70% believed there should be a reduction in packaging material for most products.
- 27% cited a willingness to use refillable bottles if they could cut down on costs.
- Over half of the respondents would take part in take-back schemes if collection points were convenient and accessible across Singapore.
- Consumers rely on the Singapore government (29%) and corporates (22%) to implement and provide credible sources of information about eco-friendly packaging.
- More educational campaigns, better recycling infrastructure, and compulsory eco-labelling are solutions deemed helpful for consumers to manage their packaging waste better.
diagram from SEC
- The study highlighted an urgent need for businesses to explore sustainable packaging options, presenting opportunities for cost savings.
- Upstream players, such as manufacturers and suppliers, can play a pivotal role in redesigning packaging and reducing material use.
- Businesses should collaborate with the government, supply chains, and consumers to address the carbon footprint across the product life cycle.
- Government incentives, including tax relief and research grants, are crucial to supporting businesses in adopting sustainable practices.
As Singapore moves towards a sustainable future, addressing packaging waste will be crucial in achieving its net zero goals. The study underscores the importance of collaborative efforts between different stakeholders for long-term success. Recommendations include a focus on consumer education, government incentives, and innovative business models.
Read the full report here.