Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, at the Opening of the NTU-CEA Research Centre, “Singapore-CEA Alliance For Research In Circular Economy”, 13 March 2019
Deputy CEO of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA)
Mr Tan Meng Dui
CEO of the National Environment Agency
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. Good afternoon. I am pleased to be here today for the opening of the “Singapore-CEA Alliance for Research in Circular Economy” (SCARCE), a joint research and development centre between the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), co-funded by NTU, CEA and the National Environment Agency (NEA).
2. SCARCE represents CEA’s first formal collaboration with NTU, and indeed, with Singapore. In fact, I understand that this research centre is CEA’s first-ever outside of France. This collaboration symbolises the strong bilateral ties and partnership for innovation between our two countries. The inauguration of this centre marks a most fruitful Singapore-France Year of Innovation. My Ministry and NEA are happy to play a part in supporting and realising this collaboration.
Working Together Towards A Zero Waste Nation
3. Singapore has designated 2019 as the Year Towards Zero Waste. In mid-2019, we will be releasing our inaugural Zero Waste Masterplan, which will align the People, Public and Private sectors, including the research community, towards our common vision of a Zero Waste Nation.
NEA’s R&D Strategy on the Circular Economy Approach towards Zero Waste
4. A total of $45 million has been set aside since December 2017 for the Closing the Waste Loop, or CTWL, R&D Initiative to fund research projects aligned towards Zero Waste. This significant investment falls under the energy and waste pillar of the NEA technology masterplan. Under this plan, waste-to-energy and waste-to-resource are two key initiatives aligned to circular economy concepts. NEA has traditionally been strong in the waste-to-energy area, having made significant investments in and operating waste-to-energy incineration plants for almost four decades now. In line with our thrust towards Zero Waste, NEA will be placing greater focus and resources into waste-to-resource R&D programmes in the years ahead.
5. This is why, under the CTWL, waste-to-resource is a key R&D focus area. One way to turn waste into resource is by innovating residue management, where a key programme seeks to turn the bottom ash from our incineration plants, otherwise destined for landfilling, into NEWSand to be used for construction. This has been in the news recently. If we succeed, we would have truly closed the waste loop, like we have done for water. The other key focus will be to turn our waste into treasure, in the key priority waste streams of e-waste, packaging waste including plastics, and food waste. Among these, e-waste is a front-runner waste stream, and this is where SCARCE will have a significant role to play.
6. SCARCE is the first and largest single recipient of funding from the Closing the Waste Loop R&D Initiative to date, with NEA committing $12.5 million towards this $20-million centre. I am pleased to note that the remaining investments have been pledged by NTU and CEA as a clear commitment to this important undertaking. Under SCARCE, NTU, CEA, and other partners will co-develop innovative and environment-friendly solutions in the recycling and recovery of resources from e-waste, such as lithium-ion batteries, silicon-based solar panels, printed circuit boards and plastic parts found in e-waste.
NEA’s Plans for E-Waste
7. This is a significant and timely development. After all, e-waste is one of Singapore’s fastest growing waste streams, in which about 60,000 tonnes are generated annually. It is critical that we manage our e-waste properly so as to avoid contaminating our landfill and water catchments with toxic substances such as lead and mercury. We should also seek to offer a safe working environment to protect workers who handle these discarded products and to extract valuable materials that can be recycled or reused in making new products.
8. NEA will thus be adopting the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) framework for e-waste by 2021, which places responsibility on producers for the life-cycle of their products, including their disposal and treatment. This motivates producers to design longer-lasting or more easily recyclable products and drives green growth in the industry sector.
9. The EPR framework for e-waste will apply to electrical and electronic equipment (or “triple E”), which are categorised as Information and Communication Technology (ICT) equipment, batteries, lamps, solar panels and large appliances. Large appliances will now include electric mobility devices such as e-scooters and power-assisted bicycles.
Multi-Pronged Approach, with Benefits to Jobs and Industry
10. The EPR framework for e-waste is part of a multi-pronged, holistic approach that we are taking to overcome our waste management challenges and bring us closer to our vision of becoming a Zero Waste nation. Our approach involves complementing legislation with citizen and stakeholder engagement and communication, as well as with upstream efforts to spur industry innovation and development through R&D.
11. Through R&D into Zero Waste and Circular Economy approaches, new opportunities for our industry will be created. NEA has launched the Environmental Services Industry Transformation Map, where various R&D initiatives were introduced to strengthen our industry’s future-readiness and resilience in waste management.
12. NEA will actively develop our e-waste industry, by uplifting skills and capabilities in e-waste recycling and supply chain management. We are investing in R&D in close partnership with industry and research institutions to overcome technological barriers.
13. For example, SCARCE aims to develop “green chemistry” methods to recycle lithium-ion batteries, and extract up to 75 per cent by weight of valuable materials such as lithium, cobalt, manganese and their binders, which can be processed for producing new lithium battery products. The promise of the ambitious research outcomes of this and other projects has led to enterprises expressing interest to pursue industry research partnerships with SCARCE. I am very pleased to witness the signing of Letter of Intent between NTU and the companies this afternoon.
14. As R&D powers our enterprises and creates new opportunities for them, it will also create highly skilled jobs for our citizens. Scientists will generate breakthroughs in waste recycling processes, engineers will develop blueprints and standards for systems and operations, while analysts will create strategies for efficient scale-up and operational management.
15. Therefore, I am heartened by the partnership between NTU and CEA in working towards our goal of strengthening innovation and enterprise through R&D. I strongly believe that the efforts by SCARCE will lead to new capabilities for a vibrant e-waste recycling industry in Singapore, necessary to support our goal towards a circular economy.
16. On this note, I congratulate NTU and CEA on the opening of the SCARCE research centre, and look forward to the R&D work bearing fruit, as Singapore strives towards Zero Waste.