Singapore generates about 60,000 tonnes of e-waste a year. That’s equivalent to discarding about 73 mobile phones per person in Singapore! This number is expected to increase with greater spending power and new technologies constantly replacing old ones.
Why is this a problem?
E-waste refers to electrical and electronic waste, such as computers, laptops, mobile phones and TVs. While these items can often be refurbished, repaired or recycled, they are usually discarded instead. Not only does e-waste contain valuable and scarce materials such as silver and gold, there are also small amounts of harmful substances such as cadmium and lead that could potentially harm our environment and health if not handled properly.
When e-waste is disposed of and incinerated, it results in the loss of resources as well as carbon emissions that contribute to global warming and climate change. E-waste also contains small amounts of heavy metals that can be hazardous to the environment and health. Hence, recycling our e-waste reduces the amount of heavy metals in our incineration ash.
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What is the government doing?
Building on existing voluntary e-waste recycling initiatives in Singapore, an e-waste management system will be established by 2021. Through the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) framework, responsibilities will be assigned to the key stakeholders in the e-waste value chain.
Under the EPR framework, producers of covered electrical and electronic equipment will be required to take on responsibility for the collection and proper treatment of e-waste. These producers are companies that manufacture or import covered electrical and electronic equipment for supply on the local market.
For example, producers have to ensure that their products are properly recycled upon reaching their end of life, by fulfilling e-waste collection targets and channelling the e-waste collected to formal recyclers.
As retailers are the touch points for consumers, the e-waste management system will also rope in retailers to provide convenient collection options for consumers.
Some of the e-waste types that will fall under the EPR framework include information and communications technology (ICT) equipment, solar photovoltaic panels, batteries and lamps, and certain household appliances.
When producers are responsible for the ‘end-of-life’ of their products, they will be more incentivised to design products that are easily recycled, or come up with innovative circular business models to close their waste loop.
For more information, visit NEA’s website .
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What can you do an individual?
1. Buy only what you need
Dealing with e-waste starts with the way we consume our resources. Start by asking yourself before each purchase: “Do I really need this?”. If the item is indeed something you cannot do without, the next question is if you can reduce on your carbon footprint, such as the following:
“Do I need a brand new one, or will a second-hand option fulfil my needs?”
“How often will I use this? Could I borrow the item from my neighbour?”
“Are there reusable options (such as rechargeable batteries) that I can consider?”
There are many ways we can save the Earth; all we need to do is to pause and consider our options to reduce our consumption and carbon footprint.
2. Repair instead of replace
Instead of throwing away a faulty electrical appliance, you can send it for repair or learn how to repair them yourself. Not only does repairing your own items give you a sense of accomplishment; it helps you save money and protect the environment!
3. Donate your usable items
You may not have use for the electronic device anymore, but that does not mean it is of no use to others!
If you feel like you’ve had the item for some time and would like a change, why not pass the old one to someone who needs it? Donating these items for reuse prolongs their lives and thus conserves our natural resources.
Check out where you can donate your electronic items here
4. Recycle e-waste at designated bins
If the item is broken and can no longer be repaired or used, it should be recycled. Recycling allows for materials such as gold, silver, copper and plastics to be recovered and made into new products. We forgo this when we dispose of our e-waste and have them incinerated. The simple act of recycling reduces the amount of new materials being used and our carbon footprint.
How to recycle your e-waste?
Recycling e-waste is best done through recycling points put in place by recycling programmes. This ensures that the items are sent to recycling facilities that dismantle and recycle e-waste in an environmentally-friendly manner. E-waste also comprises many different components, and these facilities can also extract the maximum amount of recyclable materials from e-waste using specialised equipment.
Here are some e-waste recycling programmes around Singapore
1. StarHub’s RENEW (REcycling Nation’s Electronic Waste) Programme
StarHub has partnered with DHL Express Singapore and TES (Singapore) to place over 400 green e-waste recycling bins around Singapore. The e-waste is picked up by DHL and sent to TES (Singapore) for recycling.
- Where to Recycle: Refer to StarHub’s website for a list of locations of RENEW bins
- What to Recycle: Most electronic products, regardless of brand, measuring less than 47 cm x 12 cm (length x width) can fit through the deposit slot: mobile phones, mobile phone batteries, laptops, keyboards, modems, computer mice, docking stations, hard disk drives, printed circuit boards, DVD players, VCD players, set-top boxes, MP3 players, VCRs, remote controls, car stereos, telephones, answering machines, cables, plugs and wires
2. ReCYCLE: Singtel x SingPost E-Waste Recycling Programme
A collaboration between Singtel and SingPost, e-waste bins have been placed in selected Singtel shops and Singtel exclusive Retailer outlets. You can also ask for a ReCYCLE envelope from any Singtel Shop and Singtel Exclusive Retailer outlets, and Post Offices, and mail your mobile device and accessories at no charge as postage is waived.
- Where to Recycle: Refer to the ReCYCLE website for a list of locations of ReCYCLE bins
- What to Recycle: Mobile and internet related electronic products, regardless of brand, that fit through the deposit slot which includes mobile phones, chargers, laptops, tablets, modems, routers and other related accessories such as lithium batteries and cables
3. City Square Mall E-Waste Recycling Programme
If you are heading to City Square Mall, bring your unwanted e-waste along. The eco-mall accepts small e-waste items and sends them for recycling.
- Where to Recycle: City Square Mall’s L2 Customer Service Counter (visit City Square Mall’s website for more info)
- What to Recycle: Most electronic or electrical items, including PCs, laptops, mobile phones, electric desk fans, radios, kettles, electric irons, etc. (No bulky items such as washing machines and TV sets)
4. Project Homecoming - Ink & Toner Cartridge Recycling Programme
Project Homecoming is an ink and toner cartridge recycling programme led by Canon and Epson, with the National Library Board (NLB) as its venue partner. Project Homecoming collection boxes can be found at 20 library branches around Singapore. The cartridges are then sent to the appointed recycling partner, TES (Singapore), where they are recycled in an environmentally sound manner.
- Where to Recycle: Refer to the Project Homecoming website for a list of locations of Project Homecoming boxes
- What to Recycle: All ink and toner cartridges, regardless of brand
5. IKEA’s Light Bulb Recycling Programme
IKEA is the first major retailer in Singapore to provide light bulb recycling services. The collection bins can be found at the lighting department and wrapping stations at both IKEA outlets.
- Where to Recycle: IKEA stores at 317 Alexandra Road and 60 Tampines North Drive 2 (visit IKEA’s website for more info)
- What to Recycle: Light bulbs and fluorescent tubes
6. Other Recycling Programmes
For the most updated list of where you can drop off your e-waste for recycling, please visit NEA’s website or use the myENV app
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What can you do as a business?
- Instead of purchasing entirely new devices or systems, start by replacing pieces of your equipment or update firmware and software as long as you can.
- When it’s time for a tech refresh, consider selling your IT equipment to companies that can refurbish or recycle them properly! Also, make sure to wipe out sensitive data before they get sold!
- Consider purchasing equipment from companies who run end-of-life takeback schemes
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What are others doing?
Under the National Voluntary Partnership for E-Waste Recycling, industry partners assume a leading role in spearheading recycling programmes, with added support and recognition from NEA.
If fixing things isn’t your forte, but you want to combat the buy-and-throw-away culture in Singapore, check out Repair Kopitiam where Repair Coaches can help with salvaging your faulty items.
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