When companies better manage their resources and reduce the amount of waste generated from conducting their business, both the environment and their bottom line stand to benefit.
How can they produce sustainably? Some
ways include sustainable design, improving
resource efficiency, and adopting industrial
symbiosis where companies use the waste
of others as raw materials for its own
Designing products to be more durable and
repairable lengthens their lifespan, delaying
their entry into the waste stream. Creating
them with materials and components that
could be taken apart easily also makes them
easier to recycle.
The National Environment Agency (NEA)
has been encouraging companies to reduce
their packaging waste through the Singapore
Packaging Agreement, a voluntary agreement formed in 2007 among the Government,
companies, industry associations and nongovernmental
Now we are stepping up this effort. The NEA
will introduce mandatory packaging reporting
in 2020 for producers of packaged products
and supermarkets and target to implement
an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)
framework for managing packaging waste
including plastics no later than 2025.
Companies are also coming together to
take action through better product design
and processes. For example, as of June
2019, 15 food and beverage (F&B), retail
and hospitality companies, including Hilton
Singapore, Kraftwich and SaladStop!,
have committed to reducing their plastics
production and usage by 2030 through
the World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF)
voluntary agreement – Plastic Action (PACT).
As part of PACT, over 270 F&B outlets in
Singapore have also phased out plastic
straws (as of 1 July 2019).
As the world population grows, competition
for resources will increase. According to a
2017 report by the International Resource
Panel, global material resource use is
expected to double between 2015 and 2050
based on current trends.
The report highlighted the need to adopt resource efficiency policies and initiatives, which could save $2.9 to $3.7 trillion a year by 2030. This will also cut resource use by 26% and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by around 20% by 2050.
This global shift towards greater resource
efficiency presents opportunities for
Singapore companies and industries to
be leaders in this area and reap economic
We are already making headway in improving
energy efficiency. For instance, the Energy
Conservation Act (ECA) requires large energy
users to adopt good energy management
practices. This includes conducting
regular energy audits, setting up an energy
management system, and submitting energy
efficiency improvement plans.
Companies also track their materials efficiency
through sustainability reports such as
those required by the Singapore Exchange
of Singapore-listed companies. The reports
cover five primary components: (a) material
Environmental Social Governance (ESG) factors,
(b) policy, practices and performance, (c) targets,
(d) sustainability reporting framework and (e)
However, the commercial and industrial sector
still contributes around half of total waste
disposed of. Material and waste audits can thus
allow companies to identify opportunities for
reduction through a systematic evaluation of
material flows and costs, and develop concrete
plans to improve material efficiency. We will be
exploring means to support more companies to
At the same time, the Sustainable Manufacturing
Centre (SMC) of the Agency for Science,
Technology and Research (A-STAR) aims to
promote sustainability in the manufacturing
industry by bringing industry associations and
the research community together to work with
Government agencies to develop and implement
sustainable manufacturing technologies.
TWEAKS IN PACKAGING SAVES COMPANY MATERIALS AND MONEY
By making a crucial material swap, a packaging
company helped its client save money.
Instead of packing its client’s product – a Field
Replacement Unit (FRU) – in a polypropylene
moulded case, Greenpac (S) Pte Ltd designed a
paper carton box with polyethylene foam which
did the job just as well.
This reduced the overall weight of packaging from
5 kg to 1.5 kg, saving 53,000 kg of packaging
material and $6,000 in material costs per year.
This, and several other initiatives, won Greenpac
an Excellence Award (SMEs) at the Singapore
Packaging Agreement Awards in 2017.
Photos: Greenpac (S) Pte Ltd
BRINGING TRANSFORMATIVE TECHNOLOGIES TO THE INDUSTRY
The Model Factory @ Advanced
Remanufacturing and Technology Centre
of A-STAR offers capabilities and expertise
in three areas underpinning smart
manufacturing. It provides companies with
a platform to learn how technologies are
implemented in manufacturing use-cases
or test process improvements without
disrupting their own operations.
Secure connectivity and intelligent system
Real-time analytics allows for decentralised
decision making, while condition monitoring
provides data for predictive model and
optimisation. Together, they make factories
more intelligent, and in turn more agile and
With a full digital footprint of a factory, every
machine and process will generate real-time
information that will provide the data required
for optimisation, decision-making, planning and
learning. Meanwhile, virtual design will shorten the
product design life cycle and the need for physical
prototypes. The use of augmented reality will help in
training operators and machine maintenance.
The end-to-end digital thread, from customer-specific
orders, product design and manufacturing to aftersales
service, provides seamless data exchange
and new business opportunities. These digital
threads also enable better supply chain
management and management of distributed
manufacturing assets globally.
Industrial symbiosis refers to mutually
beneficial collaborations, where what is
deemed as waste by one company could be
raw material for the operations of another.
This leads to more sustainable industrial
processes and cost savings.
To optimise such alliances, both entities are
typically sited within close proximity to reduce
transportation costs, and their infrastructures
are carefully designed.
Industrial symbiosis can also be applied to
brownfield sites, where waste-resource flows
are matched by an independent organisation.
The Finland Industrial Symbiosis System
(FISS) is one example. To date, there are
around 600 companies and 4,700 resources
involved in the FISS.
In Singapore, industrial symbiosis is
illustrated through the design of the Tuas
Nexus, where the NEA’s Integrated Waste
Management Facility will be integrated with
PUB’s Tuas Water Reclamation Plant. Output
from one facility will be used as feedstock to
another, while keeping the land use footprint
and environmental impact to a minimum.
(See Chapter 4 for more details on Tuas
Similarly, at upcoming districts such as
Jurong Lake District and Punggol Digital
District, Government agencies across various
domains are working together to optimise
resource flows and minimise transport within
the district. For example, we are exploring
closing waste loops at the district level, such
as by converting food waste into useful
products like compost, which can be used
STUDYING THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY ON JURONG ISLAND
Singapore is home to Jurong Island – one
of the top 10 chemical parks in the world
and a key anchor for Singapore’s energy
and chemicals industry. It is an example of
industrial symbiosis, facilitated by shared
infrastructure and an inter-connected
industrial cluster. To remain competitive,
Jurong Island companies have been seeking
to optimise resources, such as water and
energy, and also to minimise waste in their
Aerial view of Jurong Island. Photo: JTC
The close proximity of related industries on
Jurong Island provides an ecosystem where one
company’s product can become the feedstock
of another. For example, waste from some
companies is burnt to generate steam for
industrial use. Similarly, wastewater is recovered
and recycled for industrial use.
However, there are limitations to the efforts by
individual companies. Increasingly, companies
are recognising the importance of collaboration
so as to jointly discover opportunities for further
resource optimisation at the systems level.
To deepen this industrial symbiosis, companies
on Jurong Island have come together to support
a study commissioned by JTC Corporation (JTC)
– the Jurong Island Circular Economy Study. The
study seeks to bring about environmental and
economic gains for companies by mapping out
the current water, energy, and waste flows on
Jurong Island, and to identify further synergies
and reduce resource use at the systems level.
It is the next step towards positioning Jurong
Island as an economically and environmentally
sustainable chemicals park. The study is
ongoing, with recommendations targeted to be
ready in 2020.