As a country, we discard an estimated 60,000 tonnes of e-waste annually. This is equivalent to each person throwing away 11kg of e-waste, or the weight of 73 mobile phones.
With new mobile phone and laptop models launched every few months, and smart televisions and other
tech gadgets becoming more common, the amount of e-waste generated will only increase.
E-waste is EEE that has been thrown away.
EEE refers to anything powered by an electrical
source, including laptops, mobile phones,
televisions, refrigerators, as well as batteries
and electric mobility devices. It makes up less
than 1% of total waste generated in Singapore,
but contains small amounts of hazardous
substances such as mercury and cadmium and
may be potentially harmful to human health and
the environment if improperly disposed of.
However, e-waste also offers great potential for
the circular economy approach. EEE contains
valuable resources such as precious metals and
working components. If we are able to extract
these resources or reuse them, we can reduce
the need to mine virgin raw materials.
RESTRICTIONS ON HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES IN EEE
Since June 2017, Singapore has restricted
six hazardous substances found in common
types of EEE to reduce the chances of these
substances entering our environment due to
improper disposal methods.
Singapore also ratified the Minamata
Convention on Mercury. Since 31 March
2018, Singapore has phased out all batteries
(including button cell batteries) containing
more than 5 ppm by weight of mercury. The
manufacture, import and export of certain
mercury-added products such as fluorescent
lamps (exceeding specified mercury limits)
and non-electronic measuring devices will be
phased out by 1 January 2020.
But many more forms of EEE still enter our
shores. To promote proper recycling and
treatment of discarded EEE, the NEA formed
a national voluntary partnership for e-waste
recycling in 2015. Members work together
to spearhead recycling programmes for such
RECYCLING NATION’S ELECTRONIC WASTE (RENEW) PROGRAMME
The RENEW programme was launched in
2012 to encourage the public to dispose
of their electrical and electronic devices in
a responsible manner. The programme, a
collaboration between StarHub, DHL, and
TES, and supported by the NEA, aims to
make e-waste recycling more convenient
and accessible by placing collection bins all
around the island.
Since its launch, more than 450 RENEW
bins have been placed at over 400
locations (as of March 2019), including
Government buildings, community clubs,
schools, condominiums, shopping malls
and major electronics retail stores.
They each come with a deposit slot,
which is large enough to fit items such as
cables, mobile phones, tablets, laptops,
DVD players, car stereos, telephones and
The programme has collected more
than 320 tonnes of e-waste since 2012,
with the e-waste collection rate growing
exponentially over the years – over 126
tonnes was collected in 2018, up from 2
tonnes in 2012.
RENEW e-waste collection bins
THE E-WASTE MANAGEMENT ROADMAP
To ensure the proper treatment of EEE at their
end-of-life and prevent the valuable resources
they contain from going to waste, Singapore
is implementing the Extended Producer
Responsibility (EPR) approach to manage
e-waste. The legislative framenwork will be provided under the Resource Sustainability Act.
EPR is an environmental policy tool that has been used effectively to promote
e-waste recycling in other countries, including
South Korea and Sweden. While producers
are conventionally only responsible for the
manufacture and sales of their products, EPR
extends their responsibility to the proper end-of-
life management of their products.
Come 2021, producers of EEE – including
manufacturers and importers – will be physically
and/or financially responsible for the end-of-life
treatment of their products. This means they will
need to collect and ensure that the products are
recycled by licensed companies.
Producers of covered consumer EEE, which
are products that are commonly used by the
general public such as laptops, mobile phones,
and household appliances, are required to join a
Producer Responsibility Scheme (PRS).
The operator of the PRS will be appointed by the
NEA, and take on the producers’ responsibilities
to develop and implement a collection and
recycling system specifically for consumer EEE.
This will include scheduling collection drives,
providing e-waste bins, transporting the e-waste
to licensed recyclers, and reporting the tonnage
of e-waste collected and recycled to the NEA.
The PRS will also need to conduct public
education programmes to encourage e-waste
recycling and meet e-waste collection targets.
As important touchpoints for consumers,
retailers will be required to provide free onefor-
one take-back services upon the delivery
of new products.
For large EEE retailers with a floor area
above 300 m2, provision of in-store e-waste
collection points for Information and
Communication Technology (ICT) equipment,
lamps and/or batteries will be made mandatory.
As for non-consumer EEE, which includes
solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and servers,
their producers will be required to provide free
take-back services for all of their end-of-life
equipment from their clients upon request.
Having an e-waste management system
will reduce the risk of improper handling of
e-waste, and through it, support a circular
economy approach by harvesting the
precious metals in e-waste, turning trash into