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A Birthday Present to Singapore: Contribute towards a Green Future

Think green while you celebrate National Day in red and white

If you have lived in Singapore for a long time, you would have experienced our exposure to haze, the tussle with Malaysia about water supply and our increasingly unbearable hot weather. The Singapore Green Plan 2030, which was released by five ministries on February 10, 2021, will help chart the country's way towards a more sustainable future over the next decade. As a low-lying island state yet densely populated nation with extremely limited natural resources, Singapore is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels due to climate change. Sustainability promotes a better economy where there is little waste and pollution, fewer emissions, more jobs, and a better distribution of wealth overall.

The Green Plan is a nationwide sustainable development agenda and it’s going to change the way we live, work and play, touching on almost every dimension of our lives with the aim of building a better Singapore not just for ourselves but for our future generations. There are altogether five pillars in the plan - City in Nature, Sustainable Living, Energy Reset, Green Economy and Resilient Future.

Infographic from MSE Facebook Page

Zero Hero: When it comes to waste, we don’t want to be number one

One of the targets listed under The Green Plan 2030 is to reduce waste sent to our landfill per capita per day by 20% by 2026, with the goal of reaching 30% by 2030. While less waste was generated in Singapore in 2020 due to the pandemic, overall recycling rates also dropped as the COVID-19 pandemic impacted recycling initiatives and collection process. Plastic waste surges as coronavirus prompts restaurants to use more disposable packaging. It was reported that last year, about 200,000 tons of disposables including carrier bags and takeaway containers were thrown away which were enough to fill up 400 Olympic-sized swimming pools!

Photo from The Straits Times of Semakau Landfill

The amount of waste disposed of in Singapore has increased seven-fold over the last 40 years. At this rate, Semakau Landfill, Singapore’s only landfill, will run out of space by 2035 #SaveSemakau There is limited land for building new incineration plants or landfills in our little red dot. Furthermore, the incineration of waste, while efficient, generates carbon emissions, which contribute to climate change. Singapore may strive to be number one in many aspects but when it comes to waste, we aspire to be a Zero Waste Nation.

From Linear to Circular – Reuse, Recycle, Upcycle

As we march towards a zero-waste nation, we need to switch from a linear to a circular economy. The linear way of taking resources from the ground to make products, which we use, and, when we no longer want them, throw them away aka “Take, Make, Waste” is no longer sustainable. Circular Economy focuses on maximizing the value of resources by keeping them in use for as long as possible. Recycling, upcycling, and reuse are key elements in supporting a circular economy.

From recycling blue bins to reusable building blocks like ecobricks to donation drive for old laptops to support home-based learning, there are many initiatives available for every Singaporean from all walks of life, young and old to contribute. For example, Dazhong Primary School raised awareness of waste and recycling, by encouraging their students to use recycled materials to create game stations for their CCA carnival. Soles4Souls has also partnered with Chua Chu Kang Primary School to collect old shoes as part of students’ Values in Action programme. These donations will contribute towards providing relief, creating jobs and empowering people to break the cycle of poverty in developing countries.

Count on me Singapore: Stop Wasting, Start Contributing

There are tons of community initiatives and projects in need of widely varying in-kind contributions. Where can you find them?

Based on a fusion concept of a marketplace and crowdsourcing site, Upcircle launched a mobile app to help connect the dots between “Contributors” and “Creators”. You might compare us to but for resource circularity. On the app, you can take on the role of a “Creator” which is to create projects and solicit items with the objective to upcycle, recycle or reuse. You can also take on the role as a “Contributor” to access the many meaningful projects and initiatives in which you can contribute their unneeded items.

Since our launch a month ago, more than 50 projects have been created with over 600 users joining the platform. Some interesting projects include art creations from studios working with charities to collect used plastic bottles for a community art installation. There are also meaningful projects from the grassroots. One example is from Bishan East Zone RC where they are looking to upcycle items such as furniture, kitchen utensils and electrical appliances for their eco habitat corner.

The next time you think about throwing away an item, check in on the Upcircle app first and you may discover that your trash could be another man’s treasure. On Singapore’s 56th birthday, let’s pledge to do our little part to support a zero-waste nation for many happy returns of the day.

Happy Birthday Singapore!

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