22 January 2020
On 1 January 2020, the Resource Sustainability Act 2019 (“Act”) partially came into force. The Act puts in place a systems-level approach that mandates key responsibilities to enable reusing and recycling nationwide. The Act aims to encourage manufacturers and importers to take into account the cost of environmental externalities and also encourage innovation and the redesigning of products to require less materials, last longer and be more easily recycled. The Act is an integral part of the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources’ strategy to close resource loops through a circular economy approach to mitigate and adapt to climate change. With the goal of contributing to environmental sustainability in Singapore, the Act aims to build climate, economic and resource resilience.
Under the Act, the National Environment Agency (“NEA”) is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Act.
Key features of the Act
The key features of the provisions of the Act which came into force on 1 January 2020 include the following:
- Establishment of Extended Producer Responsibility framework: The Act establishes the Extended Producer Responsibility (“EPR”) framework for e-waste. Producers, as defined in the Act, are required to register with NEA in order to supply regulated products.
- Establishment of Producer Responsibility Scheme: The requirements on operators of the Producer Responsibility Scheme (“PRS”) establish the network for public collection of the regulated waste and ensure that the waste collected is properly treated and recycled. Entities which are operators of the PRS are required to be licensed. NEA is empowered to determine the conditions of granting the licence and to take necessary actions to ensure effective operation of the PRS. As NEA will be providing licensees with certain information submitted by obligated producers for the purpose of the EPR, the Act, in general, makes it an offence for licensees or former licensees to (i) disclose any confidential information received from NEA, or (ii) fail to make reasonable security arrangements to prevent unauthorised access, collection, use, disclosure, copying, modification or disposal of any such information. This ensures the confidentiality of data to safeguard the interests of producers.
- Powers of authorised officers to request for information: Authorised officers are empowered to request for information and documents from any person and enter any non-residential premises to investigate or monitor compliance with the provisions of the Act. Penalties are provided for anyone who hinders an authorised officer in the performance of his duty.
- Penalties for providing false or misleading information: The Act makes the provision of any false or misleading information an offence. The penalties are in line with other similar legislation, such as the Energy Conservation Act and the Environmental Public Health Act.
To support the implementation of the provisions of the Act detailed above, subsidiary legislation has been issued.
Provisions yet to come into force
The following segments of the Act will come into operation in due course:
- Part 4 of the Act: Part 4 of the Act establishes the mandatory reporting framework for packaging, including plastics. Producers who supply regulated goods with specified packaging that fulfil the threshold criteria are to report on the packaging they introduce into the Singapore market. They will also be required to submit plans to NEA to reduce, reuse or recycle. The threshold criteria will, for a start, be set at an annual turnover of above S$10 million. These provisions will come into force on 1 July 2020.
- Sections 12 to 17 of the Act: Sections 12 to 17 regulate the collection and disposal of e-waste by registered producers and retailers, among others. Larger producers above a threshold are to join the PRS before they can supply regulated consumer products. Producers of regulated non-consumer products are required to collect any of such products upon request by customers at no charge. Retailers are to offer a 1-for-1 collection of an unwanted product at no charge when retailers deliver a product of the same type to a customer. Large retailers are required to provide in-store collection of e-waste. To ensure that e-waste is properly managed and disposed of, there are restrictions on the collection and disposal of e-waste to ensure proper treatment of such waste. These provisions will come into force on 1 July 2021.
Part 5 of the Act, which will come into operation on a date to be gazetted, establishes the mandatory segregation of food waste from other types of waste for buildings which are large generators of food waste. Occupiers of prescribed buildings are required to segregate their food waste and dispose of it in a facility provided by the building manager, who will be obligated to provide such facilities. Building managers of prescribed buildings would be required to provide food waste treatment facilities.
The Resource Sustainability Act 2019 and related subsidiary legislation are available from the Singapore Statutes Online website sso.agc.gov.sg.