29 September 2022
On 20 September 2022, the National Environment Agency (“NEA”) announced the launch of a public consultation on a proposed Beverage Container Return Scheme (“Scheme”). The consultation closes on 14 October 2022.
The Scheme is proposed to be implemented by mid-2024. A grace period will be provided for producers and retailers to clear existing stock and ensure pre-packaged beverages comply with the necessary requirements.
The Scheme aims to increase the recycling rate of beverage containers, reduce the amount of waste disposed of and reduce carbon emissions. It also seeks to raise consumer awareness on the importance of the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), and encourage good recycling practices. The Scheme, which is proposed to be implemented by mid-2024, will be the first phase of the Extended Producer Responsibility (“EPR”) approach to manage packaging waste. Packaging waste, including plastics, has high volume generation and low recycling rates. EPR frameworks aim to make producers responsible for the collection and end-of-life management of the products they put on the market. The first EPR framework in Singapore was introduced for e-waste in July 2021.
The Scheme will contribute towards Singapore’s targets set under the Singapore Green Plan 2030 and the Zero Waste Masterplan, to reduce the amount of waste sent to the landfill per capita per day by 20% by 2026 and 30% by 2030, and to increase the national recycling rate to 70% by 2030. By increasing the supply and quality of recyclables collected, it is also envisaged that the Scheme will be conducive to the development of Singapore’s recycling industry.
Similar schemes for beverage containers have been implemented in about 50 jurisdictions including Norway, Germany, Croatia, and Australian states New South Wales and Western Australia. In Singapore, it is estimated that more than one billion pre-packaged beverages, such as those in plastic bottles or metal cans, are supplied into the market yearly. Based on the performance of overseas Schemes, up to 80% per cent (or up to four in five empty beverage containers) covered under the Scheme could be returned for recycling.
How the Scheme would work
The Scheme is intended to cover all pre-packaged beverages (including beer, concentrate, fruit juice, milk, dairy, soft drinks, spirits, water, and wine). To help consumers identify containers covered under the Scheme, beverage containers would be labelled with a Singapore deposit mark.
A small deposit would be applied to certain beverage containers when consumers purchase a pre-packaged beverage. Consumers can then claim a deposit refund, an incentive for consumers, by returning their empty beverage container to a designated return point. The consultation paper notes that a deposit of S$0.10 to S$0.20 per beverage container would be reasonable to motivate return for recycling.
The container material types covered by similar schemes in other jurisdictions include metal cans, plastic bottles, beverage cartons and glass bottles. It is proposed that for the Singapore scheme, metal cans and plastic bottles that are 150ml to three litres be included due to their high material value and high level of consumption, as well as the ease of collection and compaction. Beverage cartons and glass bottles could be considered in a later phase.
Eligible containers may be deposited into a Reverse Vending Machine (RVM) or returned over-the-counter at designated return points. Return points will generally be located at retail outlets and community spaces. The consultation paper proposes that large supermarkets with a total floor area greater than 200 square metres be mandated to set up return points. Additional return points would be set up at other locations in the community, such as Community Centres, to increase accessibility.