Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

Resource Sustainability Act: Singapore's road to zero waste

Out-Law Analysis | 30 Mar 2020 | 8:38 am | 17 min. read

Businesses operating in Singapore will need to change the way they manage waste to meet new legislative requirements being introduced incrementally over the next five years.

The measures contained in the Resource Sustainability Act are aimed at combatting electronic waste, excess packaging and food waste and impact a wide range of companies, including product manufacturers, importers, retailers, building developers and construction firms.

The legislation

The Resource Sustainability Act was passed by Singapore's parliament on 4 September 2019, and partially came into force on 1 January 2020. The rest of the Act will be implemented in stages between now and 2025.

As part of Singapore's first zero waste masterplan, the Act focuses on three priority waste streams in Singapore:

  • electrical and electronic waste (e-waste);
  • packaging waste, and;
  • food waste

The overall aim is for Singapore to sustain future growth by reducing waste and moving towards the adoption of a circular economy approach.

E-Waste – producer and retailer obligations

E-waste refers to waste generated by old and/or unwanted electrical and electronic equipment (EEE).

Part 3 of the Act creates an extended producer responsibility (EPR) framework for producers of certain EEE, including companies that manufacture or import covered EEE for supply on the local market. There are three main categories of obligations imposed under the EPR:

  • registration of producers;
  • licensing of certain producers, and;
  • collection of e-waste

Registration

On registration, the Act requires all producers of regulated EEE products, whether consumer products or non-consumer products, must be registered with the National Environment Agency (NEA).

Licensing

Producers of regulated consumer products which supply more than a prescribed threshold must also be licensed under the producer responsibility scheme in Part 6 of the Act, which imposes financial and physical obligations for the collection and recycling of e-waste.

To reduce regulatory burden, small producers will be exempted from the licensing obligation.

The list and licensing threshold of regulated consumer products are set out in the table below.

Regulated consumer products

Licensed scheme threshold

ICT Equipment

  • Printers (<20kg)
  • Personal desktop computers / monitors / laptops
  • Mobile phones / tablets
  • Routers / modems / set-top boxes
  • EMC Class B network switch
  • Network hub with <8 ports

10 tonnes

Large Appliances

  • Refrigerators
  • Air-conditioners
  • Washing machines
  • Dryers
  • Televisions

100 tonnes

  • Electric mobility devices (EMDs)

0

Batteries

  • Portable batteries

3 tonnes

  • Consumer electric vehicle batteries

15 tonnes

Lamps

  • LED / fluorescent / incandescent bulbs and tubes

3 tonnes

On collection of e-waste, the position differs for regulated consumer EEE products and regulated non-consumer EEE products.

Collection of regulated consumer EEE products

To manage the e-waste generated by regulated consumer products, the NEA will appoint a producer responsibility scheme (PRS) operator, which will be in charge of developing and implementing a system to organise the collection and recycling of consumer products on behalf of the EEE producers. The PRS operator will be responsible for meeting e-waste collection targets set by NEA.

Producers and retailers will be required to assist the PRS operator with their targets by offering collection and disposal service for e-waste generated by regulated consumer products. Retailers of regulated consumer products will be required to collect and dispose of the consumer's unwanted products of the same class or type when delivering the new product. Large retailers which own or occupy premises with a floor area of more than 300 sqm must also provide in-store collection of unwanted regulated consumer products.

A brief summary of the PRS operator's e-waste collection targets, as well as the obligations imposed on producers and retailers of regulated products, is set out in the table below:

Product(s)

Collection target

Collection of regulated products

Large retailers' obligation for in-store collection

ICT Equipment

  • Printers (<20kg)
  • Personal desktop computers / monitors / laptops
  • Mobile phones / tablets
  • Routers / modems / set-top boxes
  • EMC Class B network switches
  • Network hubs with fewer <8 ports

20% of supply to market by weight

Large Appliances

  • Refrigerators
  • Air-conditioners
  • Washing machines
  • Dryers
  • Televisions

60% of supply to market by weight

-

  • Electric mobility devices (EMDs)

20% of supply to market by weight

-

-

Batteries

  • Portable batteries

20% of supply to market by weight

-

  • Consumer electric vehicle batteries

-

-

Lamps

  • LED / fluorescent / incandescent bulbs and tubes

20% of supply to market by weight

-

Collection of regulated non-consumer EEE products

Producers of regulated non-consumer products will also be required to collect and dispose their products upon request without additional charge. The list of regulated non-consumer products is set out below:

  • Printers (>20kg)
  • Specified computers
  • Servers
  • Specified routers
  • Wireless access points
  • EMC Class A network switches
  • Network hub with >8 ports
  • Industrial batteries
  • Non-consumer electric vehicle batteries

Most of the obligations concerning e-waste came into effect on 1 January, 2020. The remaining provisions under the EPR framework for managing e-waste generated by all EEE products are expected to be fully implemented by 2021.

Packaging waste – mandatory reporting

Under the Mandatory Packaging Reporting (MPR) framework set out in Part 4 of the Act, producers of packaging and packaged products – brand owners, manufacturers, importers, and supermarkets – will be required to report on the amounts and types of packaging they put on the market, and their plans to reduce, reuse and recycle them.

The MPR framework will be implemented on 1 July 2020.

To reduce the risk of regulatory burden, the MPR framework will initially be applied only to producers with an annual turnover of S$10 million ($7m). Smaller producers will be exempt.

The MPR framework is intended to lay the ground for a more extensive EPR framework for packaging waste, which will be implemented by 2025.

Food waste: mandatory segregation

The Act introduces measures to deal with both avoidable and unavoidable food waste.

Avoidable food waste refers to food items that could have been consumed if better managed, such as leftovers, expired food, blemished fruits and vegetables.

In contrast, unavoidable food waste refers to parts of food which were not intended for consumption, such as bones and egg shells.

Part 5 of the Act sets out the framework for managing food waste. From 2024, existing large commercial and industrial food waste generators will be required to segregate their food waste for treatment. As a start, such premises include large hotels and malls, and large industrial developments housing food manufacturers, food caterers and food storage warehouses.

From 2021, developers of new buildings which are expected to be large food waste generators will also be required to allocate and set aside space for on-site food waste treatment in their design plans. Such premises will also be required to implement on-site food wastage treatment from 2024.

Actions for businesses

The Act imposes obligations on businesses across various sectors and industries along the value chain to manage and minimise waste production – from consumers, to retailers, producers and building developers. As part of the broader zero waste masterplan, the incremental implementation of the Act over the next five years is a signal of the Singapore government's commitment to environmental protection and resource sustainability.

Existing businesses should review their current operations and waste management plans, and implement procedures to address gaps. Similarly, new businesses should ensure that their operations and premises are designed in accordance with the requirements of the Act when it is fully implemented.

Co-authored by Bernice Tian of Pinsent Masons MPillay, the Singapore joint venture partner of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.