An Open Letter to Singaporeans

Dear Singapore, 

We’ve made strides in cleanliness. We’ve gone from a poor third world developing country to a global city in the span of fifty years. We’ve cleaned up the Singapore River, our roads are spotless, the streets are clean, and we’ve got ample greenery – what’s all this about a plastic problem? Whatever it is, Singapore doesn’t have it. But plastic waste is an issue, even if we can’t see it. And this isn’t something a problem that we can easily sweep away.

Plastic is the largest category of waste disposed in Singapore in 2017 – and only 6% of it was recycled. Where does the rest go? Our beloved Semakau. The landfill that should meet our disposal needs until 2045 but is expected to be full by 2035. Even the plastics sent for recycling don’t all get recycled; a further 60% of the recycled pile can’t be recycled because they’re contaminated. These all contribute to the build-up on the Semakau landfill. Perhaps, more worryingly, the government does not have an alternative – which means it’s all or nothing. Either we solve it or we face the consequences of our actions. 

The problem is that our plastic dependency has increased: plastic waste per capita has increased by 20% over the last 15 years. Singapore seems clean, but dig deeper, and you’ll unearth the true story: that our solution to plastic wastage is not sustainable. Our plastic situation is a ticking time bomb.

Plastic pollution is our problem too. Plastic wastage affects all of us. Semakau is not a sustainable solution, and our actions need to reflect this reality. Climate change is happening at our doorstep, even if we don’t see it. And we are part of the problem. Some say ignorance is bliss – not in this case, because without the knowledge of our actions, we don’t have the power to change.  This is a plea, for Singaporeans to rise up and take responsibility of our actions. 2035 is just around the corner, but there is still time to solve this. If our forefathers can create a first-world state in fifty years, then we can clean up our mess. Awareness is the first step to a solution. And now that you have this knowledge, the responsibility of sustainability falls on you. Will you do your part?


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