SM Teo Chee Hean at the Launch of Clean & Green Singapore 2019

SM Teo Chee Hean | 2 November 2019

Speech by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean at the Launch of Clean & Green Singapore 2019 on 2 November 2019.


“Working Together Today for a Clean and Green Tomorrow”

Minister Lawrence Wong,
Minister Masagos,
Parliamentary colleagues,
Advisers of our grassroots organisations,
Activists who support our Clean and Green Singapore,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning to everyone.

Clean and Green Singapore has its origins in our earliest days - to our Tree Planting Day, which was first held in 1971. Clean and Green Singapore itself was launched in 1990, and it marked the start of our community-based green movement, and now it has evolved to encompass broader sustainability efforts in Singapore. We only have this small precious island of ours, so it is all the more important that we look after it well, not just for this generation but for future generations.

Since our independence, Singapore has always sought to balance economic development with environmental protection and social inclusion. Green spaces, commercial and industrial spaces for good jobs, and of course, good homes for our people. Through our collective efforts, we have shown that it is possible to find a good balance between these objectives to build the clean and green city that we now live in.

Where we are right now – the Jurong Lake District – is a prime example of what I just described. It embodies our vision of a smart and sustainable district of the future. It will have modern facilities for the new jobs of the future, good homes for Singaporeans, and pleasant parks and recreation spaces.

Jurong Lake District will incorporate new initiatives which are significantly more environmentally friendly. Buildings in the district will have the highest Green Mark standard. There will be wide deployment of solar panels. The district will also be designed to be car-lite, and be well-connected via new MRT lines and bus routes. Less visible, but equally important, we will have a district cooling system that will pipe cool air directly to offices and homes. This is much more energy efficient than individual air-conditioning units. There will also be a pneumatic waste collection system which will reduce odour and the need for rubbish trucks. All these will help us to save energy, enhance liveability while being more sustainable. 

As a small city-state with no natural resources, we need to continue to put sustainability at the centre of everything we do. Climate change will affect our living environment, result in more frequent episodes of extreme weather, and potentially disrupt our access to essential food, water and energy sources. As a low-lying island, Singapore is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels. In short, climate change will change the way that we lead our lives in the years to come.

Although Singapore’s greenhouse gas emissions are 0.1 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is important that Singapore, along with every country, does its part, to motivate each other to collectively reduce global emissions.

We can all play our part. One way is to cut down the unnecessary use of resources. In Singapore, we face a real and practical problem and it often does not get much attention. Singapore’s only landfill in Pulau Semakau for the ash from our waste-to-energy incineration plants, as well as non-incinerable waste, is out there in one of the islands, not so far from Western Singapore. Construction started when I was Minister for the Environment in the mid-1990s, and it was meant to last us for more than 40 years. I visited Semakau last week with Minster Masagos and Semakau is serving us very well. But 40 years is approaching us very fast, and Semakau is filling up quickly. At our current rate of disposal, Semakau Landfill is projected to run out of space by 2035. That is not very far away.

We need to recognise that “take-make-dispose”, or the linear economy model of production and consumption, is no longer sustainable. Besides the 3Rs of reduce, reuse and recycle, we need to shift our mindset, to view waste as a resource that can be reintroduced into the production cycle. By shifting towards a circular economy model, we can keep our precious resources in use for as long as possible. We have to tackle our waste challenge in three key ways, by managing our waste better; investing in science and technology; and working together with all Singaporeans.

First, managing our waste better. Following public consultation and engagement with key stakeholders, we launched the first-ever Zero Waste Masterplan in August this year. The Masterplan outlines practical ways that we can take to reduce and manage three priority waste streams – food waste, electrical and electronic waste, and packaging waste.

Under the Zero Waste Masterplan, we aim to reduce the amount of waste we send to Semakau Landfill by 30 per cent by 2030, and to increase our overall recycling rate to 70 per cent through better management and regulation of these three key waste streams.

Second, we are investing in science and technology to create new products from waste. For example, we are studying how to use incineration bottom ash as construction material, or “NEWSand”. This will help achieve our waste reduction target by cutting down the amount of incineration ash that we need to send to Semakau Landfill.

Plastic waste is also an issue. A group of researchers from the National University of Singapore and the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology have found a way to convert unwanted plastic bottles into aerogel. Aerogel is a highly insulating and absorbent material with many practical uses. Aerogel can be used to make fire-resistant coats and carbon dioxide absorption masks; provide better heat and insulation in buildings; and help in the cleaning of oil spills. Through clever engineering and R&D, we can reduce waste and turn them into new products with practical and commercial value.

Third, and most importantly, all Singaporeans need to play our part by adopting more sustainable lifestyles. This is why we have designated this year as our Year Towards Zero Waste. We want to encourage all Singaporeans to reduce the unnecessary use of resources, to throw away less, and to reuse and recycle more.

In June, NEA launched the ‘Say YES to Waste Less’ campaign, to encourage Singaporeans to reduce our use of disposables. NEA is working with 59 partners from more than 1,600 retail outlets to reach out to millions of consumers, to nudge them to make the right choice by choosing reusables. In addition, MEWR has launched Recycle Right to help Singaporeans understand what can and cannot be recycled.

We are also very happy to see many ground-up activities from the community. This year, MEWR’s Citizens’ Workgroup has come up with solutions to improve household recycling. Next year, MEWR will convene another Citizens’ Workgroup to look at how to reduce unnecessary consumption of single-use plastics. We want to do this in a practical way.

I am encouraged by the strong support from our People, Public and Private sector partners. And you have just heard from Mayor Low Yen Ling about the tremendous efforts that our residents in South West District have been making towards a Clean and Green Singapore. And this is so also for all our Mayors and residents across Singapore.

Businesses are participating actively as well. JTC and NParks’ latest initiative is to plant 30,000 more trees to make Jurong Island greener. Since August, the Jurong Island community has come together and raised more than half a million dollars for this cause. The trees planted on the island will help reduce the Urban Heat Island effect, and make Jurong Island more attractive for businesses and a cooler place to work.


All of us have a part to play in protecting and caring for our precious island nation. In doing so, we also play our part in contributing to a more sustainable world. Every action counts. Reducing the unnecessary use of disposable bags or bottles; conserving precious water; using energy efficient appliances; and recycling right. These small steps signal our individual and collective commitment to the environment, and go a long way towards caring for our small precious island-nation and the world-at-large and achieving the vision of a Clean & Green Singapore for our future generations. 

Thank you so much for your efforts.