SM Teo Chee Hean at the Trash-Sure Sustainability Campaign Launch

SM Teo Chee Hean | 1 August 2022

Speech by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean at the Trash-Sure Sustainability Campaign Launch at Gardens by the Bay on 1 August 2022. 


Trash to Treasure: A Greener and More Sustainable Singapore

Mr Edmund Koh, President, UBS Asia Pacific
Dr Chua Thian Poh, Executive Chairman, Ho Bee Land
Mr Nicholas Chua, CEO, Ho Bee Land
Mr Niam Chiang Meng, Chairman, Gardens by the Bay
Mr Felix Loh, CEO, Gardens by the Bay
Our artist, Mr Bordalo II
Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning. I just came from speaking at the World Cities Summit, and I was talking about how we can build cities which are more resilient, more sustainable and more cohesive, to build cities which are more liveable and lovable for our residents. So it was very interesting discussions we were having. I am happy to join you today for the launch of the Trash-Sure campaign and the wonderful sculpture which we look forward to seeing by Bordalo II.

This is a meaningful project, which does an excellent job in reminding us about the importance of waste reduction and recycling. Edmund talked about our Pulau Semakau. I happen to be involved in this project because I was in the Ministry of Finance when this project first came to be, for funding approval. I thought ‘my goodness, what we’re doing in spending a lot of money to build a big hole in the ground and to fill it with trash.’ This did not make a lot of sense to me, but after studying the matter further, it was something which we needed to do, but we were doing it in what was then, a clever way. 

We were incinerating most of our solid waste, and therefore recovering energy and also recovering what was recoverable then, which were the metals, which were magnetic, and recycling them. From that, we could recycle some of the ferromagnetics, and we were also able to convert the waste into energy and feed it back into the system. Now, we have to do a lot more, because as Edmund pointed out, Pulau Semakau is going to run out of space by 2035. And so, we need to use this better and as much as possible, and we are even looking at seeing how what has been deposited at Pulau Semakau can be reused in a more practical way.

This is not the first time that we have done this for the resources that we use. The best example that we have is water. We are one of the most water-stressed countries in the world and will be by 2040, but this has meant that we have invested heavily in water. As I spoke at the World Cities Summit just now, one of the key things is to make sure that we actually have the right economics. We price these things correctly, we place the costs of this on the shoulders of those who contribute to the use of resources and to the generation of waste. 

That is why even in Singapore, we have made sure that waste disposal is properly charged, and at the same time, illegal waste disposal is properly discouraged, and enforcement is there, otherwise people will just throw things any way they want. These two have to go hand in hand. As a result of that, we have made some progress in waste reduction and recycling, but we have to go a lot further to create a circular economy so that we can make use, reduce, reuse, and also recycle the waste that we have. In this way, we can be a more sustainable city. 

It is also important for our residents to feel that they are contributing, that they are part of this effort. So, the sculpture that we are going to launch this morning will be a very important reminder to our citizens that everyone has a role to play in this effort.

So, I look forward to unveiling this wonderful sculpture which our artist has created for us, and I also want to thank all the sponsors and also the originators of this idea for bringing this together and making this meaningful project something which will remind all of us that there is no Planet B, we have to look after what we have, and we have to do so very judiciously. 

Thank you very much, and all the very best to all of you.

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