Waste Incineration: what it means for you

Aug 21, 2022

Last Updated: Jul 3, 2023

In Singapore, we incinerate our waste.

Plastic items do NOT sit around in Singapore landfills for 10,000 years... so posts about toothbrushes lasting for eternity in landfills do not apply to us!

After incineration, there is still some residual ash that is sent to the Semakau landfill. The amount of ash leftover from plastic incineration is close to zero: plastic is a hydrocarbon (think oil) and has negligible residue when burned (but it does release greenhouse gases like other fossil fuels). The ash sent to Semakau is made up of material that survives incineration (it's mostly glass, metal and stone).  

So yes Singapore landfills are still filling up but at a slower rate than countries without incineration. But you still won't find your old toothbrush there!

Why do you care? As a green shopper, you are trying to choose the best products for the environment… and all those expensive biodegradable items you buy will never biodegrade!

Any items that are biodegradable or compostable will do neither of those things: they will be incinerated too. 

The major problem with plastic in Singapore is NOT about landfills:  it's about the overall volume of waste incineration contributing to climate change. Burning releases greenhouse gases. Changing single-use plastic items for single-use paper items still contributes to climate change: it all gets incinerated.

REDUCE consumption of single-use items is the answer: NOT substitution!

Care enough to understand the local system

Zero-wasters should educate themselves about the local waste management system in order to:

  1. identify foreign news and advice that are not good advice in the local context and
  2. make smart waste management choices for yourself.

Learn about how our waste management system works at NEA: Solid Waste Management Infrastructure


Keywords: biodegrade, bioplastic, incineration, biopak

Want to keep up with Singapore's Zero-Waste happenings?

Sign up for Recyclopedia News here. Get the latest info on new donation drives, recycling initiatives, zero-waste news, and the occasional life-hack for living lighter. No spam. You can unsubscribe any time. See a past issue here.