Singapore Case Study
To solve a problem, one must first understand the scale of the it. For this reason, the EPR Maldives project team set out to understand the volume of plastic products entering the market through stakeholder interviews and analysis of import data from the Customs Bureau. This was done to understand the amount of packaging waste generated in the Maldives, for which an EPR system could be introduced in the future. Only if the approximate quantities of plastic packaging waste generated are known an appropriate charge per ton of packaging placed on the market can be calculated for the associated logistical effort, to be levied by the obligated industry. However, during the data collection process, it has come to the attention of the project team that data on waste generation, especially important raw data from studies such as waste audits, are not published or available, or have not even been made available upon request. In general, there is a culture of data secrecy, and this is one of the main factors limiting the conduct of sound, evidence-based research that could lead to data-driven decision making in the Maldives.
To overcome these limitations and lay the foundation for an effective Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system in the Maldives, there is a need to create a comprehensive and reliable database on packaging waste that can be relied upon in the future. This will facilitate the formulation of policies and programs related to packaging waste and, in particular, support the effective targeting of the EPR system to the national context and needs.
A system that pursues exactly this goal was developed in Singapore by the National Environment Agency (NEA) and is called the Mandatory Packaging Reporting (MPR) Scheme (National Environment Agency, n.d.). Objectives of these schemes are to bring on the one hand greater awareness to companies on the potential benefits of packaging reduction within their business operations, but on the other hand also to formally collect data in order to prepare the country for the implementation of an EPR framework for packaging. Legally the obligation for producers, manufacturers and importers is given by the Resource Sustainability Act 2019 (Government of Singapore, 2019) and the Resource Sustainability (Packaging Reporting) Regulations 2020 (Government of Singapore, 2020). With this regulations, Singapore has created a necessary prerequisite for the development of a circular economy, according to which producers such as brand owners, manufacturers and retailers must submit packaging data and so-called 3R plans to the NEA (National Environment Agency, 2022a). The information to be provided by the industry is the packaging placed on the market, broken down by type of packaging material, packaging form and the corresponding weight (National Environment Agency, 2022b). This information shall be provided in the form of annual reports indicating the weight and form of packaging imported or used (see Figure 1). In addition, a supporting document explaining the methodology for preparing the annual reports must accompany the reporting (National Environment Agency, 2022a). Packaging covered under the MPR include primary, service, secondary and tertiary packaging of different types like glass, plastic, paper and carton and aluminum. Specific examples of materials underlying the reporting scheme are displayed in the MPR Guidebook by NEA (National Environment Agency, 2022a).
Figure 1. Packaging Coverage under the MPR scheme in Singapore. Own presentation based on National Environment Agency, 2022a)
In addition, companies should develop plans for reducing, reusing or recycling plastics, raising consumer or industry awareness of those issues, using recycled materials, and innovating for more recycling-friendly design. (National Environment Agency, 2022b).
Figure 2. 3R Plans MPR scheme Singapore. Own presentation based on National Environment Agency, 2022a)
The handing in of this data and plans for each company is expected via official NEA templates in an annual and digital manner on the NEA official platform which provides e-service for the submission.
Within the framework all brand owners, manufacturers, importers as well as supermarkets with an annual turnover of more than $10 million had to register with the NEA in 2020 and submit their first reports in 2021.
Apart from the MPR scheme an additional framework fostering circularity was launched in 2019 under the Zero Waste Masterplan (ZWMP) (Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources & National Environment Agency, n.d.). Under this plan, EPR will be implemented on packaging waste in Singapore until 2025 (Bea & Low, 2019). Initiatives apart, like the Singapore “Packaging Agreement” or the “Year Towards Zero Waste” entail the topic of circularity even more to the Singaporean strategy of waste reduction.
A look at Singapore, which was not immediately ready to implement an EPR system due to insufficient data on packaging in the country, but plans to implement a sophisticated EPR system in 2025 through preparations and industry commitments, suggests many implications for the Maldives. A similar system would not only help the Maldives build an appropriate database and EPR system tailored to them, but also derive voluntary initiatives and thus preparatory actions to improve waste management infrastructure by companies through the submission of 3R plans.
Bea, E., & Low, M. (2019). Extended Producer Responsibility In Singapore’s Resource Sustainability Act. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3474816
Government of Singapore. (2019). Resource Sustainability Act 2019. https://sso.agc.gov.sg/Act/RSA2019
Government of Singapore. (2020). Resource Sustainability (Packaging Reporting) Regulations 2020. https://sso.agc.gov.sg/SL/RSA2019-S508-2020?DocDate=20200630
Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, & National Environment Agency (n.d.). Zero Waste Masterplan: Singapore. https://www.towardszerowaste.gov.sg/files/zero-waste-masterplan.pdf
National Environment Agency (n.d.). Factsheet on Mandatory Packaging Reporting. https://www.nea.gov.sg/docs/default-source/media-files/news-releases-docs/cos-2019/cos-2019-media-factsheet—mandatory-packaging-reporting.pdf#:~:text=3%20Under%20the%20mandatory%20packaging%20reporting%20framework%2C%20producers,companies%20will%20need%20to%20include%20in%20their%20reports.%29
National Environment Agency (2022a). Guidebook on the Mandatory Packaging Reporting. https://www.nea.gov.sg/docs/default-source/mandatory-packaging-reporting/22020422_nea-mandatory-packaging-reporting-guidebook.pdf
National Environment Agency. (2022b). Mandatory Packaging Reporting. https://www.nea.gov.sg/our-services/waste-management/mandatory-packaging-reporting