Singapore fights filth with fire

JOHOR BARU: Singapore, which has a problem of land scarcity, started building incinerators 40 years ago – and has not regretted it since.

A spokesman from the Singapore National Environment Agency (NEA) said landfills could not cater to the growing wastegenerated in the country, thus there was a need to have incinerators.
“Increased population, land scarcity and economic growth forced us to look for an alternative waste handling solution. Incinerators were the best option at that time,” the NEA spokesman said.
The method, he said, was also cost-effective as it could reduce the volume of waste by 90%.
“Singapore was growing rapidly and we did not have much space so incinerators were the ideal choice.”
He said the waste generated would be burnt in the incinerators and steam produced during the process would be used to run turbine-generators for electricity.
“Ferrous metal in the ash can then be recycled while the remaining 10% of ashes would be sent to the landfill,” he said, adding that this drastically reduced the need for new landfills.
He said that in 1999, about 756,000 tonnes of waste were sent to landfills but with four incineration plants now running on the island, the amount had been reduced to 148,000 tonnes a year.
“Of course, the waste is constantly growing and in addition to incineration plants, we are also focusing on recycling efforts to reduce waste,” he said, adding that a long-term waste management plan was important to address future developments.
Singapore’s incineration plants in Tuas (three) and Senoko (one) can jointly incinerate about 7,900 tonnes of waste per day.
It also has an offshore landfill – the Semakau landfill – which was opened in 1999 and has an area of about 350ha and a capacity of 63 million cubic metres.