Plastics and packaging laws in Singapore

1. What is the general legislative framework regulating packaging and plastic waste in your jurisdiction?

The Hazardous Waste (Control of Export, Import and Transit) Act (Chapter 122A) (“HWA”) incorporates the principles and text of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal  (“Basel Convention”), regulating the export, import and transit of hazardous and other waste, including plastic waste. Import, export, and bringing waste into Singapore in the course of carrying out a transit proposal are generally prohibited under the HWA, unless a Basel permit or special permit is obtained under the HWA and the Hazardous Waste (Control of Export, Import and Transit) Regulations.  

The Resource Sustainability Act 2019 (No. 29 of 2019) (“RSA”) imposes obligations relating to the collection and treatment of certain waste, to require reporting of packaging imported into or used in Singapore, to regulate persons operating producer responsibility schemes, and to promote resource sustainability. 

In particular, under the RSA, a producer of a packaging (including but not limited to producers of packaging for a food or beverage product, vitamin and health supplement, and cosmetic product) that has an annual turnover of more than $10 million in the course of business in that year (T) must, in year T + 2, submit a report to the National Environmental Agency (“Agency”) relating to the specified packaging that is imported or used in year T + 1. The producer must also submit to the Agency a plan to reduce, re‑use or recycle packaging in Singapore (whether or not the packaging is imported or used by the producer) (“3R Plan”). This 3R Plan must state a target implementation date for the plan that is no later than 3 years after the time limited for the submission of the 3R Plan, and contain at least one type of improvement plan, such as a packaging reduction plan, a plan to use recycled content in packaging material, or a plan to improve the recyclability of packaging used. 

2. Are there any measures, existing or expected, in respect of single-use plastics?

No specific measures, although the Agency has been discouraging the use of disposables in dine-in areas. Businesses have also adopted measures to tackle the excessive use of disposables, such as phasing out:

  • plastic straws at certain F&B retail outlets; and,
  • packaging at grocery stores, to encourage customers to bring their owner packaging or containers.

3. Are there any existing or expected producer responsibility schemes in place for packaging or plastics?

No. The Producer Responsibility Scheme under the RSA and relevant subsidiary legislation currently relate to consumer electrical and electronic waste (e-waste). 

The Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging, including plastics, is intended to be introduced under the RSA no later than 2025. 

It is also notable that the RSA also regulates producers of packaging and by imposing certain reporting requirements for these producers, including submitting the 3R Plan (as described above).

4. Are there any existing or expected deposit return schemes (“DRS”) in place for packaging or plastics?

Not currently, although the Agency targets to implement a Deposit Refund Scheme for beverage containers by 2022. 

Businesses should also note that a possible improvement plan a producer may introduce in its 3R Plan includes a plan to collect packaging for re-use or recycling. 

5. Are there any existing or expected taxes on packaging or plastics?

There are no existing taxes on packaging or plastics. However, it was announced in Parliament on 10 May 2021 that the Agency is currently developing an appropriate model for a disposable carrier bag charge at supermarkets, and in doing so is in consultation with key stakeholders and members of the public. Such consultations are aimed to be completed by the end of 2021. 

6. Are there any measures, existing or expected, regarding micro-plastics or the use of microbeads in products?

No specific measures. 

7. Are there any existing or expected recycling or waste reduction targets in place for packaging or plastics?

Yes. The following targets are set in the Zero Waste Masterplan:

  • Extend Semakau Landfill’s (currently Singapore’s only landfill) lifespan beyond 2035;
  • Reduce amount of waste sent to landfill per capita per day by 30% by 2030; and,
  • By 2030, achieve a 70% overall recycling rate: 81% non-domestic recycling rate and 30% domestic recycling rate. 

8. Is the use of recycled materials in food packaging regulated?

Not specifically, although there are safety requirements to comply with for food contact articles (e.g. packages or containers for food) under the Food Regulations. These safety requirements include restricting such package or container from containing more than 1 ppm of vinyl chloride monomer and prohibiting the use of any lead piping for the conveyance of beer, cider or other beverages or liquid food.

Green Plan 2030
The measures relating to packaging and plastics form part of Singapore’s Green Plan 2030 (“Green Plan”), setting out targets over 10 years across multiple environmental issues, including to:

  • have 80% of new buildings to be Super Low Energy buildings from 2030, and 80% improvement in energy efficiency over 2005 baseline for best-in-class green buildings by 2030;
  • chave 8 Electric Vehicle (EV) Ready Towns with chargers at all public housing carparks by 2025;
  • have all new car and taxi registrations to be of cleaner-energy models from 2030
  • increase solar deployment to 1.5 giga-watt peak (GWp) by 2025, and at least 2 GWp by 2030;
  • reduce waste sent to our landfill per capita per day by 20% by 2026, with the goal of reaching 30% by 2030;
  • have at least 20% of schools to be carbon neutral by 2030;
  • phase out refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment that use high global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants from 4th quarter 2022
  • reate new and diverse job opportunities in sectors such as green finance, sustainability consultancy, verification, credits trading and risk management.

Related reports are accessible here: Green Plan 2030, Zero Waste Masterplan, Green Building Masterplans, and the Electric Vehicles Vision.

Co-Funding Scheme to reduce waste disposed at facilities

The Agency has created a co-funding scheme, the 3R Fund, to encourage organisations to reduce waste disposed of at the Agency’s incineration plants and disposal facilities through the implementation of waste minimisation and recycling projects.

Key information on the 3R Fund is as follows:

  • 3R Fund will co-fund up to 80% of qualifying costs, subject to a cap of $1 million per project or per applicant. 
  • The funding level will depend on the quantity and type of waste reduced or recycled. 
  • The grant will be calculated based on key outcomes, such as the actual quantity of waste reduced or recycled.
  • For organisations applying for multiple onsite waste treatment systems within the same premises or in different premises, the qualifying costs of the system will be tiered in the following manner: 
    • 2nd system – 70% of the project qualifying costs. 
    • 3rd system – 60% of the project qualifying costs.
    • 4th system or more – 50% of the project qualifying costs. 
Portrait of Sheena Jacob
Sheena Jacob
Partner
Singapore
Denise Loh
Cheng De Ko