SMU conducts research study on efficacy


image: SMU Assistant Professor Aidan Wong is leading a five-year research study on the impact of the new EPR framework to reduce e-waste in Singapore.
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Credit: Singapore University of Management

By Jovina Ang

SMU Office of Research and Technology Transfer– According to the Zero Waste Masterplan Singapore, approximately 60,000 tonnes of electronic and electrical waste or the equivalent of 73 cell phones or 11 kilograms per person are generated each year in Singapore. Although this figure represents only one percent of the total waste generated in Singapore, it is double the regional average in East and Southeast Asia. And Singapore is one of the top dumpers of electronic waste according to a United Nations study.

A study by Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) found that only 6 percent of all electronic waste is recycled while 35 percent is disposed of by couriers. 26% are thrown away, 24% are taken back and 9% are donated in Singapore each year.

The low percentage of electronic waste recycling has been a concern of the Singapore government as electronic waste is bad for health and the environment. All electronic waste contains some amount of hazardous materials, ranging from heavy metals such as lead and mercury found in electronics to ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons in refrigerators.

To reverse the trend, the Singapore government has turned to countries like Sweden and Denmark. These countries recycle 52% and 43% of their electronic waste, respectively. And these countries have adopted the “Extended Producer Responsibility” (EPR) strategy since the early 1990s and have proven EPR to be a reliable strategy for managing e-waste.

The EPR strategy is an environmental protection strategy that places the responsibility for the management of end-of-life products on producers of electronic and electrical goods for take-back, recycling and disposal.

In 2019, the Singapore government introduced the Zero Waste Masterplan with the goal of enforcing EPR laws by 2025. The EPR framework, which just came into effect on July 1, 2021, marks the start of an effort national to reduce, recycle and reuse. e-waste. It is a comprehensive framework that encompasses product design, material sourcing, production, product use, product collection and recycling.

Under EPR, producers, as well as importers and retailers of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), are responsible for the collection and proper treatment of electronic waste.

To qualify and quantify the impact of the EPR framework, SMU Assistant Professor of Human Sciences Aidan Wong is collaborating with the Ministry of Sustainability and Environment (MSE) on the project entitled “Longitudinal study to quantify and qualify the impact of the EPR system on e-waste in Singapore”.

Professor Wong, who is the principal investigator, informed the Research and Technology Transfer Office: “This research is fundamental for the management of electronic waste in our country. This will give us five years of data on the effectiveness of the EPR framework.

“The research will also help policymakers and industry determine which party is responsible and pays for which aspect of the recycling supply chain,” he added.

The research

Since the EPR framework is a newly introduced strategy for Singapore, Professor Wong designed a five-year longitudinal study to verify its impact and effectiveness. It also intends to study the behavior of the various players in the recycling sector from producers, importers, distributors, consumers to recyclers.

The three research objectives are:

  1. Evaluate the costs of the EPR framework for electronic waste by tracking and quantifying how the different costs are allocated to each of the actors in the supply chain;
  2. Quantify the economic and environmental benefits of the e-waste EPR framework; and
  3. Track behavioral changes in the manufacturing, purchasing and end-of-life processing of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE).

“I am delighted to play a key role in shaping the e-waste management strategy in Singapore. Besides this important result, I intend to study how the EPR framework can be used as a net benefit system to generate a positive economic and environmental impact from the reduction, recycling and reuse of electronic waste ” , explained Professor Wong.

“There is also money to be made by recycling electronic waste, as materials like copper, iron, gold, silver and platinum can be mined for the reuse and reproduction of electronic products and electric. Therefore, electronic waste is a treasure that must be exploited, ”he added.


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Paul N. Strickland

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