Singapore’s new waste app provides free door collection service to bypass contaminated recycling bins

The mobile app from Sembcorp, called Ezi, aims to make recycling more convenient for residents in Singapore, where only 4 per cent of plastic waste is recycled.

Singapore waste management and industrial firm Sembcorp has launched an app that aims to make recycling more convenient for the city-state’s residents, and bypass the government’s troubled recyclables collection system.

The ‘ezi’ mobile app enables residents to have their recyclables collected—at no cost—from their doorstep rather than deposit them beneath their housing blocks in recycling bins, which are blighted by contamination problems.

Some 40 per cent of recyclables placed in Singapore’s blue recycling bins cannot be recycled, because they are placed unseparated with other waste, and become contaminated with food and liquids.

Sembcorp’s materials recovery facility in the industrial west of the island receives up to 60 tonnes of waste a day, but is able to recycle just 50 to 60 per cent of the waste. The rest is incinerated.

The ezi app, which was launched in collaboration with DBS Bank and Republic Polytechnic, also offer rewards to users, and a website features education material on the principles and impact of recycling.

Users will get paid for the recyclables collected, with the price depending on the material. Paper, plastic, metal and clothing will be collected. But not glass.

A spokesperson told Eco-Business that recyclers will be rewarded based on the prevailing price of the recyclables, which will be updated based on market conditions. Residents will know how much they will be rewarded once they key in their estimates during the booking phase.

To use the app, residents need to create an account with their mobile phone number, take a photo of their washed recyclables, then schedule a collection time. Users can also track or make changes to their collections.

The app is available for download on Apple’s App Store and Google Play, and will be available initially to residents living in the Woodlands area ahead of a national roll-out.

In a statement sent to media on Sunday evening, Neo Hong Keat, senior vice president, waste management, Sembcorp, said the company wanted to raise public awareness “on how to recycle right and to bring these conversations to the forefront to drive a change in public behavior.”

He added: “We also want to provide a convenient way for the public to recycle their household items by providing doorstep collection services. We hope that this initiative will help reduce the amount of waste we generate as a nation.”

In 2018, Singapore’s population of 5.8 million people generated 7.7 million tonnes of solid waste, about 21,000 tonnes per day.

The ezi app launches three months after Singapore introduced a new waste masterplan to ease the burden on the city-state’s only landfill, which is expected to be full by 2035 or earlier. The plan included newly designed recycling bins with clearer labelling on what can and cannot be recycled to reduce contamination.

Among the targets of the waste masterplan was an increase of the country’s overall recycling rate—which has been largely flat since 2012—from 60 per cent in 2018 to 70 per cent by 2030.

The government also hopes to increase the domestic recycling rate from 22 per cent in 2018 to 30 per cent by 2030.

The new waste reduction targets were deemed unambitious by some.

Dr Martin Blake, strategic advisor to Singapore-based waste management firm Blue Planet Environmental Solutions, noted that with the targeted increase to Singapore’s domestic recycling target—of less than one percentage point a year—would mean barely any overall increase in recycling given the country’s projected population growth over the next decade.