Insights into the Singaporean Experience in Waste Management

Insights into the Singaporean Experience in Waste Management

The world generates approximately 2.1 billion tons of waste, and it is expected that this number will reach 3.4 billion tons within 30 years, representing an increase of about 70 percent. Many countries are striving to address the waste crisis, particularly because it is economically costly and causes numerous damages to ecological systems. The prevailing waste management system worldwide involves collecting waste from areas and disposing of it in designated landfill sites by municipal authorities.

In support of international efforts to combat climate change and protect the environment, and within its steadfast commitment to environmental and climate issues, as well as creating sustainable opportunities aimed at achieving net-zero emissions by 2060, the Kingdom of Bahrain faces a prominent challenge in managing waste sustainably in the long term. The kingdom seeks to establish numerous waste management projects, such as waste-to-energy conversion, aiming to preserve the environment and ecological systems.

As mentioned earlier, most countries have their own waste collection systems. When waste accumulates in residential areas and elsewhere, vehicles pass through all neighborhoods in the provinces to collect and then transport the waste. In Bahrain, waste collection and disposal are managed by two private sector companies responsible for collecting solid waste in the provinces and disposing of it at the municipal landfill site in Askar.

Many countries have implemented pneumatic waste conveyance systems, also known as the Pneumatic Waste Conveyance System. This method involves connecting internal or external units to throw waste into underground pneumatic tube containers. This technology has been in existence since 1960 and is used in many major cities such as London, Stockholm, Barcelona, and Amsterdam, with trials being conducted in residential neighborhoods in Singapore. However, each city employs this system according to its suitability. The same system used in London may not be suitable for a small city like Singapore and vice versa.

Singapore has implemented a sustainable waste collection system through pneumatic waste conveyance systems after making technology mandatory in residential areas with no fewer than 500 residents. The Singaporean government believes that as the population increases, particularly in urban areas like Singapore, it becomes clear that traditional waste bins and the old infrastructure required to serve them are no longer suitable. Therefore, pneumatic waste conveyance systems address many problems that traditional waste collection methods, which are costly economically and environmentally, cannot. The government sees this technology as sustainable and more operationally cost-effective. We have taken Singapore as an example because it resembles Bahrain in terms of area and challenges.

How does the pneumatic waste system work? In Singapore’s system, when residents dispose of their waste in internal or external waste disposal units, an underground vacuum pipe network transports this waste to a closed container. Once operators ensure that the container is full through an automated sensor, a truck passes to collect (or vacuum) the waste for disposal. The entire waste collection process is fully automated, reducing labor requirements and increasing productivity.

Through this system, Singapore aims to reduce above-ground waste accumulation by 100 percent, in addition to reducing economic and environmental expenses associated with traditional methods because it requires fewer operational staff and cleaners compared to traditional methods. Therefore, there is significant savings in labor costs, and vehicle expenses such as fuel, maintenance, and passing through residential areas and neighborhoods at the national level, which are very costly in the long term. It also provides a healthy way to dispose of waste and reduces carbon emissions from vehicle use. This means a healthy environment for residents and greater aesthetic satisfaction without waste bins along sidewalks. Overall, the pneumatic waste disposal system is considered safer, cheaper, and better for the environment in the long term.

Although the pneumatic waste system has many advantages, it also comes with recurring challenges along the way that can be addressed. For example, when residents throw large or sharp waste into garbage disposal units and trucks vacuum the waste underground quickly at speeds of 30-60 miles per hour, it can cause fractures or tears in the pipes, necessitating engineers to repair tears and remove blockages, which can lead to system downtime for a period of time. Other challenges include how to introduce infrastructure into urban areas and design it, as well as developers or municipalities needing to determine the true cost of this project and balance the benefits and returns on investment in the future.

Note: This article has been automatically translated.

Source: Akhbar Alkhaleej

Ali Faqeeh, Research Associate

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