National Environment Agency
- Consultation Period:
- 20 Sep 2022 - 14 Oct 2022
- Closed - Summary of Responses
1. The National Environment Agency (NEA) published a public consultation paper on 20 September 2022 to seek views on the proposed beverage container return scheme (“Scheme”), particularly on the type of beverage containers to be covered, deposit amount, and return point locations.
2. The public consultation closed on 14 October 2022. 825 responses were received, of which 805 were from members of the public and 20 were from organisations (e.g., beverage producers, retailers, waste management companies and environmental non-government organisation). The feedback received is summarised below.
Summary of Feedback
3. 86% of respondents cited either plastic bottles or metal cans as their top material type to be included in the Scheme. Reasons for choosing plastic bottles and metal cans include the higher consumption volumes, higher material value, and ease of cleaning, compaction, and transportation.
4. About 12% cited glass bottles, and another 2% cited beverage cartons, as the top material type to be included in the Scheme. Those who supported inclusion of glass bottles felt that the manufacturing of glass bottles was resource intensive, and that glass could be easily cleaned and recycled repeatedly. As for beverage cartons, those who supported the inclusion were of the view that beverage cartons were frequently consumed. Some respondents felt that both glass bottles and beverage cartons have lower collection and recycling rates currently, and hence should be included.
5. There were also some respondents who were of the view that all material types should be included to increase collection and recycling rates.
6. NEA notes the suggestions on the coverage of container material types. While including all material types will be more comprehensive, a wider coverage will increase the complexity of the collection logistics and infrastructure. As such, all pre-packaged beverages1 in plastic bottles and metal cans ranging from 150 millilitres to 3 litres will be covered under the Scheme in the initial phase. NEA will monitor the Scheme after implementation and assess if beverage cartons and glass bottles should be included in future.
7. 84% of respondents indicated that a deposit amount of $0.10 or higher would be suitable, while 56% indicated that a deposit amount of $0.20 or more would be suitable.
8. Respondents who preferred a deposit amount of $0.20 or more believed that the deposit should be high enough to incentivise more people to return the containers. Respondents who preferred a deposit amount of $0.10 believed that a lower deposit amount is sufficient to incentivise return and should not be too high to deter consumers from purchasing pre-packaged beverages, even though the deposit is fully refundable.
9. NEA notes the suggestions on the deposit amount. To balance between incentivising return and minimising upfront prices of beverages, the deposit amount will be set at $0.10 per container. NEA will monitor the Scheme after implementation and assess if there is a need to review the deposit amount in the future.
Return Point Locations
10. From the feedback received, common spaces in residential estates (e.g., HDB carparks, void decks) and large supermarkets (total floor area of more than 200m2) are the top two most popular return point locations selected, by 66% and 62% of respondents respectively. 44% selected shopping malls, while 30 to 38% chose transport hubs, hawker centres, coffee shops, small supermarkets, and community spaces (e.g., Community Clubs, Town Centres).
11. NEA notes that having easily accessible return points is critical to the success of the Scheme. However, we need to balance this with collection costs that will increase as the number of return points increases. As such, only large supermarket outlets2 with floor areas of more than 200m2 will be mandated to set up return points. Supermarkets are major sales channels of pre-packaged beverages and popular return locations. A return-to-retail approach is shown to be efficient and associated with high return rates in similar overseas schemes. NEA will also work with the future Scheme Operator to set up additional return points at other locations in residential estates and in the community to increase accessibility.
12. NEA also encourages other operators of premises such as shopping malls and coffee shops to support the Scheme and work closely with the Scheme Operator to set up return points in their premises, to provide greater convenience to consumers, where feasible.
Return and Refund Methods
13. 82% of respondents preferred automated return via Reverse Vending Machines (RVMs) and 58% would likely return 1-10 empty beverage containers per trip. 84% of the respondents selected mobile payment (e.g., via PayNow, PayLah!) as their preferred refund option.
14. There were suggestions for online retailers to offer incentives and to prompt customers to return empty containers after an order is placed.
15. NEA notes these feedback and will work with the future Scheme Operator to set up the return points accordingly, including engaging online retailers on how they can contribute to the collection of containers under the Scheme.
16. A majority of the respondents selected ‘social media’ and ‘QR code/posters at return points’ as their preferred communication channel for obtaining information on the Scheme. These were selected by 77% and 67% of respondents respectively.
17. There were also suggestions for more public education to instil good recycling habits.
18. NEA notes these suggestions and will work with the future Scheme Operator to develop a comprehensive and effective communications plan.
Other Concerns and Suggestions Raised
19. A common concern raised was that the Scheme could result in increase in beverage prices. Some respondents perceived the deposit amount as a tax or an increase in beverage price, as consumers may choose not to return the containers if it is not convenient enough for them. Other cost concerns include producers passing on the scheme costs to consumers and retailers making use of the Scheme to increase beverage prices.
20. The deposit amount will be fully refunded to consumers when they return the empty beverage containers at designated return points. This is not an additional cost or tax on beverages, as the small deposit is fully refundable and is intended to nudge consumers’ recycling behaviour. GST will not be charged on the deposit.
21. Based on overseas schemes, a not-for-profit, industry-led Scheme Operator will help to keep scheme costs low. It will be able to tap on the industry’s capabilities and resources, such as existing logistics channels to make use of backhaul trips, to maximise operational efficiencies. As the Scheme is owned and run by the industry, it will have a stronger incentive to operate efficiently and in a cost-effective manner, to keep scheme costs low for all parties.
22. In addition, the revenue from the sale of clean, high quality and high value recyclables will be utilised by the Scheme Operator to partially offset the scheme costs.
23. The eventual cost pass-through to consumers in beverage prices, if any, will also likely be moderated by price competition among industry players along the value chain.
Need for Well-Maintained Return Points
24. Apart from having convenient return points, NEA notes that it is important to ensure that return points are well-maintained to encourage return.
25. To address concerns on the RVMs being full or faulty, the future Scheme Operator will be required to meet service delivery standards to ensure that the RVMs are cleared in a timely manner and are well-maintained. Return depots could also be set up to accept bulk returns of containers to prevent long queues at return points. NEA will work with the future Scheme Operator to explore suggestions to provide information to consumers on the availability of return points.
26. There were also queries on the condition of containers to be eligible for returns. The return points will accept containers if they are empty and intact with a readable barcode registered under the Scheme. Caps and labels need not be removed as these will be sorted out during the recycling process. Where possible, consumers are encouraged to lightly rinse the containers to help keep return points clean.
Applying Deposits at Dine-In Settings
27. Some respondents asked whether operators of F&B establishments should apply deposits on the beverages they sell. They were concerned that such operators would apply deposits but keep the containers to themselves, and whether it would be inconvenient for diners to keep and return the containers.
28. NEA notes these concerns. Under the Scheme, the intent is for operators of F&B premises to decide how they want to serve their customers:
• Operators can choose to serve the customer the beverage with its container, and the deposit should be applied. This is expected to be the norm at most settings, such as hawker centres, coffee shops or also casual restaurants.
• Operators can also choose to pour the drink into a cup or glass, and the customer will not receive the container. This would likely apply to more formal settings, like restaurants. In this case, the deposit should not be applied.
29. Nonetheless, NEA will work with the future Scheme Operator to develop guidelines on whether and how operators of F&B premises should apply deposits, in preparation for the scheme implementation.
30. To facilitate collection of empty beverage containers, operators of F&B premises which are in publicly accessible settings (e.g., coffeeshops, food courts) with high footfall are encouraged to set up return points. The F&B premises operators who host return points would be reimbursed by the Scheme Operator for operational costs incurred and could also benefit from higher footfall by patrons who will make purchases when returning empty containers. Operators of other F&B premises (e.g., restaurants) would be encouraged to provide such a return service for their own customers which would also serve as an added-value service, as is done in some other jurisdictions.
Impacts on Specific Groups
31. NEA is mindful of the potential impact the Scheme may have on informal collectors who collect empty beverage containers. Informal collectors can continue collecting the beverage containers at their own discretion if they do not cause disamenities or violate any prevailing legislation. NEA will work with the future Scheme Operator to deploy appropriate measures to cater to the informal sector. For example, the Scheme Operator could deploy return depots to accept container returns in bulk from informal collectors.
32. There were also concerns that the elderly would not be able to return the empty beverage containers due to complexity of the Scheme and/or inability to travel to return points. NEA will work with the future Scheme Operator to ensure that the Scheme is inclusive, by deploying a network of easily accessible return points, including in common spaces in residential estates, and developing educational and publicity materials.
33. NEA would like to thank all respondents for their feedback.
1 Freshly prepared beverages and beverages for special medical purposes will be excluded. These will be further studied and considered in further reviews of policies for managing packaging waste.
2 Based on Singapore Food Agency’s licensing of supermarkets.
Public Consultation On Proposed Beverage Container Return Scheme
1. The National Environment Agency (NEA) would like to seek views from the public on the proposed beverage container return scheme (“Scheme”), which was first proposed by the Citizens’ Workgroup on #RecycleRight in 2019 to increase the household recycling rate and reduce contamination in recycling bins.
2. Under the proposed Scheme, a small deposit will be applied to metal and plastic beverage containers when consumers buy a pre-packaged beverage. Consumers can then claim a refund of their deposit by returning their empty beverage container to a return point.
3. This public consultation outlines the proposed Scheme and invites views from the public, particularly on the type of beverage containers to be covered, deposit amount, and return point locations.
4. Packaging waste, including plastics, has high generation volume and low recycling rates. About a third of domestic waste disposed of is packaging waste, and about 60% of this is plastic waste. In 2021, only 6% of plastic waste disposed of was recycled. The proposed Scheme is a key initiative to address packaging waste, and will contribute towards Singapore’s targets set under the Zero Waste Masterplan1 and Singapore Green Plan, to reduce waste sent to landfill per capita per day by 30 per cent by 20302, and to increase the national recycling rate to 70 per cent by 2030.
5. About 50 jurisdictions have implemented such a scheme, including Norway, Germany, Croatia, and Australian states such as New South Wales and Western Australia. Upon implementation, many have seen return rates for beverage containers increase significantly, to as high as over 80 per cent.
6. The Scheme will be the first phase of an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) approach to manage packaging waste. EPR frameworks aim to make producers responsible for the collection and end-of-life management of the products they put on the market. An EPR policy for managing electrical and electronic waste was introduced in July 2021 which was the first EPR framework implemented in Singapore.
Beverage container return scheme
7. The Scheme aims to:
a) Increase the recycling rate of beverage containers and reduce the amount of waste disposed of as well as carbon emissions; and
b) Raise consumer awareness on the importance of 3Rs (i.e., Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) and encourage good recycling practices.
8. The Scheme will contribute to our zero waste efforts by cultivating recycling habits, and aggregating clean and high-quality recyclables, which can be used to make new products. This diverts waste from landfill and enables the shift from a linear take-make-throw economy to a circular economy where resources can be used again and again. By increasing the supply and quality of recyclables collected, it is also envisaged that the Scheme will be conducive to the development of Singapore’s recycling industry.
Proposed Scheme framework
9. The Scheme is proposed to be implemented by mid-2024. A grace period will subsequently be provided for producers and retailers to clear existing stock and ensure all covered pre-packaged beverages comply with the necessary requirements.
10. The proposed key parameters of the Scheme are summarised below.
a) Deposit amount. The Scheme involves consumers paying a small flat deposit amount for each beverage container, which is added to the price of pre-packaged beverages upon purchase. The full deposit amount will be refunded to consumers when they return the empty beverage container to designated return points. The deposit amount in overseas schemes with high return rates, such as Norway, Lithuania and Germany, generally ranges from about S$0.10 to S$0.40 per container (adjusted for purchasing power parity). Based on feedback from past engagement sessions, a flat deposit amount of S$0.10 to S$0.20 per beverage container would be reasonable to motivate return for recycling.
b) Coverage. The container material types covered by similar schemes in other jurisdictions include metal cans, plastic bottles, beverage cartons and glass bottles. It is proposed that for the Singapore scheme, metal cans and plastic bottles that are 150ml to 3 litres be included due to their high material value and high level of consumption, as well as the ease of collection and compaction. Beverage cartons and glass bottles could be considered in a later phase.
The Scheme is intended to cover all pre-packaged beverages (including beer, concentrate, fruit juice, milk/dairy, soft drinks, spirits, water, and wine). To help consumers identify containers covered under the Scheme, beverage containers would be labelled with a Singapore deposit mark.
c) Return points. Eligible containers can be deposited into a Reverse Vending Machine (RVM) or returned over-the-counter (e.g., via a cashier) at designated return points. For convenience, return points will generally be located at retail outlets and community spaces. For Singapore, it is proposed that large supermarkets with a total floor area of >200m2 be mandated to set up return points. Additional return points would be set up at other locations in the community (e.g., Community Clubs, Town Centres and sport facilities) to increase accessibility.
d) Refund methods. The possible deposit refund options include:
• Electronic transfer: Consumers receive the deposit through electronic transfer (e.g., payment to EZ-link card, NETS FlashPay card, bank transfer or other apps such as PayNow and PayPal);
• Cash / cash voucher: Consumers receive the deposit in cash for over-the-counter returns, or receive a cash voucher from an RVM which can be redeemed for cash or used to offset purchases in stores; or
• Donations to charity.
11. More details on the proposed Scheme framework are in the Public Consultation Paper on Proposed Beverage Container Return Scheme in the Annex.
Consultation conducted to date
12. Following the Workgroup’s recommendation, a survey of 1,000 households was conducted in early 2021, and around 8 in 10 respondents were generally supportive of implementing the Scheme to encourage recycling of beverage containers.
13. Since 2020, NEA has been consulting various stakeholders to develop a scheme that is suitable for our local context. These stakeholders include beverage producers, retailers, waste management companies, environmental groups and members of the public. NEA also considered learning points from overseas schemes, as well as from the Recycle N Save initiative, jointly launched by F&N and NEA in October 2019. Views and feedback from these engagements were carefully considered in the development of the proposed Scheme.
14. The Public Consultation Paper on Proposed Beverage Container Return Scheme can be found in the Annex. Views may be submitted via the online survey form uploaded at https://go.gov.sg/nea-bcrs-survey or by clicking the button below. The closing date for the submission of views and feedback is 14 October 2022 (Friday), 2359 hrs. A summary of responses will be published thereafter.
2 From the 2018 levels.