AMS At the Singapore International Water Week 2018: exploring opportunities to implement zero waste systems

In December last year, AMS Institute signed the covenant ReCirc Singapore. The covenant is a collaboration between the Netherlands and Singapore on resource recovery solutions for a circular economy.

Singapore wants to become a zero-waste nation and aims to recycle 70 percent of its waste by 2030. The Netherlands aims at a fully circular economy by 2050. Two huge ambitions that cannot be achieved by simply programming and financing a number of measures. A new systematic approach is needed. This was the main topic discussed at the workshops organized by ReCirc during and after the Singapore International Water Week and CleanEnviro Summit Singapore.

ReCirc was one of the prominent participants in the Netherlands Pavilion and was actively engaged with Singapore government agencies, businesses and researchers to develop a joint research & development and business agenda.

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One of the main aims of the ReCirc consortium at the Singapore International Water Week was to bridge the gap between the different national policies. As Bob Geldermans (left on the picture), program manager Circular City at Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS) explained: ‘Zero waste in Singapore is not the same as a circular economy as presented in the Netherlands. Zero waste is often seen as sending the waste to an incinerator, instead of to a landfill.’ From an environmental perspective, incineration is preferable over landfilling, but this is still a low-grade handling step. This is where the circular thinking comes in. Geldermans explains: ‘Circular economy is about avoiding or upgrading waste. It is a different approach as it seeks to produce materials that can effectively replace raw materials. We need to forge smart partnerships to be able to upcycle new materials’.

Waste to energy plant
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An example of such a smart partnership is the integration of the incineration of sludge from waste water treatment and solid waste from households in Amsterdam. The waste water treatment plant of Amsterdam’s water utility Waternet is situated next to the incinerator for municipal waste of Amsterdam Energie Bedrijf (AEB). By combining the two waste streams, the waste-to-energy incinerator can recover 30 percent of the potential energy in the waste, compared to 25 percent by other – stand-alone – incinerators of municipal waste.

This integrated incineration concept has also been adopted by Singapore. The Singapore authorities have decided to build a new municipal waste incinerator alongside the future Tuas waste water treatment plant, enabling to combine treatment of sewage sludge and solid waste.

Workshop on joint research agenda
The Dutch-Singapore ReCirc workshop focused on four themes: bottom and fly ash from incinerators, waste water and sludge, plastic waste and food waste systems.

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According to Arjen Nieuwenhuijzen (right on top photo) of Witteveen+Bos, coordinator of ReCirc, the different sessions on the four themes and the system integration created many learning outcomes that will be translated into concrete actions in the coming months.
‘We have seen a lot of enthusiasm and willingness to develop smart solutions together to tackle the waste and water challenges of Singapore and to create business opportunities for Singapore and the Netherlands in de South-East Asia region’, said Nieuwenhuijzen.

About ReCirc
ReCirc Singapore is set up as a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) of RvO.nl (NL Enterprise Agency) i.e. a coalition between business, government, civil society organizations and knowledge institutions.

In ReCirc Singapore the following companies and institutes are working together: Witteveen+Bos (cluster coordinator), Waternet, AMS Institute, Nijhuis Industries, Paques, CirTec, World of Walas, Asia Pacific Breweries, Organic Village, KWR Watercycle Research Institute, Delft University of Technology, Wageningen University and Research and Upp! UpCycling Plastic.

Photos Dutch Water Sector