Since 2014, all large shopping malls in Singapore with more than 4,600 square meters of Net Lettable Area are required by the National Environment Agency (NEA) to have mandatory reporting of waste data and submission of waste reduction plans. In 2018, 184 malls are involved in mandatory waste reporting.
Every year, shopping malls have to report their waste disposed of and recycled, and also explain the planned activities for waste reduction at the mall as well as an update on the initiatives that have already been implemented.
From 2014 to 2018, the proportion of large shopping malls that recycle has increased from 80% to 94%. The recycling rate for malls has increased from 6.7% in 2014 to 10.7% in 2018. Although most malls are recycling, their recycling rate is still very low. According to NEA, the top performers typically segregated common recyclables such as carton boxes, plastic packaging, and newspapers, and operated food waste digesters.
The good news is that waste generated by large malls in Singapore has dropped by about 10% from 52 to 47 kg/m2/year. There is still room to improve the waste reduction and recycling efforts for large malls, especially given that the local malls are mostly owned by real estate companies with a strong focus on sustainability.
Is it possible for malls in Singapore to reduce 50% of waste disposed of by 2030? This would require the following:
1. The government to provide the necessary incentives and disincentives to accelerate waste reduction actions.
2. The retail association encouraging the industry to take bold steps together, and helping members on training and sharing best practices.
3. The mall owners and managers taking the lead and changing the status quo, instead of waiting for customers to demand for change.
4. The shoppers demanding malls to reduce waste and to accept some inconvenience that might result from the changes.
There is a growing interest from all stakeholders in the retail value chain to see greater sustainability efforts. Waste reduction can be a low hanging fruit along the journey towards sustainability for the retail industry. Let’s start by setting a goal for large shopping malls in Singapore to reduce waste disposed by 50% by 2030.