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Jakarta Post

Waste to energy: Singapore'€™s experience

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

  /   Wed, May 22, 2013   /  02:00 pm
Waste to energy: Singapore'€™s experience Managing: Tuas South Incineration Plant general manager Chong Kuek On describes how the control center at the plant works recently in Singapore. (JP/Bambang Nurbianto) (JP/Bambang Nurbianto)

Managing: Tuas South Incineration Plant general manager Chong Kuek On describes how the control center at the plant works recently in Singapore. (JP/Bambang Nurbianto)

The Jakarta city government has been trying to improve its solid waste management '€“ in part through changing the perspective of waste from a burden into an asset through technology. The city government has started a '€œwaste-to-energy'€ program, although it is still in the early stages compared to developed cities like Singapore.

The Jakarta Post'€™s Bambang Nurbianto and several Indonesian journalists under the invitation of the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) recently looked at Singapore'€™s waste management and met with a number of related officials.

Singapore has modernized its solid waste management after a long and winding process of improvement. Its waste management facilities have now achieved high efficiency as its '€œwaste-to-energy'€ program has become a profitable business.

The Tuas South Incineration Plant, the largest incineration facility in the country, produces some 150 MWh of electricity per day. '€œWe sell 80 percent of the electricity we produce, while another 20 percent of the energy is to meet the needs of our plant,'€ Chong Kuek On, general manager of the plant, said.

The plant, which can burn some 3,000 tons of solid waste per day, was built on 10.5 hectares of reclaimed land with a total investment of S$890 million (US$708.76 million). It started operating in June 2000. The incineration system can reduce incinerable waste by up to 90 percent in volume.

According to Fong Lap Weng, manager of the waste and resource management department of the National Environment Agency, Singapore'€™s four incineration facilities can produce 2,688 MWh of electricity per day from the burning of 7,475 tons of waste.

The three other incineration plants in Singapore are the Tuas Incineration Plant with a capacity of 1,700 tons per day, the Senoko Waste-to-Energy Plant with a capacity of 2,400 tons per day and the Kepple Seghers Tuas Waste-to-Energy Plant with a capacity of 800 tons per day.

Fong said his country generates 19,862 tons of solid waste per day; 60 percent of which, or 11,846 tons, is recycled; 7,455 tons goes to incineration facilities; and another 541 tons or 3 percent of non-incinerable waste is disposed to the country'€™s landfill on Semakau Island.

Chong Kuek On said the incineration system in his country is environmentally friendly, stressing that the combustion control systems regulate the combustion rate up to 1,000 degrees Celcius to achieve a complete burn of the waste that guarantees the clean output of gas.

He said a catalytic fabric filter system is installed after a two-zone electrostatic precipitator to clean the flue gas, that then passes through two 150-meter-tall chimneys that maximize the gas'€™ dispersion into the atmosphere.

The country has the 350-hectare Semakau Landfill that can accommodate up to 63 million cubic meters of the non-incinerable waste that is generated by Singaporeans and ash from incineration facilities. The landfill'€™s lifetime is estimated to last to 2045.

In order to guarantee an ecologically friendly landfill, the first step in building the Semakau Landfill was the enlargement of Sakeng Island into a base for ancillary facilities, including a wharf, leachate and sewage treatment facilities, workshops, an administration building, generators and a transfer station.

A solid foundation and strong structures protect the dumping work from waves and bad weather so that ash can be safely transferred from barges into trucks for tipping into the landfill cells.

The next step was the enclosing of the sea space between Sakeng and Semakau with a seven-kilometer multi-layered perimeter rock bund. The underlying seabed was stabilized with a layer of dense sand. This base was then covered by an impermeable geo-membrane to keep the contents of the cells from seeping into the sea.

A protective stratum of marine clay was placed over the impermeable geo-membrane, followed by a layer of rocks that form the outer slopes of the bund. At regular intervals along this embankment is a network of monitoring wells to allow the collection of water samples for testing.

Fong said Singapore has to continuously cut its waste production through a reduce-reuse-recycle ( 3R ) mechanism, which is important for the tiny city-state. It has set a target to increase its recycling rate from the current 60 percent to 70 percent in 2030.

In trying to step up its efforts to promote the 3Rs, Singapore has launched the Singapore Packaging Agreement '€” a voluntary industry-government platform to promote packaging waste.

It has also introduced the mandatory reporting requirement. Commercial premises can benefit by recycling more and saving on waste disposal costs, and large hotels and malls will be required to submit waste reduction plans and targets from 2014.

At the household level, the government introduced a national recycling program to increase recycling accessibility.

Before achieving the efficient solid waste management system the nation currently possesses, Singapore, like Jakarta, experienced a long process of modernizing its waste treatment.

In the early 1960s, workers collected garbage from roadside bins and households into handcarts and dumped the waste into swampy areas. Waste collection was irregular and inefficient so garbage often piled up, attracting flies, cockroaches and rats.

Singapore launched its waste-to-energy plant in Ulu Pandan (now closed) on July 30, 1979. A second plant opened in Tuas in 1986. At the same time, the Kim Chuan Refuse Transfer Station was built to serve as a garbage collection point for the eastern part of the island. The third incineration plant opened in Senoko, near Woodlands in the north, in 1992. The Tuas South Incineration Plant opened in 2000.

Chong believes the choice of the incineration system is the best for a small city-state like Singapore, which has limited stocks of land for landfills. He also believes that cities like Jakarta could use the system, particularly if they want to optimize land use.

'€œWith a reduction rate of up to 90 percent, incineration is the best choice for Singapore, which has very limited land. Jakarta may use our system that could be combined with other methods like composting because you have a much larger space than us in Singapore,'€ said Chong.

Basic facts


1. Population: 5.31 million
2. Amount of waste produced per day: 19,862 tons
3. Recycling rate: 60 percent
4. Waste treatment facilities: Incineration, landfill and 3R
5. Energy output: 2,688 MWh per day


1. Population: 9.6 million
2. Amount of waste produced per day: 6,000 to 6,500 tons
3. Recycling rate: 5 percent
4. Waste treatment facilities:
Sanitary landfill with Gasification Landfill-Anaerobic Digestion (Galfad), Mechanical Biological Treatment, 3R, composting
5. Energy Output: 15 MWh per day.

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