Ministries and Coordination Mechanism

The marine plastic litter issue is addressed by the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (formerly known as the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources [MEWR]) through the National Environment Agency (NEA). NEA coordinates international and regional cooperation with different stakeholders. International coordination is usually facilitated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For example, as a part of the Singapore Cooperation Programme, established in 1992, NEA through the Singapore Environment Institute organised in March 2019 the Singapore–Norway Third Country Training Programme titled Regional Training Programme on Waste Management and Reduction of Marine Litter.  The programme aims to share the policy frameworks and practices adopted by Singapore and Norway in waste management and reduction of marine litter, focusing on plastics and microplastics, and to look into proven best practices in Southeast Asia and elsewhere (SCP, 2019).


Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP) (2019), Regional Training Programme on Waste Management and Reduction of Marine Litter. SCP. (accessed 02 October 2019).

National Laws and Regulation

Singapore designated 2019 as the Year Towards Zero Waste. The goal of becoming a zero waste nation would be achieved by reducing consumption of materials, and reusing and recycling them for a second lease of life (NEA, 2019).

NEA utilises the Environmental Protection and Management Act, Chapter 94A (Original Enactment: Act 9 of 1999). Part V, Premise 15, Number 1 states: ‘Any person who discharges or causes or permits to be discharged any trade effluent, oil, chemical, sewage or other polluting matters into any drain or land, without a written permission from the Director-General, shall be guilty of an offence’. Other pollutants may include land-based litter such as plastic waste. Conviction of failure to comply shall result in payment of a fine not exceeding S$5,000.

In accordance with the Act, another land-based litter prevention is provided in the Environmental Public Health Act Chapter 95 (Original Enactment: Act 14 of 1987). Part III Premise 19 Number (1) Letter (a) states: ‘Any person who drops, scatters, spills or throws any noxious liquid, dirt, sand, earth, gravel, clay, loam, manure, refuse, sawdust, shavings, stone, straw or any other similar matter or thing in any public place (whether from a moving or stationary vehicle or in any other manner) shall be guilty of an offence’. Meanwhile, Part III Premise 20 Number (1) states: ‘Any person who (a) dumps or disposes of any refuse, waste or any other article from a vehicle in a public place; or (b) uses a vehicle for the purpose of dumping or disposing of any refuse, waste or any other article in a public place, shall be guilty of an offence’. The Act was amended on 1 April 2014 to enable a mandatory reporting of waste data and submission of waste reduction plans by any owner, occupier, or lessee of a work place (any premises or place used for any industrial, trade, commercial or manufacturing purposes, including all construction sites, work sites, and farms).

In practise, the government is going beyond laws and regulations. Since it considers public education and awareness as the most essential factors, Singapore has conducted campaigns such as Clean and Green Singapore and Keep Singapore Clean Movement, programmes for corporations, schemes such as Clean Development Mechanism and Singapore Packaging Agreement, grants and funding such as Towards Zero Waste Grant, and many more.

Adopting the Extended Producer Responsibility framework, Singapore enacted on 04 October 2019 the Resource Sustainability Act 2019 (Act 29 of 2019), which includes regulatory measures on electrical and electronic waste (e-waste), packaging (including plastic) waste, and food waste.

Under the framework,  producers of electrical and electronic products are regulated through the Producer Responsibility Scheme (PRS), in which big producers supplying more than a specified threshold amount of regulated products to the local market will bear the costs of operating the scheme, including collection, treatment, and recycling of wastes. Overall implementation of the PRS will be managed by a licensed PRS operator appointed by the National Environment Agency (NEA). The PRS operator will be responsible in meeting collection targets, which are 60% of put-to-market (supply) weight for large household appliances such as refrigerators, air conditioners, and washing machines; and 20% for regulated consumer products such as printers, laptops, mobile phones, routers, lamps, and portable batteries (MEWR, 2019). Large retailers occupying a floor area of or more than 300 square metres must offer in-store collection of certain regulated consumer product waste and ensure its collection by PRS operators (Section 15). Producers of non-consumer products (e.g. commercial and industrial equipment marketed and sold to businesses, such as solar photovoltaic panels and servers) shall provide, upon request, free take-back from their clients of all their end-of-life products and send them to licensed waste collectors or e-waste recyclers (Section 13). These regulatory measures will be enforced starting 01 July 2021.

Manufacturers, importers, brand owners, and retailers of packaged products with an annual turnover of more than S$10 million shall report to the NEA their packaging data (Section 20), which shall consist of information on type of packaging material (e.g. plastic, paper, metal, glass); packaging form (e.g. carrier bag, bottle); and weight (MEWR, 2019). Producers will be required to submit plans to reduce, reuse, and recycle their packaging (3R plan), including details of key initiatives, key performance indicators, and targets. The 3R plan shall consider packaging reduction; packaging collection for reuse or recycling; outreach related to reducing, reusing, and recycling packaging; use of recycled content in packaging; and improvements in recyclability of packaging (MEWR, 2019). Producers will be required to submit progress of their plans in subsequent reports. These regulatory measures will be enforced starting 01 July 2020, with the first reporting submitted to NEA in 2021.

Owners and operators of commercial and industrial premises, including large hotels, malls, housing projects, and food manufacturers and caterers, are mandated to segregate their food waste for treatment (MEWR, 2019). This regulatory measure will come into operation in 2024.


Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (2019), Press Releases: Factsheet on Resource Sustainability Act (accessed 19 May 2020).

National Environment Agency (NEA) (2019), Toward Zero Waste Grant. (accessed 02 October 2019).

Singapore Government (2002a), Environmental Protection and Management Act (Chapter 94A). Singapore Government. (accessed 02 October 2019).

Singapore Government (2002b), Environmental Public Health Act (Chapter 95). Singapore Government. (accessed 02 October 2019).

Singapore Government (2019), Resource Sustainability Act 2019. Singapore Government. (accessed 18 May 2020).

Local Regulations

Singapore has no specific local government that regulates the marine plastic litter issues. However, it works intensively with the 3P (People, Private and Public) sectors to reduce land-based litter. These sectors are equipped with the 3P Partnership Fund which encourages organisations and companies from these sectors to work together to develop innovative and sustainable environmental initiatives that promote environmental ownership amongst the local community (NEA, 2019).


National Environment Agency (NEA) (2019), 3P Partnership Fund. (accessed 02 October 2019).

Action Plans and Roadmaps

As part of the effort to combat marine plastic litter, a Member of Parliament of Singapore proposed to the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (formerly known as the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources [MEWR]) the ban of single-use plastic, However, MEWR (through its senior minister of state) and NEA both argued against it (Eco-Business, 2018), saying that the plastic litter issue should be tackled through public education and not through policy. Senior Minister Amy Khor emphasised that the government’s aim was to encourage consumers and businesses to reduce plastic use ‘beyond what the regulations require’. She explained that ‘[t]his process may take longer. But this is the right way; the positive effects will go beyond plastic bags, beyond packaging, beyond waste management to areas including climate action’. Meanwhile, NEA argued that since majority of residents live in high-rise buildings, plastic bags are still needed to hygienically dispose of their food waste or risk pest outbreaks.

Singapore has conducted several initiatives to reduce plastic use, including the Singapore Packaging Agreement, launched in 2007. This voluntary agreement within industries and non-governmental organisations to reduce packaging waste has successfully gathered 239 signatories and reduced a cumulative of 54,000 tonnes of packaging waste (NEA, 2019aMEWR, 2019).  Major supermarket, such as NTUC Fairprice, have implemented rebates for consumers who bring their own shopping bags. Some retailers, such as Miniso, have started charging S$0.10 per plastic bag use.

Going forward, Singapore has released the Zero Waste Masterplan which maps strategies to achieve the vision of Zero Waste Nation (NEA, 2019b) (Table 1).

Table 1. Target Items and Measures on Plastic Waste

Singapore : Action Plans and Roadmaps (Table 1)

Target Period Measure
Increase national recycling rate to 70%: 81% non-domestic recycling rate and 30% domestic recycling rate 2019–2030 Extend Semakau Landfill’s lifespan beyond 2035
Reduce the daily amount of waste sent to Semakau Landfill from 0.36 kg/capita (2018) to 0.25 kg/capita (2030)
Launch the Multi-Storey Recycling Facility to house under one roof recyclers handling different forms of waste streams like metals, e-waste, paper, and plastics
Enhance the redevelopment and land intensification at Sarimbun Recycling Park to handle a quarter of the country’s recycling
Redesign the labels on the blue recycling bins for clearer information on what can and cannot be deposited in the bins
Equip the garbage trucks with robotic arms that can lift and empty recycling bins
Mandatory packaging data reporting for packaged products producers and supermarkets 2020 Packaged products producers and supermarkets with an annual turnover of more than S$10 million will be required to report data on packaging put on the market and their 3R plans for packaging 
Expand the mandatory reporting to all large industrial and commercial premises, including large convention and exhibition centres
Implement an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) framework for managing packaging waste including plastics No later than 2025 Further promote sustainable consumption of packaging through the Singapore Packaging Agreement
Support ground-up initiatives by funding campaigns such as Zero Waste SG’s Bring Your Own (BYO)
Study the approach and consult with industries
Benchmark EPR mechanisms for packaging waste management vis-a-vis those adopted by other countries

Source: NEA (2019b).

To reiterate the measures mandated in the Zero Waste Masterplan, in February 2021, Singapore released the Singapore Green Plan 2030. It is a whole-of-nation movement to advance Singapore’s national agenda on sustainable development. One of the key programmes of the Green Plan is creating sustainable living through a circular economy. Reducing the waste sent to the landfill by 20% by 2026, with the goal of reaching 30% by 2030, is the main target of this programme. To achieve this target, Singapore would be endorsing their NEWSand materials created from incinerated waste for construction purposes, while also increasing the recycling rate.

In conjunction with the World Environment Day 2022, the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment launched the National Action Strategy on Marine Litter, which aims to galvanise a whole-of-nation effort to combat marine litter. It outlines six strategic focus areas tailored to the local context, each elaborated with some targeted measures (Table 1).

Table 1. Focus Areas and Measures in National Action Strategy on Marine Litter

Singapore : Action Plans and Roadmaps (Table 2)

No. Focus Area Measure
1. Reduction of land-based sources of litter Control of waste collection and disposal
Integrated solid waste management system
Treatment of wastewater before discharge to sea
Clean up of waterways and coastal waters
Regulation of general waste disposal facilities
2. Reduction of sea-based sources of litter Inspection on ships to check compliance to regulations on garbage disposal into the sea
Prohibition of waste dumping from offshore fish farms
Clean up of coastal waters
Implementation of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships
3. Circular economy approach Reduction of use of disposables
Promotion of recycling
Implementation of Resource Sustainability Act 2019 to address priority waste streams
4. Research and development Study and development of membrane bioreactor technology systems at water reclamation plants
Study on marine debris by the National Parks Board and the National University of Singapore
Use of technology
5. Promotion and strengthening of outreach and stakeholder engagement People, private and public partnerships to reduce land-based solid waste
Raising of awareness through collaboration with ground-up initiatives
Engagement of citizens to co-create solutions
Community initiatives to ignite mindset and behaviour change
Education of youths through incorporation of sustainability elements into national school curriculum
6. International engagement and collaboration Involvement in international and regional platforms
Capacity-building programmes to support developing countries

Source: MSE (2022).


Eco-Business (2018), Singapore environment ministry pushes back against MP’s proposal to cut single-use plastic and tax bags (accessed 02 October 2019).

Green Plan (2021), Sustainable Development — A Core Belief (accessed 26 November 2021).

Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) (2022). National Action Strategy on Marine Litter (accessed 09 June 2022).

Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) (2018), Public Sector Sustainability Plan 2017–2020. Singapore: MEWR. (accessed 02 October 2019).

Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) (2019), Speeches.—senior-minister-of-state—ministry-of-the-environment-and-water-resources-and-ministry-of-health—at-the-eu-conference-towards-a-plastic-free-ocean—what-role-for-policymakers–civil-society-and-business—on-25-oct-2017 (accessed 02 October 2019).

National Environment Agency (NEA) (2019a), Singapore Packaging Agreement. (accessed 02 October 2019).

National Environment Agency (NEA) (2019b), Zero Waste Masterplan: Singapore. MEWR. (accessed 02 October 2019).