The short Lifespan of Landfills: Problems Semakau Island Is facing

semakau island
Semakau Landfill estimated to run out of space by 2035. 
By 2035, Semakau island located just South off of Singapore’s main island, will be filled to the brim with unprocessed trash, which will result in Singapore having no place else to incinerate rubbish. The problem gets worse from here on as the number of plastic waste entering our oceans will rise from 11 million tonnes to a staggering 29 million tonnes annually, causing 600 million tonnes of rubbish swimming in the oceans by 2040. While years—generations even—have passed with further declining recycling rates, what exactly have been done to better the situation? What could be the root of the problem?



In 20 years, plastic waste will triple from the current amount and yet Singapore’s domestic recycling rate has fallen from 17% in 2019 to just 13% in 2020. Although 6 in 10 households recycle regularly, the lack of proper practice in handling rubbish and the less-than-admirable system of it have resulted in ineffective recycling processes. It is due to these circumstances than many Singaporeans have resorted into great division and doubts on climate change crisis, demotivating many to act on aforementioned climate change claims. Research shows that up to 50% of Singaporeans still worry about these issues and yet 24% do not even believe climate change is real according to IPSOS. 
Most Singaporeans live in apartments that provides single-chutes trash disposals, with little to no investment on recycling systems. This can make it difficult for many Singaporeans to properly create an impact even when they recycle individually and as a result, the Climate Change Public Perception Survey in 2018 found that over 1 in 3 Singaporeans do not believe their individual actions contribute substantially to climate change. For many, the lack of public awareness and access to proper recycling system feeds each other into this cycle of apathy towards waste management. Further cementing this notion is that a research done by Consumer Plastic and Plastic Resource Ecosystem found that 4 in 10 Singaporeans stated that they found recycling to be inconvenient.


Of course, the government has taken some precautions and have put in efforts into battling the impending trash overload in Semakau island. These include influencing public information on recycling behaviour, financial compensation, and the ease, access and availability of recyclables collection points. In addition to these actions, public housing established in 2014 and forward have also been fitted with dual-chutes that allows its residents to recycle with ease. Though this may not include housing from 2013 or older, and generations-long behaviours and habits may die hard, it shows that we as consumers have the power to genuinely create an impact.


Uncle Sem’s is a ground-up initiative to increase Singaporean awareness on recycling, one of their ways is through the use of a web application that shows citizen the closest recycling bins to them. Their efforts currently focus on raising awareness, educating and reaching out through social media so that people will give the island more attention. In addition to this, they are also developing a web application by the name of “Plastic Go Where” that educates its audience on plastic waste management and provide them with ways they can contribute. Not only do they aim to educate people on how recycling can be convenient, they make it seem like it can be fun too.
With Uncle Sem’s lovable personality, visitors can engage in a virtual conversation with him as well as explore your options yourself in an interactive and gamified manner. Through this method, the knowledge received will hopefully raise more awareness on waste management issues, its solutions and raise empathy. That way, people can contribute in the betterment of the issue in ways that was perhaps inconvenient or inaccessible before and hopefully put a dent in the cycle of apathy.
So, follow them on Instagram and stay tuned for the launch of the web application.