Published 25 May 2017 ● Last Updated on 23 September 2021

I have been witness to a fair number of notions and misconceptions that people have about recycling in Singapore – mostly first-hand [perhaps because of my association with Secondsguru], sometimes from the grapevine too. When I realised that the there are way too many myths about recycling in Singapore, I decided that I would do my bit by clearing the air on some of them.

In the process I am hoping that perhaps I will be able to build a case for collective actionone to recycle and that too mindfully– …somewhere along the road! 

Myth #1
All waste is Trash

That is the biggest myth of all. Just because we have access to chutes in our homes in Singapore, we do not have to use them for all the waste we create. Remember- waste can be trashed or recycled- depends on the item and its condition. For example cardboard – generally it can be recycled, but not that cardboard box in which the pizza just arrived – it is contaminated so it needs to head to the trash bin! 

Myth #2
Recycling is an arduous process

It’s not! Just create a corner in your home (Use a tote bag or that cardboard box from the last grocery delivery ) where you will collect all the recyclables until you drop them off at the recycling bin. Not sure what goes in it? Refer the enclosed one pager for a list of common household waste items and whether they can or can’t be recycled. All you need to do is print this A4 size printable recycling guide and stick it on the refrigerator in your home. Talk to your family members and domestic helpers about our duty as responsible citizens to recycle. Then onwards, just lead by example. Happy recycling.

Secondsguru guide to recycling in Singapore
Dump it or recycle it? List of household waste and whether they can be recycled!

Myth #3 
Ok fine, I will recycle, but in Singapore all recyclables are eventually combined with trash anyway!

Absolutely not. Please do your part by sorting waste into trash and recyclables in two separate bins.  Send the trash down the chute, and the recyclables to the common recycling bins in your estate or home. The designated public waste collector will collect the recyclables from the blue common recycling bins in your home/estate. All the items picked from the recycling bins are then sorted manually by workers at materials recovery facilities and sent further to the designated recycling facility in Singapore or overseas. In short, your effort in sorting “waste” does not get wasted. See this video to witness sorting at a materials recovery facility in Singapore.

PWC map
The Public Waste Collectors in Singapore. Image credit: National Environment Agency of Singapore.]

Myth #4 
All non recyclable trash in Singapore goes to the Semakau landfill:

That is not entirely a myth as part of the statement is true! So yes the trash goes to the Semakau Landfill, but not before it is incinerated in one of the 4 Waste to energy plants (WTE) in Singapore. This incineration of trash before it ends up in the landfill, serves a dual purpose- the volume of the waste is reduced by 90% and much useful electric energy is generated. 2-3% of the country’s electricity needs are supported by the energy generated at the WTE plants.

Tuas South incineration waste to energy plant Singapore
The Tuas South incineration plant is the 4th largest WTE plant in Singapore. Image credit: National Environment Agency of Singapore.

Myth #5 
The Semakau landfill is a very stinky place

Nope, not true! On the contrary, there is a thriving marine eco-system, mangroves and habitats along the shoreline of the landfill. Interested to go have a look? Read our first-hand account here. NEA arranges tours for Singapore-based educational institutions, community groups and companies to visit its Incineration Plants and Semakau Landfill (suspended since Mar 2020 on account of Covid). Want to join Anuja and me when we go for a visit? Drop us an email on and we will keep you posted!

Some facts and statistics**

  • The country’s only landfill site in Pulau Semakau will reach capacity by 2035. Phase II of the landfill is ready to be used beyond 2035, but Singapore really needs to slow down the usage of these facilities i.e. we need to cut down the non recyclable waste we produce!  
  • As of 2016 ,the overall recycling rate in Singapore stood at 61 % -household recycling rate was at 21% while the industrial recycling rate stood well over 70%.  The households need to ramp up their recycling if the 70% national recycling rate target for 2030 is to be met.

Leaving you with these stark numbers and targets- to mull over.

Do let me know if you have any thoughts/ feedback !

waste management and recycling in singapore
A snapshot of the waste management and recycling in Singapore

** National environment Agency (NEA)




  • Oh wow, I’ve been looking for these info, about how SG really recycles as I too am fed up with all the myths surrounding it. Great job for researching and writing this. I’m going to share this widely and start de-mything everyone! Massive thanks for this blog again.

  • Thanks for putting together this information. And I would like to join, if possible, your next visit to the Semakau Landfill

    • Great Janice, that sounds wonderful. We will keep you posted on when we are planning a trip!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *