Singapore legislates for centralised rubbish-sucking systems

Singapore has taken steps to require entire residential districts to install vacuum waste disposal systems, which suck rubbish from chutes in homes through pipes to a central repository.

With waste generation increasing in the city state, its Parliament passed changes to the Environmental Public Health Act enabling the new requirement on 2 October, Straits Times reports.

Six months earlier, in April this year, individual new private residential developments with 500 or more units were required to install the systems, which Parliament calls Pneumatic Waste Conveyance Systems, or PWCSs.

More than 140 private residential and commercial developments in Singapore now use a PWCS, reports TodayOnline.

With whole districts now in Parliament’s sights, the new law will apply to a new district planned at Kampong Bugis, which will become the first district-level PWCS zone.

It has been done at district level before. According to TodayOnline, a district-wide system was retrofitted at 38 blocks in Yuhua estate in Jurong East in 2015.

The news site said the government "does not have plans" to impose the district-level system at existing developments.

"Let me also assure everyone, including residents of existing developments, that we will not declare a District Pneumatic Waste Conveyance System area lightly," Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, told parliamentarians during the October debate.

Kampong Bugis, a subzone within the planning area of Kallang, will be the first development in Singapore to become a DPWCS zone (Kent Norlenius/Envac)

"It will be carefully and judiciously considered; we will work with the planning agencies, taking into account not only site and technical considerations but also costs. We will only do it if it benefits the residents, and cost will be a key consideration," Dr Khor said, reports TodayOnline.

She added that waste generation in Singapore had grown from 5.6 million tonnes in 2007 to 7.7 million tonnes in 2017, a 40% increase over the decade.

Parliamentarians asked about suction noise and smells from choked pipes, issues reportedly arising from the Yuhua estate.
In response, Khor said developments had encountered only "minor operational issues", and necessary changes were made. Odour filters are now regularly replaced, for example, she said.

The October decision pleased Envac, a supplier of PCWSs.

In a statement, Jeffrey Seow, managing director at Envac Singapore, said: "This is hugely positive news, not just for PWCS as a whole, but also for those living in and around areas that have been designated DPWCS zones.

"As a result of reduced waste collection traffic, which is made possible by having a central district waste collection centre, entire local environments will become much cleaner and safer. From the perspective of the developer, they will now be able to use the space saved to build more residential units and generate additional revenue,without having to worry about designing in space for bin storage areas."

Top image: Diagram shows a layout of an Envac PWCS (Envac)

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