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Singapore to test use of processed waste as construction material

[SINGAPORE] First, there was NEWater but now Singapore has created NEWSand from repurposed municipal solid waste, and it may be used in construction here.

The Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) will soon begin a field trial to assess the real-life performance of possible NEWSand materials generated from incineration bottom ash (IBA), the thicker and heavier component of incinerated ash and that created from slag, the by-product of the gasification of solid waste.

Like NEWater, NEWSand is born out of Singapore's drive to overcome constraint, and to create a precious resource from waste, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Monday.

"NEWSand will help Singapore to close our waste loop, and extend the lifespan of Semakau (the landfill on Semakau Island)," added Mr Masagos, who said possible uses for NEWSand have been tested in the laboratory based on local environmental standards.

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"These standards are more comprehensive than those of other countries, given our unique circumstances as one of the few countries in the world to harvest urban stormwater on a large scale for consumption. Our scientists and engineers are being challenged to break new ground," said the minister at a lunch event to mark the conclusion of the Year Towards Zero Waste, which began in January this year.

NEWSand made from slag has already been used to construct a temporary 105m-long footpath at Our Tampines Hub and a 3D-printed concrete bench near Pan Pacific Hotel, which was unveiled at Monday's event.

The bench was a collaboration between the National Environment Agency (NEA) and local technology company Pan-United Corporation. A second 24m-long footpath will be constructed in front of the Environment Building in early 2020, NEA said.

Separately, a field test using NEWSand material generated from IBA will be conducted at a stretch of Tanah Merah Coast Road starting mid-2020.

Three companies - Inashco B V, REMEX Mineral Singapore and Zerowaste Asia - will be conducting the field trial.

These companies will be collecting and treating around 3,000 tonnes of IBA generated from the waste-to-energy plants in Singapore for use as a road base or sub-base material in road construction projects, said the NEA.

As two-thirds of Singapore is designated as water catchment areas, the agency said the environmental standards for NEWSand have to be sufficiently stringent to ensure that the material can be used in any location in Singapore without compromising the country's water resources and environment.

Mr Masagos encouraged more companies to create using repurposed municipal solid waste.

"We have the supply. We need your innovation. I encourage companies to work with us to create beauty from ashes, and make environmentally-sustainable and beautiful products with NEWSand," he said.

The introduction of NEWSand comes at a time when Singapore is trying to reduce the amount of waste sent to the Semakau Landfill.

Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor said in August that by 2030, the Republic wants to send about one-third less waste to the landfill in a bid to help it last longer than the projected 2035.

At the time, about 2,100 tonnes of waste was being sent to the landfill daily.

NEA's chief executive Tan Meng Dui said that the current use of NEWSand and the upcoming field trials are a culmination of efforts over the years to turn trash into resources and close Singapore's waste loop.

He added: "Through these efforts, we hope to extend the lifespan of Semakau landfill beyond 2035 and keep it running for as long as possible. The successful implementation and use of NEWSand marks a key step in Singapore's drive towards becoming a zero waste nation."

THE STRAITS TIMES