Return to recycle: Singapore beverage firms supportive of government plans for beverage container return scheme

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Beverage firms in Singapore have highlighted support for the local government’s proposed plans to implement a container return scheme in 2024. ©Getty Images
Beverage firms in Singapore have highlighted support for the local government’s proposed plans to implement a container return scheme in 2024. ©Getty Images

Related tags Singapore Beverage cans recycle

Beverage firms in Singapore have highlighted support for the local government’s proposed plans to implement a container return scheme in 2024, with supermarkets, convenience stores and residential common areas most likely to be the locations of collection.

The beverage container return scheme was first announced in government back in 2020, and discussion was more recently revived when the National Environment Agency (NEA) conducted a public consultation on the matter in late 2022.

Although the final results of the consultation are still pending release, Singapore Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor has highlighted the strong potential benefits such a scheme can bring to the local industry, saying that the incentive to make this scheme work in a cost-effective manner is strong because it would be owned and run by the industry.

“This will be a step forward in the way Singapore manages our packaging waste,”​ she said via a formal statement.

“It is proposed to be implemented by mid-2024 and will be the first phase of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) approach to manage packaging waste.”

According to the NEA, EPR frameworks are formulated to make producers responsible for the collection and end-of-life management of the products they put on the market.

Local beverage firms have received this scheme well, such as herbal drinks giant Yeo Hiap Seng (Yeo’s). Although the firm did not go into specifics about any suggestions to the NEA for the public consultation, CMO Ang Chong Lee told FoodNavigator-Asia ​the firm is prepared to work with the government to make this proposal a success.

“Yeo’s is very supportive of the initiative and is actively working with our industry peers and the National Environment Agency in formulating the scheme’s operation model,”​ Lee told us.

“[We] will do our best to contribute to the success of the beverage container return scheme in Singapore.

“We are [also] constantly reformulating to reduce the sugar content while maintaining the great taste in our products so that our consumers can enjoy the drinking experience while pursuing healthier lifestyles.”

Singapore-based Suntory Beverage & Food Asia Pacific (SBFAP) also opined that sustainability needs to be handled by the industry in a united manner, highlighting that doing this also has benefits in terms of consumer perception.

“We believe that sustainability is an urgent issue that the F&B industry needs to tackle collectively,”​ SBFAP Chief Supply Chain Officer Alan Smith told us.

“The F&B industry has a huge role to play in accelerating real and positive changes on the environment [and studies have shown that] consumer segments in APAC are actually on par with western markets like the US when it comes to concerns about environmental, social and governance issues.

“We are witnessing an upward trend in environmentally conscious consumers across emerging markets [with many] consumers willing to pay more for more sustainable products.”

Convenience paramount

NEA research has shown that such a scheme would have profound impacts on the recycling sector in Singapore, as its data revealed that just 59% of Singapore households recycle their used beverage containers currently and amongst those who don’t 40% cited habit-related reasons whilst 43% cited convenience-related reasons.

“Supermarkets, convenience stores, and common spaces in residential estates have been cited as the most preferred refund location across all the age segments,”​ said the agency.

“A deposit value of S$0.10 to S$0.20 has been deemed a reasonable range so this is not too high to deter consumer spend, yet not too low so there is no motivation to return these.

“We also found that younger respondents between 18 and 39 years of age prefer electronic payment methods, physical cash or direct bank transfers; whereas older respondents above 40 prefer physical cash, direct bank transfers or EZ-Link card (Singapore transport card).”

Consumers will be able to claim deposit refunds (to be included in the initial cost of the beverage) under this scheme upon returning their empty beverage containers to designated return points, potentially to reverse vending machines (RVMs).

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