A Singapore Perspective on Plastic Pollution

Growing concern over plastic delivers a new 'moment of truth' for brands: A Singapore perspective on plastic pollution - Ipsos Report

The author(s)

  • Tammy Ho Ipsos, Singapore
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Highlights

  • 55% of Singaporeans state that global warming/climate change is the top environmental issue of concern for the country
  • 4 in 5 Singaporeans agree that the excessive use of plastics is a problem with 47% claim that they usually separate their plastic waste for recycling
  • 38% of Singaporeans agree they would support policies to phase out single-use plastics or disposable non-biodegradable plastics in favour of those made with more biodegradable materials or reusable alternatives, if there were a small price increase

Singapore, 29th August 2019 - New analysis from Ipsos, drawn from results of latest studies in Singapore over the period of April to August 2019 reveals that 55% of Singaporeans deem that climate change is the top environmental issue that should receive the greatest attention from local leaders.

Elodie Causier, Head of specialist research unit Market Strategy and Understanding at Ipsos in Singapore and Per-Henrik Karlsson, Head of Ipsos Business Consulting in Singapore, presented the key findings and insights encompassing plastic waste in Singapore along with an exploration of the paths that businesses need to navigate through this global challenge of plastic reduction, at a special event today in Singapore.

Attitudes towards Climate Change

There is a general understanding among Singaporeans (97%) that climate change is at least partly influenced by human activity.

Singaporeans recognise that everyone has some responsibility in driving real change, but two-thirds of Singaporeans believe that governments and international organisations like the UN, ASEAN, EU etc, should be most responsible for taking action on climate change. This may be in part due to 50% of Singaporeans who feel that there are too many conflicting opinions for the public to be confident about claims made around climate change and 24% who say that the seriousness of climate change is exaggerated.

Attitudes towards Plastics and Recycling

Despite the lack of clarity on climate change, Singaporeans (78%) recognize that their behaviour has an impact on the environment, and they take a rather serious view specifically on the use of plastics. Singaporeans agree that the excessive use of plastics is a problem (79%), and nearly 1 in 2 Singaporeans say that they usually separate their plastic waste to be sent for recycling. 

The reasons for the practice of recycling not being more wide-spread are varied. 47% agree that engaging in environmentally-friendly practices is inconvenient and only 26% are confident in interpreting the recycling symbols on packaging.

According to a survey conducted by PACT of WWF in November 2018, 70% of Singaporeans say that they would recycle more if it was more convenient and easier to recycle. 60% would recycle more if there is a cash incentive to recycling. 43% would if the recyclable information is clearly printed on packaging products. 33% would recycle more if it was legislated by the government.

Based on Ipsos analysis, given the current infrastructure and conditions in Singapore, the number of recycling sessions every week can be increased by up to 20% if there is a change in mindset among individuals – that they believe that their personal behaviour can impact overall environmental outcomes.

Policies and Regulations

In the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint published in 2015, the National Environment Agency describes initiatives like the Singapore Packing Agreement, an integrated waste management facility and other plans to move the country to a Zero-Waste Nation.

Organisations like PACT (Plastic Action), a voluntary business initiative of the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) has also made significant strides on a sectoral level as well as individual company level. For example, in June 2019, PACT together with Zero Waste SG have signed 270 food and beverage (F&B) outlets in Singapore to phase out plastic straws by 1 July 2019.

So far, such Government-led and NPO-led initiatives have been largely focussed on helping businesses make changes. Similar initiatives to drive behavioural change among consumers is still relatively in its early days in Singapore. Local and community-led initiatives tend to lack scale and durability too.

When asked if there were policies in place to phase out single-use plastics or disposable non-biodegradable plastics such as plastic bags, straws, food containers, plastic bottles, etc., in favour of those made with more biodegradable materials or reusable alternatives, 38% of Singaporeans agree they would support it if there were a small price increase, and 64% would support it if there were no price increase. The remaining 9% would not support such policies.

Businesses

There is also an expectation from Singaporeans on businesses that produce packaged goods and businesses that sell packaged goods to take responsibility in reducing the amount of unnecessary packaging which is sold.

Brand owners’ initiatives to help reduce plastic waste and promote a sustainable environment include replacing all plastic packaging with recycled plastic products, replacing single-use plastic containers and straws with eco-friendly products and launching promotions to encourage non-plastic use.

Retailers are also moving towards using eco-friendly packaging such as banana leaves and bio-plastic bags and eco-friendly stores including refilling stations using consumers’ own non-plastic packaging for soaps and shampoo that have become increasingly popular.

The recycling industry in Singapore however face several demand and supply challenges where there is lack of local demand, a low supply of recycled materials and where limited industry growth is expected.

In Singapore, consistent with markets all over the world, consumer sentiment is shaping new expectations and new behaviours around sustainable packaging which creates a new commercial imperative that will drive future profitability of brands.

Elodie Causier, Director at Ipsos in Singapore said, “Plastic waste and packaging sustainability are critical global environmental and commercial issues. Conditions are ripe for innovation in alternative packaging, community action and innovative ways to recycle and reuse plastic waste. We are now entering a third ‘moment of truth’ where brand owners have the opportunity to leverage packaging sustainability as an additional and new, distinctive brand asset.”

Per-Henrik Karlsson, Head of Ipsos Business Consulting in Singapore adds, “The Ipsos analysis looks at the role of the value chain and related stakeholder initiatives along with consumer sentiment and innovations around packaging.  Companies today are challenged to optimize their business models in a landscape where the game is changing both in technological progress and social consciousness.”

 


Note to Editors

  • Analysis provided in this article was conducted by global market research agency, Ipsos.
  • Unless otherwise stated, data cited on Singaporean attitudes and behaviour towards plastics and recycling was derived from multiple studies conducted in Singapore over the period of February to August 2019.
  • Surveys were conducted online among nationally representative samples of Singaporeans and Singapore PRs, totalling 2,449 respondents.

Other sources:

https://www.nea.gov.sg/programmes-grants/schemes/singapore-packaging-agreement

https://www.eco-business.com/news/ready-to-report-how-singapore-firms-are-preparing-for-new-packaging-mandate/

https://www.wwf.sg/business/pact/

The author(s)

  • Tammy Ho Ipsos, Singapore

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