With just over a decade to go until the site is projected to be filled, the government is in a race against time to extend the lifespan of the island landfill, so serene it has earned the moniker "Garbage of Eden"
With just over a decade to go until the site is projected to be filled, the government is in a race against time to extend the lifespan of the island landfill, so serene it has earned the moniker "Garbage of Eden".
"This is the only landfill in Singapore, and due to the small area and the competing land needs, it is difficult to find another location," Desmond Lee, the landfill manager at the National Environment Agency (NEA), which oversees the island, tells AFP.
"It is imperative that we continue to use the Semakau landfill for as long as possible, and if possible extend its life beyond 2035," he says.
Singapore generated 7.4 million tonnes of waste last year, of which about 4.2 million tonnes, or 57 percent, was recycled.
Plastics remain a sticking point for the island’s waste drive, with just 6 percent recycled last year. Food waste, of which 18 percent was recycled, also poses a problem.
Environmental group Greenpeace criticised the city-state for producing a "massive" amount of waste for its size.
In 2019, the government launched a "zero-waste" campaign seeking to boost the amount of recycled waste to 70 percent and slash the amount of trash dumped at Semakau by 30 percent before the end of the decade.
Roughly the size of New York City, Singapore has carefully managed its rapid growth in recent decades to avoid the problems faced by other fast-developing Asian metropolises, such as overcrowding and undisposed garbage.
The government built the offshore landfill after an inland waste depot began running out of space in the early 1990s.
Engineers merged Semakau—whose residents had earlier been resettled to the mainland—with the nearby island of Pulau Sakeng.
A seven-kilometre (four-mile) perimeter bund was constructed to enclose part of the open sea between the two islands and create space for the landfill, which began operating in 1999.