Singapore is turning trash into roads and footpaths

Singapore is turning trash into roads and footpaths

In a bid to prolong the life of its fast-filling landfill sites, Singapore will test the use of treated incineration bottom ash as base material for building roads.

It’s been 16 years since Singaporeans were given their first taste of NEWater, a reclaimed water made by PUB to boost the tiny nation’s water sustainability. And despite some skepticism at first, the Singapore-made water quickly won the world’s experts over with its consistent high quality.

Now, the island nation has come up with something else that’s “new” – converting waste into construction material used to build roads, footpaths and even benches.

Dubbed NEWSand, the material was born out of Singapore’s need to “overcome constraint, and to create a precious resource from waste”, Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, said on Monday (Nov 25).

Speaking at a Zero Waste event held at Pan Pacific Hotel, Masagos said that NEWSand will help Singapore to “close our waste loop”, and extend the lifespan of its landfill on Pulau Semakau.

At the current rate, Semakau – Singapore’s only existing landfill – is expected to run out of space by 2035, the Government had said previously.

Field trial in 2020 to test waste-made road

To date, Singapore has already developed provisional environmental standards for NEWSand that are “more comprehensive than those of other countries”, Masagos said.

“Our scientists and engineers are being challenged to break new ground,” he added.

A field trial to assess the real-life performance of possible NEWSand materials will start in the middle of 2020 along a section of Tanah Merah Coast Road, Masagos said.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has so far awarded the field trial tender to three companies – Zerowaste Asia, Inashco and REMEX.

In a statement, the authority said the field trial tender was for the use of treated incineration bottom ash (IBA), one of the possible forms of NEWSand, as a road base or sub-base material in road construction projects

The trial will be used to assess the in-situ environmental performance of the treated IBA and gather data for review of the provisional environmental standards for NEWSand, NEA said.

“As two-thirds of Singapore are designated as water catchment areas, 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 our water resources and the environment,” it said.

Footpath made from waste already exists in Tampines

But this will not be the first time NEWSand has been used in Singapore. According to the minister, NEWSand made from slag – a by-product left over in the gasification of solid waste – was previously used to construct a footpath at Our Tampines Hub.

The same material is also being used for a planned footpath in front of the Environment Building along Scotts Road, he said.

Urging companies to work with NEA to “create beauty from ashes”, Masagos said that Singapore will also look into using NEWSand in other ways. At the moment, a NEWSand bench has already been 3D-printed by Pan-United Corporation, a Singapore firm.

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