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A Zero Waste Nation

Madison Woodward

Known as “City in a Garden,” the island city-state of Singapore is one of the greenest cities not only in Southeast Asia, but the entire planet. With its biophilic designs, green infrastructure and spaces, and use of renewable sources, Singapore is a leader in sustainable development, as well as a global center for multinational corporations (MNCs). What is phenomenal about this achievement is due to Singapore’s 100% rate of urbanization—many cities across the globe are struggling to improve their sustainability practices because of suburban sprawl, management failures, industrial pollution, and waste management. Singapore has the second greatest population density in the world because of its 5.6 million inhabitants living in an area as half as small as Rhode Island. Yet, Singapore has conquered these challenges and continues to move towards a greener future.

However, there are still issues at hand. The Semakau landfill is Singapore’s only landfill, and when measuring the nation’s current waste growth, it will run out of space by 2035. As a result of this, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) announced a Zero Waste Master Plan to become a zero-waste nation. They proposed a field trial to implement a new innovation known as NEWSand in efforts to minimize Singapore’s waste loop, which also limits the abundant amount of trash being deposited in the Semakau landfill. NEWSand contains materials created from waste; it is basically another form of recycling. If these trials are successful, the nation hopes to send less than one-third of the typical amount of waste to the landfill by 2030.

NEWSand is a material constructed from incineration bottom ash (IBA) and slag. IBA is produced by incineration—the process of burning waste at extremely high temperatures in order to remove the pollutants and contaminants. The bottom ash is collected at the bottom of the combustion chamber. The company Zerowaste (ZA) has already designed multiple waste treatment technologies to remove pollutants in IBA, such as heavy metals. There are four key elements in developing IBA: size separation, metal recovery, washing and immobilization of pollutants, and then treatment of the washing water. Once treated and made into NEWSand, it can then be used as a material for road construction, land reclamation, non-structural concrete, and bricks. NEWSand in Singapore has already been used for a handful of projects—a 100-meter footpath outside Our Tampines Hub and a 3D printed bench.

NEWSand requires new jobs in the mechanical and chemical engineering fields. These innovations have opened doors for economic growth, and have also allowed Singapore to earn its reputation as a sustainable city. Only time will tell if these trials are successful. Regardless, Singapore is taking great steps instead of standing still—they can be seen as an example for the rest of the world


  1. Channel News Asia. From waste to construction material: NEWSand to be trialed in roadbuilding. 25 November 2019. Youtube, Mediacorp,

  2. Emmet. Dumpsite under Clear Sky. 16 July 2016. Pexels,

  3. Igini, Martina. “How Sustainable Cities like Singapore Succeed in Green Urban Development.” Earth.Org, 24 October 2022,

  4. Priya, Shamini. “NEWSand – Singapore's New Construction Material.” OpenGov Asia, 29 November 2019,

  5. Thiagarajan, Sumita. “S'pore turning incinerated ash to NEWSand to construct 3 sections along Tanah Merah Coast Road.” Mothership.SG, 4 March 2020,

  6. Zerowaste Asia Pte Ltd. “Zerowaste.” ZA | The Expert in Waste, 2013-2023,


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