Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong asked the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth under the shoe recycling programme by Sport Singapore (a) why are donated shoes designated for recycling to create running tracks found by the press not to be recycled as planned; and (b) what is the Ministry doing to strengthen oversight to ensure proper implementation of such programmes.
The Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (Mr Edwin Tong Chun Fai): Mr Speaker, Sir, with your permission, my response will also address Parliamentary Questions for oral answer, besides Question No 5, 6 and 7 in today’s Order Paper, Written Question No 25 and 26 in today’s Order Paper and also Mr Yip Hon Weng’s1 Parliamentary Question for the Sitting of 21 March 2023.
Mr Speaker: Please do.
Mr Edwin Tong Chun Fai: I also understand that there is a request made for clarifications to be taken collectively, after the Minister of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) answers Question No 8 through to Question No 10 on today’s Parliamentary Order Paper.
Mr Speaker: We can do so.
Mr Edwin Tong Chun Fai: Mr Speaker, the shoe recycling project is a joint initiative set up in 2021 by Dow and Sport Singapore (SportSG). Other partners, such as BT Sports and Alba-WH, are also involved in the project and play various roles in the process chain.
Dow’s role is to manage the integration of the respective roles and promote the use of safe and sustainable materials. SportSG promotes the use of these materials to install sports infrastructure and sets up shoes collection points at its ActiveSG sports centres.
Alba-WH is the appointed collection partner responsible for collecting shoes and delivers them to BT Sports, which manages the facility to grind the recycled shoes into granules for use as building materials.
This facility is Singapore’s first grinding facility, which is able to grind recycled shoes into granules for use as building materials. It was set up by BT Sports with the assistance of a grant from Government. SportSG pays only for the recycled granules which it receives from this facility and uses it for installation at public sports facilities.
In January 2023, the project partners were alerted about Reuter’s observations that shoes put into recycling bins in Singapore and intended for the shoe recycling project were being diverted for resale. An investigation was immediately commenced by the project partners to look into these observations.
Alba-WH, as the party responsible for the collection of the shoe recycling bins, had engaged Yok Impex, another company, to do so for selected parts of Singapore. These bins were brought to and then sorted at Yok Impex’s premises, before being sent to Alba-WH’s warehouse for registering and weighing. They were subsequently delivered to the grinding facility.
The investigation found that the shoe recycling bins at Yok Impex’s premises were not properly segregated from other sorting activities, resulting in some shoes which were meant for recycling being exported to other countries for resale. Alba-WH has since terminated the services of Yok Impex.
The project partners have also taken steps to tighten the process chain. These steps include appointing only contractors and subcontractors that are not involved in any second-hand trading of textiles or shoes. Secondly, transporting all collected shoes to Alba-WH’s premises without any aggregation or sorting at an intermediary premises; and thirdly, conducting regular spot checks and inspections at contractors’ and subcontractors’ premises.
We will share these learning points across other recycling projects that the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) and other Government agencies undertake in partnership with like-minded stakeholders keen to work on initiatives that protect our planet.
To date, Sir, the project has otherwise been running well. Ten thousand kilogrammes of shoes have been processed and used in sport infrastructure, such as the running track at the Kallang Football Hub that has already been installed and an 888-metre jogging trail currently under construction in Jurong Town. The remaining recycled granules are planned for use at our Sport Centres, such as in Serangoon, Bukit Canberra and Punggol, as well as other jogging tracks, fitness centres and also playgrounds around Singapore.
Sir, I hope that this episode will not deter the public from supporting such initiatives as these are important and impactful in protecting our environment. This initiative has also led to more environmentally friendly materials being used in the construction of our public sports infrastructure. We assure the public that MCCY and the Public Service remains committed to the Singapore Green Plan 2030 efforts to support the national sustainability agenda.
Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth
20 March 2023