From Sea to Landfill to Eco Park, a Trash to Treasure Endeavor


What to do with waste when there is no land on which to dump it?

Such was Singapore’s dilemma back in the 90s when the existing landfill ran out of room. But as a small island on the tip of the Malay peninsula, Singapore was land poor.

So the nation came up with a novel idea to solve its problem.

The country designated the sea space between two adjacent island as a new landfill site called Semakau and beginning in 1999 proceeded to fill it with primarily incinerated ash. Receiving 1400 tonnes of incineration ash and 600 tonnes of other waste daily, this landfill is expected to be in use for at least the next 30 years.

But rather than looking like an unsightly dumping ground, the Semakau landfill is being transformed into an eco-park.

With the two original islands now joined together and the perimeter secured by an impermeable membrane, marine clay, and rock layers, the surrounding marine ecosystem has been protected. Mangroves and coral reefs now ring the island and since 2005, Semakau has been open the public for nature-related recreational activities that include bird watching, sports fishing and stargazing.

The National Environment Agency takes school children on organized field trips and educates them on how to minimize waste. And the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research offers a three hour intertidal walk that lets visitors discover seagrass meadows, coral reefs and various flora and fauna that’s no longer even seen on the mainland.

From sea to landfill to eco park, Semakau is a remarkable, if unconventional, trash to treasure endeavor.

Image: bernhan