This month, we’ve been exploring innovative ways to tackle the world’s waste problem. Did you know that every year, 2 billion tonnes of waste are produced globally? That’s enough to fill 800,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools! Astonishingly, a third of this waste is openly dumped in landfills or incinerated. By 2050, the amount of waste generated is expected to rise to 3.4 billion tonnes.

Now, since we know volcanoes aren’t the solution we were looking for, let’s explore what other countries are doing to minimize waste, starting with… Singapore.

Here are a few facts to kick things off. Singapore is a small yet densely populated country, with 8,000 people per square kilometre—that’s 200 times more than the population density of the US. As the population and economy have grown, so has the amount of waste. From 1970 to 2016, the volume of waste increased sevenfold.

Given its large population and critical need to conserve land, it’s no surprise that Singapore is thinking outside the box to reduce its vast amounts of waste.

Semakau landfill is an island located offshore among the southern islands of Singapore covering a total of 3.5 square kilometres. Previously a small fishing island, Semakau was adapted for sole landfill use in 1999 and a rock bund perimeter built to enclose the area. Despite its purpose, the design and operation of the site ensure it remains clean and odour-free, with the surrounding coral life and sea remaining untouched.

Singapore is home to purpose built facilities that convert waste into energy. Operating at around 1000 degrees, these facilities incinerate waste, reducing its volume by 90%. The resulting ash is then transported to Semakau Island in a covered barge.

With the landfill expected to last until 2045 and only 20 years left, it’s clear that more needs to be done to manage the current waste crisis. As space fills up quickly, the country is left with two options: repurposing the ash and encouraging the population to reduce their waste.

Recently, filtered-out metals and slag from waste have been used in construction and to create pathways across the country. Additionally, Singapore’s government has launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030, aiming to reduce the country’s waste by 30%.

By looking at Singapore’s innovative approaches, we can gain insights into how other countries might tackle their own waste problems. Stay tuned as we continue to explore global solutions to this pressing issue.