​Speech by NTU President for the launch of the Singapore-CEA Alliance for Research in Circular Economy (SCARCE)

Published on: 14-Mar-2019

Speech by

Professor Subra Suresh
President, Nanyang Technological University 

Official Launch of the Singapore-CEA Alliance for Research in Circular Economy (SCARCE)

Block N1.2, Level B2 
CBE Lecture Theatre
62 Nanyang Drive, Singapore 637459

Wednesday, 13 March 2019, 2:00PM

Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources,
His Excellency, Marc Abensour, French Ambassador to Singapore,
Dr Laurence Piketty, Deputy CEO of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA),
Mr Tan Meng Dui, CEO of the National Environment Agency,
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, 

Good afternoon, and a warm welcome to NTU. 

As the world continues to make rapid progress in technology, newer and better consumer electronics and devices are being developed, which replaces old and obsolete ones. These include the latest smartphones, computers, digital televisions, and even solar panels. Lithium ion batteries used in hybrid and electric vehicles have an average lifespan of about five to eight years and will need to be replaced to ensure maximum efficiency. This is an important issue because as technology progress, our discarded electronics or e-waste will continue to pile-up, and the numbers are staggering. They are both sides of the same coin.

A 2018 report released by the United Nations think tank showed that global e-waste had reached record levels of almost 50 million tons. In Singapore, a study by the National Environment Agency (NEA) indicated that our nation generates around 60,000 tonnes of e-waste a year – which is equivalent to 220 Airbus A380 airplanes. Singapore imported most of its resources and the need to re-use and recycle e-waste sustainably is important as the nation continues to strive meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

To support this, we must look towards the concept of the “Circular Economy” – which is a regenerative approach to maximise resources and minimise waste. I am delighted that the efforts by NEA are generating a wave of recycling habits for e-waste among Singaporeans. There are about 500 e-waste bins around the Island and here at NTU’s Smart Campus, there are four large ones for a start. 

NTU’s partnership with CEA and NEA

Last year, NTU partnered the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission or CEA for short, to develop innovative and energy-efficient solutions in the recycling and recovery of resources from e-waste. With support from the NEA, the NTU-CEA Joint Lab named the Singapore–CEA Alliance for Research in Circular Economy (or SCARCE for short), will explore sustainable processes to recycle e-waste while recovering valuable and rare earth metals which can be re-used. This is aligned with the objectives of the “Closing the Waste Loop R&D Initiative”, which encourages collaborations between institutes of higher learning and industry partners, to develop sustainable waste to resource solutions and keeping the recovered materials in the economic cycle. 

The joint lab will focus on four key research thrusts that aims to develop recycling technologies that can sort, dismantle, and recover materials to be re-used in an energy-efficient and eco-friendly way. 

The first three thrusts will look into recycling and extracting valuable materials and rare earth metals from lithium ion batteries, silicon-based solar panels and printed circuit boards. For example, the lab will develop eco-friendly methods to recycle lithium ion batteries, and extract up to 75 per cent of precious metals such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese, which can be re-used. One of the solution involves using “green chemistry” – a method that focuses on using eco-friendly chemical processes and products that minimises the use and generation of hazardous substances.

The fourth research thrust will explore the recycling and detoxification of plastics in e-waste and find new ways to turn them into innovative materials for various applications. Researchers will also work on scalable projects that can enhance industrial e-waste processes.

The joint lab’s industry-driven solutions will be trialled and test-bedded right here on the NTU Smart Campus, where other advanced technologies are being developed and tested with industry partners. We take great pride in nurturing partnerships with industry because it not only ensures our research remains industry relevant, but also practical and beneficial to society.

It also mirrors NTU’s research focus in sustainability and its drive in becoming one of the world’s most eco-friendly campuses in the world. For example, two years ago, the university had built the region’s first renewable energy offshore micro-grid that will test the integration of solar, wind, tidal-current, diesel, storage and power-to-gas technologies, and ensure these energy sources operate well together.

NTU also walks the green talk by designing our lush, green campus based on sustainability principles. Apart from sustainable features such as energy-saving LED lighting and solar powered systems, our buildings are inspired by nature as they are designed to take advantage of their natural surroundings. NTU has focused on maximising natural ventilation, natural lighting, natural construction materials such as engineered timber, and has implemented energy efficient technologies. Our existing buildings have also benefited from smart lighting solutions and new passive cooling air-conditioning technologies. 

As a result, the university holds holds the national record of 57 Green Mark-certified building projects comprising more than 230 buildings, of which 95 per cent are certified Green Mark Platinum – the highest award for sustainable building design in Singapore from the Building and Construction Authority. It is also the equivalent of LEED-certified buildings in the United States (U.S.). As a testament to NTU’s success, the university is also the first recipient of the Green Mark PlatinumSTAR Champion award – the highest accolade in Singapore for outstanding commitment to sustainable design.

Singapore’s forward-looking government is also a key enabler in promoting sustainable and eco-friendly initiatives. NEA had recently announced their ambitious 'Towards Zero Waste' programme to support ground-up initiatives that drive waste reduction and recycling in any of the three key waste streams. This include packaging waste, food waste and electrical and electronic waste. 

Similarly, NTU is also committed towards achieving a zero waste target and we are working on a number of ambitious projects with industry and government agencies to support this bold vision. This is just the tip of the iceberg and I am encouraged by the support that we have received to be part of the nation’s drive towards sustainability. Together with our partners CEA and NEA, I have no doubt that SCARCE will pave the way towards a greener tomorrow.

I would like to thank our partners NEA and CEA for collaborating with NTU and in making this event a great success. I would like to especially thank Professor Madhavi Srinivasan and Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, and more importantly, Professor Lam Khin Yong, NTU Vice President for Research, for their enormous dedication to help make this collaboration a possibility. I would also like to thank the NTU staff, faculty and students, for their hard work and strong support that led up to today's milestone event.

Thank you very much.

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