The Recyclable Cycle

5 min read by MNKC. Published in Essays, Stories.
This image (along with all the rest in this post) is made with Leica M4 with a Voigtlander 35mm F1.4 Nokton Classic on Kodak Color 200.

Singapore is known to be a clean, modern, and prosperous country. It is the financial and transportation hub of Asia, which has managed to grow into a densely-populated metropolis over the years.

Due to an extremely limited landmass there is no space for landfills and so waste management, especially recycling, is extremely important to the public health and the environment as a whole.

It does, however, come with its share of challenges and requires reduced and more considerate consumption habits by the public. The trash that we produce does not vanish: it takes a long journey that does not always end well.

That’s the case for all countries.


An all-purpose trash bin.

Garbage isn’t a natural phenomenon. Before we introduced man-made materials (such as plastic) all there was is animal and plant waste that simply degraded over a short course of time, turned into soil that plants consume.

Our technology has introduced products that (when discarded) could last thousands of years without change and eventually turn into harmful chemicals, rather than fertilizer. Landfills are a common storage solution, but who wants to live next to one and its harmful effects?

Before we even get this far, the way the garbage is collected and processed is a step that’s often forgotten but is crucial to determining where it ultimately ends up.

An all-purpose trash bin has no chance of properly dealing with the variety of garbage that we produce. Found around the city they are often overflown with a tangled mess of all sorts of waste.

Thankfully, there are a lot of people in Singapore who spend their time and effort to deal with the wide variety of rubbish.

Cardboard boxes being collected at night.

There are old folks who go around collecting cardboard boxes that can be sold off to recycling companies.

Old lady (in the shadows) takes rest amidst her cardboard collection trip.

Here’s an old lady taking a rest (in the shadows) amidst her collection of cardboard boxes. She accepts donations from passers-by to sustain her livelihood. In the morning, her boxes will be sold off.

Most of our rubbish disposal workers are foreigners, mainly from Bangladesh. They are responsible for keeping Singapore clean as it is known to be.

This young chap goes on his night rounds collecting trash from the smaller conventional bins.

The trash he collected still needs to be sorted and prepared for its further destination. It will either become a recyclable material or smoke from the incinerator facility. Messy, contaminated garbage (as it often is in all-purpose bins) is often more difficult or impossible to recycle.

As part of the movement for a better environment, workplaces are adopting environmentally-friendly practices, like promptly and properly recycling paper products.

Special bins for recyclables help the city deal with trash by keeping it separate from organic and wet garbage that can contaminate paper and plastic, making the job harder for the workers.

There’s plenty of trash in the city that needs a smarter way to be stored and managed. This compactor bin works by crushing the rubbish inside, and it’s powered by a solar battery. It uses clean energy and is portable enough not to require wires or having batteries swapped.

Once the bin is filled up beyond compaction, it sends a signal to a collection team that takes care of the rest.

Not everything can be recycled, however. And even the trash that can requires energy and chemicals to be processed.

An incinerator facility burns non-recyclable materials and produces energy as a result. That energy is routed to other processing plants. Unfortunately, this process is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change (or global warming).