When you deposit a recyclable item into the rubbish bin or down the chute here in Singapore, did you know that it means the item will actually never be recycled? It will definitely end up in the incineration plant where everything is burnt. Metals are sometimes recovered but that is just about all. This is because everything collected in the green waste bin by the licensed public waste collectors have to be sent to the incineration plants.
On average, incineration removes more than 90% of the waste matter, leaving a residue which is buried in our offshore landfill at Pulau Semakau. Soon, when the Integrated Waste Management Facility in Singapore is built, there might be more post disposal sorting that takes place after our public waste collectors retrieve the waste. But before that, despite the possible economic incentive of picking out suitable waste materials or matters to be recycled before incinerating the rest, the market is unable to respond to them.
Incineration keeps going and expanding in Singapore as waste volumes increase because that had been a proven solution that is difficult to challenge even when contending technologies and approaches works. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Yet as our landfill approaches the point of its maximum capacity, we cannot keep kicking the can down the road.
When dealing with a global issue with local variations of a problem and the need to change culture the way we are trying to do with climate change, there are important lessons we can learn about curbing smoking, especially here in Singapore.
Before we go there however, I want to first envision a state of the world where carbon emissions become more like stigmatised like smoking. Carbon-emitting industries would be like the cousin or uncle we have who is our relative and we can’t quite shake off but still be puffing away, causing our clothes to smell and our lungs to be polluted. We would want them to smoke far from us but they will inevitably bring that odour and whiff of smoke, and also ash back to us.
As employers, we would have competent workers who are smokers – and while we know that they might be taking smoke breaks, we still need to keep them as they are largely productive. So they will continue to exist, but we can treat them a little badly to nudge them to reduce their carbon emissions. Currently, we’re definitely not doing enough.
Some ideas on how to treat the carbon-intense companies/industries like smokers:
Labels could be slapped on all of the products and service invoices of these companies – imagine going down the aisle of supermarkets and seeing these labels on the fresh beef packaging.
These industries could be made to situate together (maybe within a yellow box); and if they are not in that given zone, they cannot run processes that emits carbon dioxide above certain threshold.
Tax them based on escalating, progressive carbon tax rates; this is above
These companies are not allowed to emit carbon dioxide until they registered their business in the jurisdiction and operated for at least 21 years.
So consider if we are doing enough for climate change; compared to public health. Both concerns survival of a nation, of the entire mankind.
Insurance seemed like betting against your death or misfortune and some people don’t want to bet on your personal downfall so they don’t want to buy insurance. For years, the industry have been trying to change the story and they settled on the idea of protection, financial protection against those misfortune.
In principle, that works theoretically but the issue is that a lot of what you pay for is sales and distribution. The structure of the industry is such because insurance works well only when the risks are being pooled. That means having lots of people paying the premiums in order to support payouts during adverse events. As a business though, it means that the firm is ultimately a sales and marketing organisation. Costs will have to weigh disproportionately on the distribution side of the business.
This is a shame because the society needs insurance. Yet it is a market failure; the market system allocates resources poorly in this market. It can be better designed through a mix of regulation and making it mandatory to have certain amount of cover. The government should not think the market will help reduce cost of insurance through competition because the basis of competition in this market isn’t so much pricing. It is more sales, marketing and tactics.
But isn’t it just like many other products? For luxury products, yes. Basically for things people don’t actually need, you can allow the whims and fancies to be shaped by the market. But when it comes to insurance, you want the market to deliver an outcome so you need to design the boundaries and structure to make it work.
The story of insurance should be that of mandates, regulation, and basic necessity and right of people. We come together to live in highly urbanised environment and it should be a no brainer for us to risk-pool and mutually insure. There’s no excuse for this market to be hijacked to support high-flying salespeople.
You must be logged in to post a comment.