From data to insights: Waste statistics

Environmental protection has always been a topic close to my heart as I'm a nature lover. In the recent years, I could feel the effects of climate change more and more; Singapore has already felt the effects of extreme weather, from recording the warmest year on record in 2017, to a cold spell where temperatures dropped to 21 degrees Celsius earlier in January 2017. [1] A mean temperature increase of 1.5°C to 2.5°C could affect the natural diversity of Singapore's plants and animals at risk, as this alters our ecosystem’s natural processes such as soil formation, nutrient storage and pollution absorption. [2] I decided to take a look at Singapore's recycling efforts and support the push towards zero waste/ recycle more waste less. Separately, I find analyzing a topic that one is passionate about is a good starting point - one would probably have more domain knowledge (which could be acquired from reading or even being part of the action) and can think about different questions or ways to approach the deep dive analysis.

With the data collected by the National Environment Agency, we can better understand the current situation and then come up with ideas on how we can improve it. (This is a typical starting point for any analytics project.) Looking at the numbers in the table below, it is not easy to spot trends, hence the importance of visualizing the data and then making sense of it. Also, with historical data published, there is also value in assessing if the situation has improved (or not) across the years. As they say, data is only useful when translated into information/ insights.

To be more relatable, I have also converted the total weight of the waste to its equivalent in terms of number of elephants (as inspired by this article).

Different types of waste grow at different rates. For example, food waste grew at almost 50% since 2003 while construction debris grew by 280%. Paper/Cardboard waste, on the other hand, remained rather constant since 2003. Those waste categories with consistent trend across years allow for forecasting, and of course, allow us to assess impact of efforts on waste reduction by comparing actuals with forecasts.

It is interesting to note that five categories (out of 14 categories) of waste make up almost 80% of total waste. This has been consistent throughout the fifteen years. Thus I have chosen to focus on the recycling efforts of these five types of waste. If we are able to fully recycle these five categories of waste, it would mean solving about 80% of the problem. As a start, more efforts could be put into recycling Paper/Cardboard, Plastic and Food.

Alternatively, the interactive dashboard can be viewed here. If you hover over the area chart, you can see photos of the different types of waste.

[1] https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/pm-lee-climate-change-threat-singapore-global-warming-10894190

[2] https://www.nccs.gov.sg/climate-change-and-singapore/national-circumstances/impact-of-climate-change-on-singapore