Speech by SMS Chee Hong Tat at the Singapore Plastic Industry Association (SPIA) 30th Anniversary Gala Dinner

Speech by SMS Chee Hong Tat at the Singapore Plastic Industry Association (SPIA) 30th Anniversary Gala Dinner

Mr Ronald Lim, President of Singapore Plastic Industry Association,

Distinguished guests, 

Ladies and gentlemen,


1. Good evening.

2. I am happy to be here today to celebrate your 30th anniversary with you. 

3. On this special day, I would like to commend the Singapore Plastic Industry Association for helping your members explore areas of opportunities and leading the transformation efforts in the industry. The plastics industry has grown from strength to strength since SPIA started 30 years ago, from an annual turnover of S$6 billion in 1989 to S$13 billion today.  


4. The plastics industry has grown alongside Singapore’s economy. Today, it is a much more high-tech and capital-intensive industry than before. Because of its versatile nature - supple, water resilient and malleable - plastics are used in a multitude of products across industries. The electronics and biomedical sciences industries, just to name a few, rely on high-performance plastic materials for both research and industrial use.

5. The emergence of plastic additive manufacturing is set to transform how products are manufactured across sectors.  Businesses will be able to reduce production costs through prototyping and compressing the product development cycle to accelerate time to market, without compromising quality or performance.  With higher productivity, better quality outputs and lower costs, our industries will remain competitive with even more innovative product offerings and services.  

6. For end users, a look at the use of plastics in medical applications will show how it has benefitted us tremendously. For instance, surgeons are using 3D printed plastic models of hearts, skulls and limbs for training and to better prepare themselves for complex surgeries. For example, doctors at KK Hospital’s Cardiac Centre would develop an enlarged 3D model of their infant patients’ tiny hearts to get a clearer view of what to expect before performing the surgery.  

7. At the Jurong Bird Park, one of our hornbills that had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer was given a 3D printed prosthesis fitted on its damaged casque, which is a helmet-like structure on top of its beak. The prosthesis protected the surgical wound from being exposed and gave the hornbill’s casque time to regrow.

8. Just last month, the National University of Singapore Centre for Additive Manufacturing signed an MOU with TUV SUD to promote research and development in 3D-printed biomedical implants.  We expect to see more applications of plastics additive manufacturing in the medical field that will save lives and improve patient well-being.


9. As the plastics industry continues to grow, it is important that our companies, particularly our SMEs, press on with innovation and raise productivity to compete and capture new opportunities. I am glad that this evening, we are recognising some of the most successful and innovative businesses in the plastics sector with the Outstanding Achievement Award. 

10. Chuan Durn Plastics Industries, one of the nominees for the Award, is one of Singapore’s oldest plastics recycling company. Tradition has not stopped the company from innovating. By recycling post-industrial waste with a combination of wood and agricultural waste, the company has developed an innovative new product called Eco-wood, which is sturdy and water resistant. The new product can be used to construct outdoor furniture, flooring and even to build stilt houses.  

11. Another nominee is Singa Plastics. The company started in 1966 making plastic pails and – I am sure many of you will recognise - the red plastic stools that are commonly found in coffeeshops. Today, it has diversified into tooling, mould making and assembly, catering to businesses in the precision engineering, hospitality and automobile sectors.  The company also invested in a research and development team that helps develop new products across industries. From its humble beginnings, Singa Plastics today exports to some 20 countries and has strong presence in Europe and Korea.  As Singa Plastics demonstrates, growth is achieved when the company is open to adopt new technologies and diversify its products and services to meet customer requirements.

12. Besides innovation, I am heartened to know that companies have also adopted automation to increase productivity and address challenges in a tight labour market. MS Venture and Yeakin Plastics Industry, both injection moulding companies, have deployed robots on their production floor. These robots enable them to run production at a high capacity, including at night. It has also reduced human error and significantly lowered the quality rejection rate of manufactured moulds.

13. For companies that wish to partake in this journey but are unsure how to get going, a useful resource to approach are the business advisors at the SME Centres. The advisors can help diagnose your business needs and recommend ways to transform your businesses. But our companies need to take the first step to embark on the transformation journey. If you are willing to take this step to upgrade your business, we will do our best to help you and walk the journey together with you.


14. As some of you may be aware, Singapore has designated 2019 as the Year Towards Zero Waste. I want to be clear that a Zero Waste Nation does not mean the end of the plastics industry. 

15. Plastics have and will continue to play an important role in economic development and our society. In a Straits Times article last Sunday, Professor Alexander Van Herk, a senior scientist from A*Star’s Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences, said: “Plastics have so many good uses that banning them altogether might be bad for the environment.” For instance, he noted that ceramic or metal alternatives to plastic packaging are heavier and therefore require more energy to transport. 

16. Similarly, as the CEO of Coca Cola James Quincey pointed out, bottles made from PET emit less carbon dioxide than alternatives like glass bottles and aluminium cans. Earlier in my speech, I have also described how plastics are used in the healthcare sector to save lives and improve patient well-being.

17. We must be pragmatic and our decisions should be based on scientific evidence, and not ideas that are designed to create dramatic impact and generate sensational headlines.  Companies should look for practical ways to minimise waste, to recover resources where possible and channel them back into production.  We want to protect the environment, but we need to do so in a scientifically sound and commercially sustainable manner.  

18. The economic agencies, such as the Economic Development Board (EDB), are working closely with the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, as well as the National Environment Agency (NEA) to drive industry collaboration and understand the demand and supply of recycled plastic resources. By shifting our mindset to look at waste as a form of resource, we can create new opportunities and enable Singapore to transit to a circular economy.  

19. For example, Carbios, a French startup, is developing a process that uses enzymes to break down, purify, and reuse PET plastic waste. The company announced earlier this year that it had successfully used enzymatic recycling to make PET bottles from 100% Purified Terephthalic Acid, an organic compound – a world-first. Major companies, such as Nestlé Water, PepsiCo and L’Oréal, are supporting the startup with funding and expertise so as to bring the solution to market more quickly.

20. I believe Singapore can, likewise, seize these new opportunities and I would like to encourage our Singapore plastic companies to continue your collaborations with Centres of Innovations and Institutes of Higher Learning to come up with innovative solutions that can produce and dispose plastics effectively, responsibly and sustainably.

21. EDB, Food Industry Asia and A*STAR (IMRE), along with Nestle as the lead industry member, have convened a R&D consortium to collectively invest in developing new sustainable plastic packaging. Among the approaches is to study mono-layer packaging as one of the solutions to address the current reliance on single-use plastics. 

22. The Alliance to End Plastic Waste, a coalition of 30 global companies from the plastics and consumer goods value chain, has launched a US$1.5billion fund to improve waste collection and recycling in developing countries. The Alliance will develop and scale solutions that minimise and manage plastic waste and promote solutions for used plastics. Some of their members include Clariant and ExxonMobil, who are also members of SPIA. NEA is also looking at building up local plastic recycling capabilities, and is currently exploring options for the sustainable recycling of used plastics and assessing their suitability for adoption in Singapore.


23. My warmest congratulations once again to the Singapore Plastic Industry Association for your 30th anniversary and to the Pioneer Award and Outstanding Achievement Award winners.  I also applaud the association’s donation to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.   It is indeed a meaningful gesture to give back to society and provide for our future generations. 

24. Thank you and I wish everyone a pleasant evening. 

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