Go high-tech and trash the stinky chute woes

Foul-smelling rubbish chutes will soon be a whiff of the past at Jurong's Yuhua estate, as blocks there get retrofitted with high-tech waste-collection infrastructure.

Since early last month, six blocks in Yuhua have been using the pneumatic waste-conveyance system. It uses vacuum-type underground pipes to automatically gather household garbage, doing away with the usual manual collection, and the accompanying pests and smell.

Residents throw waste down the chute as normal but underground, it is sucked away to a central bin centre.

A total of 38 blocks in the estate, or about 3,200 households, will have it by the third quarter of this year, as part of the Housing Board's Greenprint programme.

If deemed feasible, the same system will be rolled out in other housing estates.

As waste collectors need to retrieve garbage from only one point and less frequently, it is estimated to reduce manpower needs by 70 per cent, said HDB's deputy director of technology research Tan Chek Sim.

He added that this method gives residents a cleaner and greener environment: "The entire time, rubbish is not exposed. There is no spillage so there is less smell."

Residents in blocks which have piloted the system agreed. "We don't have to worry so much about pests like cockroaches now," said housewife Helen Leong, 45.

Retiree Kwek Han Tiang, 67, said: "It's great that we have new technology like this. Singapore is a First World country, after all."

HDB cautioned that bulky items such as pillows might choke the pipes, which are 50cm in diameter and run about 4.6km. But if this happens, the suction power will be automatically increased to unclog the blockage, said Mr Tan. There are also manholes which allow for manual access to the pipes, if needed.

While some HDB blocks in Kim Keat, Choa Chu Kang and Clementi were also test beds for the system, the one in Yuhua is the largest in Singapore. Upcoming projects in Tampines North, Bidadari and Punggol Northshore will also feature the system.

The Greenprint scheme for Yuhua, which started in 2012 and will end this year, aims to transform the estate into Singapore's first green neighbourhood. It is estimated to cost $23 million.

Other green initiatives include rooftop solar panels.

The pneumatic waste-collection system is expected to account for more than half the cost, given its large scale and extensive network of underground pipes, said HDB.


This article was first published on June 2, 2015.
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