“Ah Boy! Don’t Waste Food!”
Wasting food is generally frowned upon in our culture. How many of us have grown up being chided by our parents for not finishing every grain of rice on our plate? So, you may be surprised to know that in 2019, Singapore generated around 744 million kg of food waste, equivalent to 2 bowls of rice per person per day! In fact, food waste makes up about half of the waste disposed of by each household in Singapore daily, and this has increased by around 20% over the past decade.
Food waste is generated at various stages. Food may be discarded by importers and retailers due to excessive stocks or cosmetic imperfections, which reduce their likelihood of being sold. Food waste is also generated by restaurants and households due to over-ordering or over-purchasing, and from “unavoidable” food waste such as bones, and fruit and vegetable peels.
When food is wasted, we need to source for more food than necessary to meet demand. This affects our food security since Singapore imports over 90% of our food supply. It also wastes resources such as the water and energy used to produce and transport the food, and generates carbon emissions upon incineration (the high water content in food waste means more energy is expended to incinerate it than dry waste), thus contributing to climate change.
Thankfully, there are significant efforts across government, businesses and individuals to combat this problem.
Initiatives by the Government to Combat Food Waste
A key regulation that addresses food waste is the Resource Sustainability Act (RSA), which also covers other waste streams such as e-waste and packaging waste including plastics. Under the RSA, from 2024 onwards, it will be mandatory for owners and operators of commercial and industrial premises, where large amounts of food waste are generated, to segregate their food waste for treatment. This means diverting food waste out of our waste streams and converting them into valuable resources such as animal feed, compost, non-potable water and biogas for energy generation instead!
NEA also launched the Food Resource Valorisation Awards (FVA) in January 2021, which aims to raise awareness and recognise the efforts of companies engaging in the conversion of food waste into higher-value products that contribute to a sustainable economy. Award recipients include Insectta, Singapore’s first black soldier fly farm where food waste is converted into useful products such as pharmaceuticals and organic fertiliser, and Crust Brewery where unwanted bread and fruit peels are upcycled to brew beer.
To raise public awareness on food waste, NEA has developed various outreach materials, such as this handy Love Your Food online guide with easy, useful tips on reducing food wastage at home and when dining out. Check out the guide for tips on meal planning and food storage, as well as innovative tasty recipes using leftover food. For schools and students, the Love Your Food @ Schools resource kit contains a wealth of resources on incorporating food waste reduction into the curriculum. More resources for other stakeholders can be found here.
Efforts by companies
Beyond the FVA winners mentioned above, many local companies have been making significant efforts to tackle food waste. One example is UglyFood, which works with food importers and retailers to salvage excess food and “ugly produce” — perfectly edible fruits and vegetables that would otherwise be thrown away due to cosmetic imperfections. These are sold at discounted prices via their online and physical stores, allowing their customers to score a good deal while doing good for the environment.
Users of the Treatsure app can order a takeaway box containing buffet food from hotels such as Grand Hyatt and Furama, helping to reduce food wastage from buffet leftovers.
Grand Hyatt has also installed a food waste digester on site which allows them to recycle up to 500kg of food waste every 24 hours from their kitchens and restaurants, converting them to pathogen-free organic fertilisers which are then used for the hotel’s landscaping purposes! This has not only reduced Grand Hyatt’s waste and carbon footprint, but has helped them to save $100,000 each year on food waste haulage fees, operational and manpower expenses. Talk about trash to treasure indeed.
Food Rescue Volunteer Groups
Several ground-up, citizen-led initiatives have popped up as well. SG Food Rescue brings together a group of volunteers passionate about reducing food waste in Singapore. They conduct food rescue missions, collecting unwanted or excess produce from retailers, and redistribute them around the island to anyone keen on free, fresh produce.
Food Rescue @ Events operates on a similar concept to SG Food Rescue, salvaging excess food from bakeries, grocers and eateries. They also rescue foods from events, such as conferences and wedding receptions where too much food was ordered; you may join their Telegram group to keep updated on their rescue missions.
You too can play your part in reducing food waste — here are some simple tips:
- Buy/order only what you need. When dining out, ask for smaller portions if you cannot finish the food. Make a shopping list before grocery shopping.
- Repurpose leftovers instead of throwing them away.
- Keep track of expiry dates, if you foresee not using them, donate them (preferably before 3 months of expiry) to organisations such as Food Bank, Food From The Heart, Willing Hearts and Fei Yue Community Services.
- Show ugly produce some love!
Under the Singapore Green Plan 2030, we aim to reduce the waste sent to our landfill by 20% by 2026. Let’s all work together to make this vision a reality!
#SGGreenPlan #TowardsZeroWaste #SaveSemakau