Singapore told to clean its plates

As one of the most crowded countries on the planet, Singapore is often forced to examine its sustainability. Source: Wikimedia

Singapore’s Minister for Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli has told the city-state to rethink its attitude to waste.

In 2014, the crowded island generated around 790,000 tonnes of food waste, which is equal to two bowls of food per person per day. The authorities say only 13 per cent of that was recycled.

Its food waste has increased by about 48 per cent with projections suggesting the rate will increase along with the Singapore’s population and income.

There is only one landfill site left, Semakau Landfill, and it is expected to be filled soon.

Masagos said: “Unfortunately, we do have old cultures that we need to modify to achieve this. As an example, [at] banquets where we produce so much food, and so much variety in the menu, I think, it is quite onerous to finish everything, and indeed, the intent is to ensure that you don’t finish everything, to show there’s a lot of food provided on the table.

“So these things need to change, without totally changing the way we live as a community in Singapore,” Masagos told “a Cleaner, Greener and Smarter Home” effort.

He suggested people began making compost from their food and getting supermarkets to educate customers about food management.

Other green initiatives are being suggested. Stop issuing plastic bags at supermarkets, get residents to clean the corridors outside their apartments and introduce a “no-cleaners week” each month so people get their hands dirty.

Masagos chaired the discussions at the forum.

He said all residents must be involved in keeping the city-state clean and only when it became a social norm could Singapore progress from being a cleaned city to one that was genuinely clean.

“This involvement must come from the heart, from belief; it must come from culture,” said Masagos, adding that this could involve residents cleaning their corridors instead of waiting for cleaners.

Civil servant Chris Koh, 43, said children in schools learned to return food trays but they forget these habits in the workplace. “In order to change mindsets, perhaps we need more education for adults,” said Koh.

Resident Low Kok Peng, said Singaporeans kept homes clean but started littering when they went outside.

“We should get neighbours to tell each other not to litter and clean up,” said the 58-year-old, who wanted Singaporeans to get their hands dirty and not wait for cleaners.

Public Hygiene Council chairman Edward D’Silva said problems such as blocked drains and pest infestations were caused by littering.

“It is the cause of a lot of the downstream problems that we have,” he said.

Eugene Tay, founder of Zero Waste SG, is looking at developing an app that can pair companies with leftover food with people in need or charities.

“The other thing we’re looking at is best practices and case studies from companies – companies who are doing their part to reduce food waste, we try to document these kind of best practices and make it available to their peers in the industry,” he said.