Provide easy alternatives to single-use containers

It is heartening that awareness of the issue of plastic waste is present in the community, and we applaud individuals like Madam Chua Siew Hong ("Offer rebate to those who use their own containers") and Miss Lee Kay Yan ("Curb wasteful 'use and throw' mentality"; both published on Sept 1) for sharing their concerns.

The National University of Singapore Students Against Violation of the Earth (NUS Save) agrees that consumers will be more motivated to use their own containers if the dining environment encourages them to do so.

Earlier this year, we conducted a survey and focus group discussions, and found that although our peers think that reducing waste is important and are educated on these issues, the choices they make at foodcourts and canteens are largely contextual.

Sometimes, students are rushing in between classes or meetings, which creates an unavoidable need to take away food.

NUS Save has worked closely with our school administration to provide the school community with greener alternatives, such as providing discounts to those who use a lunch box or water bottle to take away their meals or drinks.

This year, we piloted a lunch-box rental system to offer NUS students an easily accessible alternative, should they need to take away their food. During the three-day pilot, the number of single-use takeaway boxes used was reduced by 47 per cent.

We are looking into expanding the initiative within NUS and hope that more food establishments in Singapore will work towards providing more takeaway options.

The many environment-related letters to the Forum page are evidence that Singaporeans are conscious about the impact they make on the environment.

It starts by understanding the problem and working with stakeholders towards a better living environment.

Consumers could try suggesting ideas to foodcourt managers, or taking a container with them when they order from a fast-food restaurant. Our consumer voice can make a surprising difference.

Sandra Chia Jia Min

President

National University of Singapore Students Against Violation of the Earth

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2016, with the headline 'Provide easy alternatives to single-use containers'. Print Edition | Subscribe