Food waste recycling machines on trial at Ang Mo Kio and Tiong Bahru hawker centres

The waste food treatment machine at the Ang Mo Kio Block 628 market bin centre.
The waste food treatment machine at the Ang Mo Kio Block 628 market bin centre.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
The waste food treatment machine at the Ang Mo Kio Block 628 market bin centre.
The waste food treatment machine at the Ang Mo Kio Block 628 market bin centre.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
A stallholder shows his two bins - one for food waste (left) and another for general waste.
A stallholder shows his two bins - one for food waste (left) and another for general waste.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
The digester of the waste food treatment machine at the Ang Mo Kio Block 628 market bin centre.
The digester of the waste food treatment machine at the Ang Mo Kio Block 628 market bin centre.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
The waste food treatment machine at the Ang Mo Kio Block 628 market bin centre.
The waste food treatment machine at the Ang Mo Kio Block 628 market bin centre.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Two hawker centres here have been fitted with food waste recycling machines that can cut the total waste generated there by up to 80 per cent.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) launched a two-year trial of the machines on Thursday (Jan 21), which will conclude in December next year.

The machines are placed at Tiong Bahru Market and Ang Mo Kio Block 628 Market, which have 342 and 218 stalls respectively.

Collectively, the centres generate of five tonnes of food waste each day.

The machine at Ang Mo Kio, managed by Eco-Wiz, can convert one tonne of food into water within 24 hours.

It works by mixing food waste with microbes, which digest and decompose the waste into water that is reused by the machine. The recycled water can also potentially be used for non-potable purposes such as to clean the bin centre, said Mr Michael Lee, senior sales manager at Eco-Wiz.

The machine at Tiong Bahru, managed by VRM Operations, grinds up food waste and mixes it with micro-organisms.

The resulting mixture is then stored in 1,000 litre capacity tanks. These tanks of food waste are transported to an off-site facility every three days where it is converted into fertiliser and used for agricultural purposes.

VRM Operations aims to convert one tonne of food waste per day.

The two companies had won a NEA tender worth about $257,000 to trial food waste recycling machines last year.

The NEA has taught hawkers and cleaners at the two centres how to segregate the food waste properly so it can be recycled.

Mr Chen Pak Seng, 66, owner of Original Tiong Bahru Golden Pig and Roasted, said the process was a bit troublesome but he is slowly getting used to it.

"In the past I just dumped everything away but now with this programme I can do my part for the environment," he said.

Food waste accounts for about 10 per cent of all waste in Singapore - only about 13 per cent of it is recycled.

In 2014, Singapore threw away 788,600 tonnes of food. The discarded food was a slight improvement over the 796,000 tonnes in 2013, but still a substantial increase from the 703,200 tonnes in 2012.

Over the past 10 years, food waste has increased by about 48 per cent and is expected to rise further with a larger population and greater wealth.

The food recycling machines are among a slew of initiatives by the NEA to curb the problem.

At the end of last year, the NEA launched a campaign to cut food waste that included the use of posters and educational videos that compare the cost of food wastage and what the money could be spent on otherwise.

That came after a survey which found that one in four people here admitted to buying more food than is needed.

The NEA is also working with the industry to develop good practice guides for food manufacturers, food retail establishments and supermarkets to reduce food waste.