NUS students try out rented lunchboxes to reduce the use of plastics

SINGAPORE- Instead of using takeaway boxes, visitors to the Arts Canteen at the National University of Singapore could borrow reusable lunchboxes for free, with a $2 refundable deposit, in a trial held from March 15 to 17.

It was part of an annual flagship campaign by Students Against Violation of the Earth (Save), a NUS-based non-profit environmental group, to reduce food wastage and plastic.

Over the three days, up to 308 lunchboxes were distributed, bringing down the use of disposable takeaway boxes by an average of 50 per cent over the three days.

Science faculty student Lian Kay Yee, 22, said she found the lunchboxes useful. "I take away food all the time," she said. "Especially since I stay on campus and the dining hall doesn't provide lunch."

On Monday (March 21), the campaign was officially launched, with the setting up of a pop-up "cafe" called the Bento D'lite Cafe.

It is not a real cafe, but rather an activity station where students can learn how to make meal choices that minimise waste over two days.

Besides the "cafe", tea sessions to discuss environmental topics were also held with students from other schools during the two-day campaign.

Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor, guest of honour at the event, noted that waste here has increased by 50 per cent over the last decade, with Singapore producing 7.5 million tonnes of waste within the last year.

"I think it's really good that this is a ground-up effort. In order for this to work, we need people to change their mindsets," said Dr Khor. "Peer-to-peer influence is the most effective. If the students do it, their peers will see that they believe in it, and they can do it as well."

Meanwhile, in a separate trial being carried out at the Engineering Canteen, Technoedge, and not part of the campaign, students can buy smaller portions at lower prices if they think they are unable to finish the regular portions, hence reducing food wastage.

alexong@sph.com.sg