Good first move but long way to zero-waste living

Shoppers using plastic bags at NTUC FairPrice Xtra at Vivocity on Sept 4, 2019.
Shoppers using plastic bags at NTUC FairPrice Xtra at Vivocity on Sept 4, 2019.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

FairPrice and McDonald's must be applauded for taking the initiative to reduce single-use plastic items (Plastic bag fee at some FairPrice outlets, Sept 5).

But there needs to be a far larger and more concerted effort if we are to seriously make inroads in our journey towards zero waste.

First, there should be less packaging for products. Neighbourhood provision shops, markets and specialised retailers like Unpackt already sell unpacked products like grains, meat and even detergent, allowing consumers to bring their own reusable containers.

The Government should incentivise other retailers to sell unpackaged consumables at more touchpoints in neighbourhoods.

Second, when packaging is unavoidable, then only recyclable packaging, like cardboard cartons, should be allowed.

Third, have communal composting bins conveniently located in every community to recycle food waste. These could support communal edible gardens, which could boost Singapore's food security.

Fourth, the rate of contamination is much higher for commingled recycling, so segregated recycling bins should be provided for every block instead of commingled bins.

To address the need to dispose of trash down rubbish chutes in a contained manner, only biodegradable trash bags should be used, and these should not be available for free. This would hopefully push more people to be more zealous in their recycling and composting, diverting such waste away from the landfill.

Finally, trash disposal should be charged on a per-use basis. Here, Singapore can tap technology.

Run a pilot test of smart communal chutes. To open the chute, one would have to scan one's NRIC or a QR code using one's phone at the chute. Each scan allows a registered household to dispose of one bag. Additional bags would require additional scans. The scans would than be charged on a monthly basis.

Banning or charging nominal amounts for single-use plastics is commendable. But there is still a long uphill climb ahead of us.

Adam Reutens-Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2019, with the headline 'Good first move but long way to zero-waste living'. Print Edition | Subscribe