Forum: NEA committed to tackling food wastage problem at source

We refer to Vanessa Liu's commentary on food waste (How to make a nation of food lovers value food, Jan 5).

We agree with Ms Liu that businesses might not be managing their food waste because they may not be aware of its true cost. The National Environment Agency's (NEA) food waste minimisation guide books for food retailers, supermarkets and food manufacturers recommend that these businesses conduct waste audits as a first step.

This will help them better understand the amount of food waste generated and the associated costs. This food waste data will also be the most accurate, as any data that NEA can collect will invariably be aggregated with some assumptions and estimations made.

NEA constantly works at collecting more and better data to inform our policies and improve our plans and programmes. Supermarkets are ubiquitous and scattered in precincts all over Singapore, where other sources of food waste are common. Collecting accurate food waste data from supermarkets alone is not straightforward.

However, not having this data should not detract from other measures we can take to minimise food waste, not just for supermarkets but also commercial and industrial premises which also generate large amounts of food waste. Since 2014, NEA has mandated the reporting of waste generated in large premises such as malls and hotels, where a large amount of waste generated is food waste. Under the Resource Sustainability Act, new commercial and industrial establishments that generate large amounts of food waste will be required to include space for on-site food waste treatment facilities when they submit their building plans from this year, while existing establishments are required to segregate their food waste for treatment from 2024 onwards. With this new requirement, we will be able to collect more data on food waste generated and shape future policies if necessary.

Everyone has a role to play to reduce food waste. When food is thrown away, the resources used to grow and deliver the food to us are wasted. As consumers, it is important for us to treasure our food by ordering and buying only what we can finish and practising tips found in NEA's Food Waste Handy Guide.

Desmond Tan

Group Director (Resource and Sustainability Group)

National Environment Agency