The march towards a Zero Waste Nation, envisioned by the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, would be impeded if Singaporeans cannot cut down the mountain of discarded food before them. One need only look in the mirror to see the source of that teeming mass. Each person contributes, directly and indirectly, 142kg of food waste yearly on average - an equivalent of almost two bowls of food per person each day. It all adds up to 785,500 tonnes a year, out of which only 13 per cent is recycled. In contrast, nearly all construction debris and scrap tyres are entirely recycled.
Unwanted food may be buried to keep it out of sight and mind, not to mention one's conscience. But organic waste disposed of this way decays and produces methane which does more to worsen climate change than carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, Singapore's only landfill, which could be filled up by 2035, will come under more pressure if recycling is not taken seriously. Last year, 7,673,500 tonnes of solid waste were dumped there, amounting to 1,395kg of waste per person.
Recycling takes on a moral dimension when excess food can be deployed to ease hunger and malnutrition. Gratifyingly, this is being addressed here by harnessing both new technology and good old volunteerism. Thoughtful Singaporeans have come up with a mobile app, 11th Hour, to help reduce waste by alerting customers about discounts from outlets clearing surplus food. More food businesses should support the scheme and channel what remains to the needy via Food Bank Singapore, Food from the Heart and Willing Hearts. Menu offerings ought to be tasty and healthy, of course. But between the lines should also run a wholesome spirit of recycling.