Applications open for $50 million SG Eco Fund to encourage ground-up efforts in sustainability

Minister of Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu speaking at MSE's year-end event on Nov 25, 2020. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

SINGAPORE - Individuals, groups, and businesses with sustainability ideas such as reducing waste, and coming up with ways to mitigate climate change, can now apply for funding for their projects.

The first grant call for the SG Eco Fund was announced by the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) on Wednesday (Nov 25), and applications will close on Jan 31 next year.

The $50 million fund was initially announced by MSE during the Committee of Supply Debate in March. It will support ground-up projects led by the community which aim to build a more sustainable future.

Applicants will be expected to co-fund their projects, and they may receive funding of up to 80 per cent, subject to a cap of $1 million.

Speaking at the MSE year-end appreciation event on Wednesday, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu said: "The Fund will cover projects in a broad range of areas, from farming and food production to climate change mitigation and resilience, resource efficiency and recycling, and conservation of diversity."

While acknowledging that sustainability is a collective effort, Ms Fu hopes the public, private and people sectors can work together to tackle the challenge of climate change.

For instance, residents in Tampines GreenLace used compost from food waste in a community gardening initiative to grow edibles such as passionfruit and tapioca.

This was part of a pilot project conducted by MSE on household food waste segregation, with the help of organisations such as Zero Waste SG and Foodscape Collective.

Other examples of supportable project ideas could include educating the community and promoting awareness on environmental sustainability practices, implementing innovative technologies to help the community reduce the use of resources, and developing behavioural nudges and interventions to encourage environmentally-friendly habits.

In response to a question posed by the audience on the types of projects that the ministers hope the SG Eco Fund would support, Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Desmond Tan said one aspect would be to improve the recycling rates among citizens, noting that the rates of recycling from recycling bins are not at an ideal level.

He added that he hoped to see more urban farming initiatives, as "it is not just about food resilience or alternative farming and productivity", but making use of urban structures to "bring the community together".

Ms Fu felt the current problem with recycling is in part due to Singapore's lack of an "established functioning recycling industry". So more focus should be placed on "strengthening the waste industry and finding better ways to extract its value".

Another important area would be the rapidly developing food sector, as there are "many technological solutions out there, but not all of them are necessarily applicable and need to be adapted to our local context".

More thought also has to be given to the "form and shape of the industry", as well as the way it is structured, such that it is viable from a waste management point of view, she noted.

For instance, arrangements can be made in such a way that the waste generated from aquaculture can be feed stock or fertiliser for agriculture.

In next few years, with more newcomers entering the market, there needs to be a structured way for industry players to exchange technological know how and experience with one another.

This would ensure that they do not have to go through the same steep learning curve as existing players in the industry, allowing Singapore to reach its 30 by 30 goal of producing 30 per cent of its nutritional needs locally by 2030 - with as few mistakes as possible, said Ms Fu.

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